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Camila- the cost of childcare

Camila* applied for a childcare subsidy through the local Department of Social Services (DSS). She and the father of the four children are both undocumented immigrants and working full time. Their childcare cost was $300 per week—her entire wages.

To process the application, the County DSS requested documentation of the family’s employment. Camila responded timely to all of their requests, submitting numerous wage verification forms and employer letters. Despite this, the agency kept requesting the very documents that she had previously submitted, and twice required them to meet with an investigator, costing the couple a day’s wages each time. After months of submitting and resubmitting the exact documents the agency asked for, DSS denied the application for lack of employment documentation. Throughout this time, Camila was using almost all of her earnings to pay for childcare.

We represented Camila in a fair hearing appealing the denial. We proved that the family had complied with the repetitive document requests and that these egregious denials were causing the family severe hardship. The hearing officer ruled in our favor.

But even after the fair hearing decision, DSS continued to deny the family childcare assistance and continued to bury them in document requests. Camila's Empire Justice advocate stepped in and refused to let DSS continue with the wrongful denials. Finally, due to our continued advocacy, this hard-working family of six was provided childcare assistance and DSS issued a retroactive payment for nine months’ worth of childcare.

Throughout all this, the DSS workers were aware that this couple only understood Spanish but they were denied an interpreter by the investigator, and were required to sign forms in English which they did not understand. Camila thought she was signing a form to verify her attendance at an investigation meeting when, in fact, she was signing a withdrawal of her application. The family’s Empire Justice advocate wrote to the County DSS commissioner strongly advising him to take steps to ensure that all applicants for assistance be treated equally and that they not be discriminated against, or subjected to excessive documentation requirements, based upon their language proficiency or their immigration status. She also filed a language access complaint with the Office of the County Executive.

Our tenacious and continued advocacy ensures that hard-working families are not wrongfully denied services, and that they are provided meaningful access to services in their language.

 *name has been changed 


family of four  

ecard Donate Butoon