Utah's program of collecting child support payments on behalf of families that receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children has helped to hold down rising welfare costs, the Utah Foundation reported.

A study of the child support recovery program and its effect on public welfare in Utah showed the state generated $4,251,000 in revenue last year from child support collections and federally funded incentive payments. Net profits to the state amounted to $1,137,000, according to the foundation.The Utah Foundation, a private research organization, said Utah has consistently had one of the highest child support recovery rates in the nation. Since 1979, Utah has ranked among the top five states in the percent of recovery of child support payments involving Aid to Families with Dependent Children cases. In most of these years, Utah ranked number one in the percent of child support recovery.

Foundation analysts said Aid to Families with Dependent Children has become the major welfare program in Utah and the United States, and it continues to grow because of divorce, separation, teenage pregnancies and other problems.

During fiscal 1987, Utah distributed $56,320,800 in Aid to Families with Dependent Children payments to approximately 15,000 families consisting of more than 44,400 individuals, the report said. In addition, the state has provided $81,545,684 in medical assistance to those families, and they also were major beneficiaries of the food stamp program.

Because of growing cost, many groups and individuals are calling for programs to force parents to accept their legal and moral obligations to provide for their children.

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services said 90 percent of all families receiving aid are in the program because of divorce, desertion or out-of-wedlock births.

"If we do better at establishing paternity, improving methods of identifying absent parents and collecting payments due, we'll see fewer on public assistance," he said.

The question of determining equitable child support has been brought to public attention by recent events. Several months ago, a child support task force of the Utah Judicial Council outlined new guidelines that established greater uniformity in child support payments.

These guidelines, however, have not yet received formal endorsement by the Judiciary Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature, the foundation said. Some legislators criticized the lack of legislative involvement in determining these guidelines and some non-custodial parents objected to the guidelines because they will result in higher support payments without providing assurance of visitation rights or accountability for the support payments.