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CYFD adds protection for domestic violence victims

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico residents who have been victims of domestic violence will now have a box to check on applications for child care assistance, indicating to case workers that contacting a former abuser to seek child support would endanger them and their family.

Earlier this week, Monique Jacobson, secretary of the state Children, Youth and Families Department, agreed to have the check box added to child care assistance applications, in response to single parents and members of the OLÉ Working Parents Association. They recently testified before the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee and held a protest in front of a CYFD office in Albuquerque.

“We met with senior CYFD officials for over a year and a half to explain how they were endangering women who had survived domestic violence,” said Raquel Roybal of OLÉ.

Commenting on the issue following a protest in October, CYFD spokesman Henry Varela said that the reason CYFD wants women to sue for child support is because any child care assistance from a former partner frees up child care money for those women who can’t sue “because of a fear from past domestic violence.”

At the time, Varela said that if a woman claims to be a victim of abuse, and filing suit against her former partner would further endanger her, “they are not required to apply for child support and can fill out a waiver form once during their initial application and they will not be asked to apply for child support again.”

On Thursday, Varela said that part of the waiver process is a written statement from an applicant explaining the circumstances that make her, or him, think they would be at risk by asking for child support. The addition of the check box does not change that process.

“The check box is simply an additional avenue to remind applicants that there is a waiver available to them where there has been past domestic violence, and it is a further reminder to a case worker that the applicant is in need of such a waiver,” Varela said.

“We want all families who quality for child care assistance to take advantage of it, and we want to continue to make the process easier so there is no fear that a person will have to confront a former abuser.”