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Deadly Mistakes: Child Support Enforcement Services

Imagine, if you will, being trapped in a situation where you married into a law enforcement family and that family not only knew exactly what abuse you and your children were being subject to but that same family threatened to use their careers, connections, and reputation with law enforcement to fabricate charges against you if you ever spoke out about the hell you were enduring, promising you that you'd never see your children again. Now imagine you finally find the strength and courage to escape only to have your general location disclosed to the offender because DCSS has put them on notice that a child support enforcement action has been opened against them in your new county of residence in spite of the fact that you had requested and were granted your good cause waiver.

Survivors of domestic violence often find themselves survivors of sexual assault, human trafficking, and stalking within the dynamic of their relationships. Survivors will also, oftentimes, find themselves having children with their partner. The survivors desire for the child(ren) is love for them, but their partner’s desire for the child(ren) is a means of imposing their power and control over the survivor, even after the survivor escapes, IF they're fortunate enough to do so. Escape, for a survivor and their children, almost always means leaving with nothing but their lives and what little bit they can carry in a getaway bag, if they're lucky. The offender leaves them financially destitute as a means to keep them trapped within the relationship and under their control. This forces survivors to depend on entitlement programs like cash aid, food stamps, and state medical in order to provide the very basic needs for themselves and their children.

When a survivor walks into their county office to apply for these programs they are told that they will be required to assign child support rights to the county and that the state will open a child support enforcement case against the offender. This will, more often than not, cause the survivor to withdraw their application for assistance; turn around and walk out. If the survivor is lucky and they get a county worker who cares enough about the people they were hired to serve, their worker will inform them that as a survivor they can file ‘a good cause waiver’ to release them from the obligation of assigning child support rights to the county. This prevents the state from opening a child support enforcement action against the offender.

This waiver is designed to protect the safety of the survivor and their children as taking such action against an offender can, and often does, incite rage against the survivor putting them at increased risk of harm or even death. If the survivor has fled the county of state where the offender resides, the support action will give the offender their new county of residence. And, worse yet, if the survivor has gone to the most extreme measures to best ensure their safety, having undergone witness protection type measures to escape the offender (new name, new birth certificate, new social security number, and new state ID or driver's license) the child support action taken by the state effectively puts the offender on notice of their new identity. Making everything that they've done up to that point, pointless.

You’re probably wondering how, then, does the Department of Child Support Services put survivors' lives and safety at risk if they are entitled to such a waiver to prevent DCSS from opening a child support enforcement action against an offender. The simple fact of the matter is that the waiver takes time to approve; and because it requires approval by a supervisor, and it's not something that can simply be requested verbally as it (supposedly) requires a wet / original signature, it requires forms to be completed and signed before submission. With most, if not all, eligibility interviews being conducted remotely since COVID, this requires a survivor to wait for, and be at the mercy of, the USPS. Workers often refuse to email anything to a client as they don't want the client to have that kind of access to them. When correspondence is done in writing it's a lot easier for the client to hold their worker accountable to what they do or don