Written by Adam Jacobs

Oct 18


Good Cause Waivers Can Help Protect DV Survivors with Child Support Cases

Many domestic violence survivors are forced to leave their homes with just a few belongings in order to escape an abuser and find safety for themselves and their children. This often results in a survivor being financially vulnerable and having to rely on public benefits to regain stability.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is cash assistance often used by survivors with children. If a domestic violence survivor has custody of their children–formally or informally, they may apply for TANF. If qualified, they receive monthly assistance. However, receipt of this money requires the survivor to give up their own right to request child support. Instead, the District has the power to pursue a child support case against the non-custodial parent to recoup TANF money provided for the care of children.

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Oct 15


Legal Aid Supports Immigrants in filing for Civil Protection Orders

Immigrants filing for civil protective orders have a valid fear of exposing themselves and their families when seeking protection from abuse.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, domestic violence survivors who are undocumented immigrants experience additional fears when seeking help or when filing for a Civil Protection Order against their abusers. Immigrant survivors fear that seeking protection from abuse could lead to dire immigration consequences not only for themselves, but also for their abusers.
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Oct 14


DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Nadira Clarke

This piece was written for the Washington Council of Lawyers and is featured in their DC Pro Bono Week Profiles.

Nadira ClarkeBaker Botts partner, and Washington, D.C. Section Chair of the firm’s Environmental Safety & Incident Response Group, has leaned into leadership roles, mentorship opportunities, pro bono work, and more since joining Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees in 2018.  Indeed, when it came to encouraging pro bono engagement with Legal Aid, Nadira resolved to model the behavior she wanted to see in her colleagues.  Having previously handled sex-based discrimination litigation and immigration matters, Nadira is no stranger to pro bono work.  Yet, she was willing to dive into a new area of law and has been accepting child custody case referrals from Legal Aid in recent years. Read more →

Oct 13


Lessons from Hood Feminism: Keeping Survivors Safe from Gun Violence

Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit represents clients who are low-income, mostly women of color. One of the main struggles facing our clients continues to be gun violence, which disproportionately affects Black women. And yet, as Mikki Kendall points out in Hood Feminism,

We focus anti-gun violence programs on everyone but the girls and women at risk. Too often, we frame them as the ones who bear witness to the consequences, and not the ones who face them. But we know that gun violence touches girls at all points of life. In 2016, the Violence Police Center documented that Black women experience the highest rates of gun homicide out of any group of women, and much of that can be attributed to instances of intimate partner violence. “Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by a spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member that by a stranger.” And unfortunately, this is something that I can speak to personally.

Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism 21-22 (2020). Kendall then poignantly describes her own experience with separating from an abusive partner. She expresses relief that – despite continued abuse – Illinois laws prevented her partner from accessing a gun:

 . . . when that last bout of violence erupted, I knew the clock on my perfect plan had run out. I had a place I could mostly afford with only my name on the lease, and I got on with it. That didn’t mean the violence was over exactly; it just moved out of my house. He still sent me angry, abusive emails and text messages, he stalked and harassed me, and he still threatened violence despite restraining orders and arrests. But the good news, the best news? He didn’t have a gun. He could threaten, he could yell, he could hit me, but what he couldn’t do was lay his hands on was a projectile weapon that would have turned survivable rage into that split second that can’t be taken back. I got lucky, because we were in Illinois, a state that enforces the restriction on gun ownership for anyone with a recent history of domestic violence.” Read more →

Oct 08


Stop the Stigma: Domestic Violence Survivors and Mental Health

Many survivors of intimate partner violence face complicated barriers to accessing mental health services. While survivors face many challenges in their mental health journeys (including availability and financial barriers), one major challenge is the compounded stigmas of accessing mental health assistance and being in a relationship with a perpetrator of domestic violence. Survivors may not want to access mental health assistance, because they are embarrassed about their relationship, are concerned that they will be judged or labeled a “bad parent,” or have rationalized the behavior. Additionally, survivors also face the same stigmas that many people in treatment or seeking help face; that people who seek out mental health treatment are “weak,” in “just in a phase,” or could solve their own problems if they just “tried harder.” A survivor may face judgment from friends and family, who both judge them for being in an abusive relationship and for wanting mental health assistance. These stigmas can prevent survivors from seeking the help that they may need and definitely deserve. Read more →

Oct 07


What does the end of the federal Public Health Emergency mean for DC residents’ access to health care?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) (the federal agency administering the Medicaid program) reports that approximately 10 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This was a direct result of the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the first COVID relief bill passed in March 2020), which increased federal Medicaid funding to states, allowed them to extend Medicaid eligibility to uninsured individuals and prohibited states from terminating Medicaid enrollment except for a narrow list of reasons. This stark growth in Medicaid enrollment demonstrates Medicaid’s critical role in our health system and the lives of millions of Americans, with over 75 million individuals now enrolled in Medicaid. Read more →

Oct 06


Domestic Violence affects the entire household

When a parent is experiencing domestic violence, it not only affects the parent experiencing the violence directly, but also the children in the household.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that one person in a relationship uses to control the other. The behavior may be verbally, emotionally, physically, financially, or sexually abusive.

Children do not need to be the subject of domestic abuse to be affected by it. When children see, hear, or know about abuse by one parent towards another, they are affected by it in different ways. Children may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. These feelings and thoughts can last into adulthood, long after they have left the abusive household.

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Oct 05


VAWA Reauthorization is Critical to Protecting and Supporting Domestic Violence Survivors

More than 10 million adults in the United States experience domestic violence every year.[1] The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), originally signed into law in 1994, authorized financial support for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes against women, established offices and grants to provide assistance, and created holistic programs to assist survivors and their communities, such as housing protections and rape crisis centers.[2] VAWA’s authorization lapsed in 2018. In March 2021, a reauthorization bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but it has stalled in the Senate. Legal Aid supports the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 in order to sustain and improve upon protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Read more →

Sep 29


DC Must Extend the Foreclosure Moratorium to Protect Homeowners Waiting on Life-Changing Federal Assistance Funds

The District’s foreclosure moratorium for owner-occupied homes is set to end on November 5, well before DC homeowners will be able to access millions of dollars of life-changing federal homeowner assistance funds. The DC Council must pass emergency legislation extending the foreclosure moratorium to prevent homeowners from needlessly and permanently losing their homes while DC waits on the federal funding. Read more →

Aug 19


A Historic Increase in Food Stamps

This week, the US Department of Agriculture revised the nutrition standards of the Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits program, which will result in the largest permanent increase to SNAP benefits in the program’s history.

SNAP benefits have been a lifeline for needy families and instrumental in the fight against food insecurity. Indeed, for many Legal Aid clients these benefits are their only source of income for food. However, the benefit amounts have been inadequate to meet the nutritional needs of recipients and, until this week, had not been updated since 1975. Therefore, in 2020 the average cost of a meal for a modest diet was 22% higher than the maximum SNAP amount. Approximately 23% of SNAP households exhausted their SNAP benefits by the middle of the month with, on average, households spending three-quarters of their benefits within 14 days of receiving them. Read more →