Child Support Awareness Month: Ensuring a Bright Future for New Mexico's Children
As August approaches, the nation gears up to observe Child Support Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on a critical income support program that touches the lives of millions of children and families. For New Mexico, this month holds added significance as it marks an opportunity to celebrate recent strides in the state’s child support program, ensuring that all children have the resources they need to thrive.
New Mexico Child Support plays a pivotal role in providing much-needed financial support to families, lifting children out of poverty, and fostering a stable environment for their growth and success. In the fiscal year 2022, child support programs across the United States collected an impressive $30.5 billion, supporting 1 in 5 children. The impact of these resources extends far beyond mere numbers, as they help children have their basic needs met, secure optimal learning environments, and focus on what truly matters – being a kid.
To commemorate Child Support Awareness Month, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a proclamation in 2021, acknowledging the contributions of all New Mexico parents who support their children. This proclamation serves as a reminder of the shared responsibility to fulfill financial obligations to our children, ensuring their well-being and happiness.
In the pursuit of empowering New Mexico families, the state made significant improvements to its child support program through Senate Bill 140, which took effect on July 1, 2021. The bill, signed by Governor Lujan Grisham, represents a comprehensive modernization and alignment with federal regulations and national best practices. As a result, New Mexico’s families are now poised to benefit from these progressive changes, fostering more consistent child support payments and contributing to the well-being of the state’s children.
New Mexico Legal Aid and Child Support
Sarah Coffey, Victim Services Managing Attorney at New Mexico Legal Aid, emphasizes the transformative impact of child support on low-income families. She notes, “If a mom has a six-month-old baby, it’s really hard to work and deal with that. They have no income. So often, without child support, they’re facing complete poverty, and child support is one of the best ways to lift children out of poverty.”
Indeed, child support has the power to break the cycle of poverty, especially when parents with appropriate incomes fulfill their financial responsibilities. By ensuring consistent child support payments, the program creates a stable foundation for children, enabling them to thrive in various aspects of life. Sarah Coffey explains, “Child support helps kids have their basic needs met, which allows them to have optimal learning environments, be able to be a kid, and focus on things kids should be focused on.”
New Mexico Legal Aid plays a crucial role in supporting families, especially those who have experienced domestic violence. Financial abuse often becomes a tool to exert control over survivors, keeping them trapped in harmful situations. Coffey highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing this aspect of domestic violence, stating, “With domestic violence victims, a lot of times financial abuse is a huge part of it. And one of the ways that abusers keep their survivors in the family is to use finances to control that.”
Child Support Resources in New Mexico
To ensure that child support reaches those who need it most, the New Mexico Child Support Enforcement Division operates as a state-operated branch, providing essential assistance to parents and guardians. Applying for child support is a relatively straightforward process, with a priority placed on delivering support to entitled New Mexicans. Coffey urges those seeking child support assistance to visit the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED), emphasizing that “It’s a fairly easy process to apply. They prioritize getting child support allocated and delivered to New Mexicans who are entitled to it.”
For survivors of domestic violence, the Child Support Enforcement Division offers a safe and secure mechanism to collect support. Coffey advises individuals in such situations to inform authorities about their status as domestic abuse survivors, as there is an opt-out option for those facing potential danger while pursuing child support. “If pursuing child support puts them in danger, it’s really important that they speak up and say child support will put them in danger,” she said.
CSED further protects survivors by setting up arrangements that ensure support payments are directly taken from the abuser and sent to the survivor. This measure prevents abusive language and potential harassment that survivors may face when receiving support directly. Coffey highlights this aspect: “The Child Support Enforcement Division can set up a situation where the money is taken directly from the abuser… that makes it so the abuser isn’t sending a check with abusive language in the memo, which we’ve seen.”
Child support is ultimately the responsibility of parents, a vital commitment to ensuring the well-being of their children. Coffey passionately asserts, “When you have a child, it is your responsibility to support that child if you have the means to do so. This is something that keeps your children fed. This is just basic caring for your children.”
For survivors of violence who find themselves bound by financial limitations, resources exist to help them escape dangerous situations. Child support is a pivotal part of this support network, alongside numerous other resources available throughout the state. Coffey urges those seeking help to take the first step and reach out. “There are resources throughout the state that can get people away from violent situations, even if it feels insurmountable,” she assures. “The first step is to reach out and ask for help.”
Resources for help include local shelters. If your children are being abused, you can reach out to CYFD. Or you can contact New Mexico Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault/Stalking Legal Helpline.
Child Support Awareness Month serves as a powerful reminder of our shared responsibility to uplift families, especially those facing challenging circumstances. By working together, we can empower New Mexico’s families and ensure a brighter, more secure future for our children.
About New Mexico Legal Aid
New Mexico Legal Aid is a non-profit organization committed to providing high-quality legal representation and assistance to low-income individuals and families throughout the state. With a mission to promote equal access to justice, the organization actively advocates for the rights of vulnerable populations. Through dedicated programs and events, New Mexico Legal Aid remains steadfast in its pursuit of justice and equality for all.
For more information about New Mexico Legal, contact James Hodgins, Director of Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.