Earlier today, we reported on proposed changes in the guidelines under which women in New Mexico would have to apply to receive childcare assistance. Included were two critical changes, one requiring a custodial parent to file child support claims against the non-custodial parent under any conditions (a material change from current policy in New Mexico), and the other exempting those who had borne children conceived through incest or “forcible” rape.
New Mexico women’s rights advocates responded rapidly to the proposed changes, complaining to the Martinez administration, alerting media, and holding a press conference this morning.
This evening, we received confirmation from the office of Children, Youth, and Families Department of New Mexico that Governor Martinez requested that the word “forcible” has been removed from the proposed guidelines for childcare assistance.
A statement from CYFD said:
It’s clear the language was only in the proposed version because of its usage in the same federal regulations and its in existence in federal statute. At least five states use the exact same language in their existing childcare regulations: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland and Maine.
The Governor feels the language is redundant and unnecessary, and she does not support its usage. It has been removed from the proposed regulation changes.
In a phone call, Enrique Knell, spokesman for CYFD, told me that the terms was “provisionally removed.” When I asked what that meant, he said that it was provisional because a public hearing was to be held in Sante Fe on October 1. Knell could not respond immediately to questions about the public comment period, nor the process of developing final guidelines. He promised to get back to me with that information.
The CYFD statement leaves a number of questions. As we noted in our original piece, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made clear in January that it would no longer use the term “forcible” rape, and has been overhauling the entire process of reporting on rape and sexual assault, a fact which strangely seems to have gone unnoticed by the Martinez Administration. Moreover, if the term is “redundant and unnecessary,” why was it the centerpiece of the March proclamation on sexual assault, also noted in our original piece?
Advocates also remain deeply concerned about the proposed guidelines, which still require a parent seeking childcare assistance to first file a child support claim against the other parent. It remains unclear how, if the current language remains, the state will ensure that rape victims are exempted. There also appears to be no provision for situations in which a woman who left an abusive husband or partner would be able to opt-out of the requirement to seek child support. Finally, it also remains unclear how long the processes would take and who would be in charge, thereby suggesting long delays in processing claims for child support assistance, which, in turn, would have dramatic ramifications for women who need childcare to work or study.