Report: Too Many Foster Kids Unnecessarily in Group Homes

NM does better than most states at placing kids with families and relatives

May 19, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that, nationally, one in every seven children in the welfare system is in a group home. This, despite the fact that more than 40 percent of these children have no clinical need to be in such restrictive settings. The Casey Foundation report, “Every Kid Needs a Family,” makes the case that children do better when they are placed in a family setting.

“We have an obligation to help all of our kids succeed,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. “If our children couldn’t live with us, we would want them to live with someone close to us – and if that couldn’t happen, with a caring foster family who could provide them with as normal a life as possible during a turbulent time. This report shows more kids can live safely in families and get the nurturing they need while under the care and protection of our child welfare systems.”

New Mexico does better than many states in terms of placing children in family settings, according to the report. While 84 percent of foster children nationally are in family placements, the percentage in New Mexico is 92. Just six states have a higher percentage of children in family placements than New Mexico.

New Mexico also does well in terms of the percentage of children who are placed in kinship care—in the care of a relative such as grandparents. Five percent of New Mexico’s foster kids are in the care of relatives. Only four states have a higher percentage.

“I think the kinship care rate speaks to our cultural roots and history—New Mexico is very family-focused,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which is a grantee of the Casey Foundation. “As a state we must do our best to support these special families and the children in their care by ensuring that they can access the benefits those children are entitled to and that they have assistance in navigating those systems,” she added.

The Casey Foundation report, “Every Kid Needs a Family,” is available online at http://www.aecf.org/resources/every-kid-needs-a-family/.

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KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and is made possible by funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

 

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Report: NM has Made Third Largest Cuts to Higher Ed since Recession

Resulting tuition increases make college less affordable for low-income students

May 14, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE— New Mexico is spending $4,383 less per student than it did before 2008, when adjusted for inflation. Only two states—Louisiana and Alabama—have made deeper cuts. And although most states—including New Mexico—have increased funding for higher ed over the last few years, 47 states are still spending less per student on higher education than before the recession.

These are among the findings of a report released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). As a result of these cuts, tuition at the nation’s public colleges and universities has increased on average almost 30 percent since 2008 on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis. New Mexico’s tuition increase was just slightly lower at about 28 percent.

The report’s authors believe funding cuts and tuition increases jeopardize the nation’s economic future, as fewer adults have the opportunity to earn college degrees.

“Investments in higher education are essential in building New Mexico’s workforce and improving our economy,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D, executive director of NM Voices for Children. “New Mexico has high rates of poverty and that is not likely to change until we ensure that a college education is affordable for everyone.”

Besides raising tuition, many states have also cut faculty and academic programs. Students are also facing enormous student loan debt, which will inhibit their ability to purchase a home and make other positive contributions to their communities and the economy.

“Policy makers like to claim that they aren’t raising taxes, but hiking tuition to cover funding cuts has the same effect as raising taxes—except that these new expenses are leveled squarely at those who can least afford it, young people just starting out,” Dr. García said. “The small funding increases of the past few years have not restored higher ed to its pre-recession levels. Instead of cutting taxes for profitable corporations—which amounts to giving away money we don’t have in pursuit of jobs that don’t materialize—we should be investing in the next generation of New Mexico’s workforce. That’s a proven economic development plan,” she added.

The CBPP report is available online at: http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/years-of-cuts-threaten-to-put-college-out-of-reach-for-more-students.

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. Our fiscal policy work is funded by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the WK Kellogg Foundation, and the Working Poor Families Project.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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National Report: Minority Families in New Mexico and Nation Falling Behind

Hispanic immigrants at greatest risk; study includes recommendations for state

March 16, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE— A sharp racial/ethnic divide has emerged within the world of low-income working families, posing a critical equity and economic challenge to New Mexico and the nation, a new study concludes.

Hispanics and African-Americans, who will continue to emerge as a larger segment of the workforce, will remain under-prepared and underpaid unless lawmakers in New Mexico are willing to pursue policies that would improve conditions.

The disturbing portrait of America’s low-income working families was sketched by the Working Poor Families Project based on new analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Project’s study sheds a fresh light on what’s happening inside the world of the working poor, where adults are working hard but finding it difficult if not impossible to get ahead. And within this world at the bottom of America’s economic spectrum, a stark divide has emerged between white and Asian families compared to black and Hispanic families.

“In 2013, working families headed by racial/ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be poor or low-income compared with non-Hispanic whites, a gap that has increased since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007,” the authors write. “The significant differences among racial/ethnic groups present a critical challenge to ensuring economic growth and bringing opportunities to all workers, families and communities across the United States.”

“As a majority-minority state—60 percent of our adults and 74 percent of our children are racial/ethnic minorities—New Mexico can be considered a bellwether of the nation’s impending demographic changes,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “Unfortunately, New Mexico is also a high-poverty state. Lawmakers have made some headway in promoting policies to alleviate poverty and in taking a targeted approach to reducing educational disparities among our racial/ethnic minorities. However, the state still must move forward to advance low-income working families by supporting a statewide career pathways framework, providing need-based financial aid for college students, and increasing the rate of minority adults with post-secondary credentials and degrees.”

Hispanic children are particularly at risk because so many of their low-income working families include at least one immigrant parent, the data show. Despite a high work ethic, Hispanic immigrants are among the most disadvantaged with lower earnings, less education, and little health care. Nationally, some 14 million of the 24 million children who live in low-income working families belong to racial or ethnic minorities. This bodes poorly for the nation’s future as children who grow up in low-income families face the very real prospect of never escaping poverty, the study found.

Disparities cannot be erased overnight, but policymakers can start to reduce the gaps with a two-pronged approach that simultaneously increases access to education and training while enacting policies that “make work pay,” the researchers assert. Among the recommendations for state governments are:

  • Raising the minimum wage.
  • Increasing need-based financial aid for post-secondary education, and expanding child care assistance and other supports for students with children.
  • Supporting programs that link education to career opportunities and helping English language learners.
  • Encouraging employers to provide paid sick leave for all workers.

The Working Poor Families Project report, “Low-Income Working Families: The Racial/Ethnic Divide,” is available online at: http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WPFP-2015-Report_Racial-Ethnic-Divide.pdf

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
The Working Poor Families Project is a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, and is managed by Brandon Roberts + Associates.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Making College More Affordable Would Pay Off for the State

Legislature urged to change lottery scholarship, restore College Affordability Fund

March 12, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Making college more affordable for its low-income population would pay the state big dividends down the road. Having a better educated workforce would help attract higher-paying jobs to the state, which would lead to more economic activity. In addition, boosting the educational level of the state’s adults would improve the educational outcomes of our children. Those are among the points made in a report released today by New Mexico Voices for Children.

“Education and money are inexorably linked,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of the child advocacy agency. “Higher pay comes with higher education, but you need money to get that education. If you were born into a family that doesn’t have enough of either, the odds are stacked against you. With such a high percentage of New Mexicans on the wrong side of that equation, the state has a real interest in changing the odds.”

Just 34 percent of adults in New Mexico have a college degree, compared to the national average of 40 percent. Not surprisingly, New Mexico has more lower-paying jobs requiring little education. With lower income levels comes less economic activity for the state. Earning poor wages also makes it more difficult for New Mexicans to pursue a college degree. Given this cycle, it would make sense for the state to make much of its financial aid available on a needs-basis, but that is not the case. Just 25 percent of New Mexico’s scholarships are need-based, while the U.S. average of need-based scholarships is 74 percent.

The Legislature is currently considering bills that are in line with some of the report’s recommendations, including making the lottery scholarship need-based (SB 657) and restoring money to the College Affordability Fund (SB 488 and HB 401), which was emptied for other purposes during leaner budget years.

“While the lottery scholarship has allowed countless New Mexicans to pursue a college degree, we also need to put more focus on breaking down financial barriers for less traditional students—such as New Mexicans who have been out of high school for a while and those who need help with child care and other living expenses,” Dr. Garcia said.

The report, “Making College More Affordable for Working Families: A Critical Investment in New Mexico,” funded by the Working Poor Families Project, is available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/College-Affordability-rpt-web.pdf.

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New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. The Working Poor Families Project is a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, and is managed by Brandon Roberts + Associates.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Report: Safety-Net Programs Lift 100,000 NM Children Out of Poverty

Supplemental Poverty Measure shows value of programs, need to address income

February 25, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—If it were not for governmental anti-poverty programs—such as SNAP, housing assistance, and tax credits—an additional 100,000 New Mexico children would live below the poverty level. That’s among the conclusions in a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The KIDS COUNT® Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, reveals how the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) more accurately measures poverty because it takes into account the value of programs that aim to reduce poverty. New Mexico’s child poverty rate in 2011-2013 was 36 percent, but falls to 16 percent when these programs are taken into account with the SPM.

“This tells us that anti-poverty programs are working to improve the lives of New Mexico children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which is a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “It also tells us how important it is to keep these programs fully funded and serving the families that rely on them.”

The official Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is based on family income, determines eligibility for anti-poverty programs, most of which are funded by the federal government. The SPM was created to determine if these programs are having the desired effect. It not only includes the value of these programs to the families that receive them, it also takes into account the cost of living in different regions of the country. The SPM shows that states like New Mexico, where the cost of living is low, benefit more from anti-poverty programs.

“It’s critical to have programs that help parents put enough food on the table, pay the rent, and keep the utilities turned on. And while the supplemental poverty measure shows us the extent to which these programs are helpful, it also shows us, conversely, how much work we still have to do in order to give families the tools they need to better support their families,” Dr. García said. “We need the kinds of two-generation policies and programs that help families raise themselves out of poverty, including more resources for parents to improve their levels of education, expanding access to high-quality early childhood services, changing tax policies so the lowest-income earners don’t shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility, and creating more jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, is available at http://www.aecf.org/resources/measuring-access-to-opportunity-in-the-united-states/.

A fact sheet explaining the differences in the two poverty measurements is attached as a pdf.

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NM KIDS COUNT Report: State Makes Little Progress on Child Well-Being

State Should Take a Two-Generation Approach to Solving Problems

January 20, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—While New Mexico ranking rose slightly from 50th in 2013 to 49th in 2014 in the national KIDS COUNT rankings of child well-being, state policy makers not have managed to make much progress toward improving how well the state cares for its kids. The KIDS COUNT program measures 16 indicators of child well-being, and New Mexico saw improvement in just five of those. Worse, child poverty—a main factor in poor outcomes—actually increased (from 28 percent to 31 percent) even as it decreased in most of the rest of the nation.

These trends are tracked in the 2014 KIDS COUNT in New Mexico data book, being released today by New Mexico Voices for Children. The annual state KIDS COUNT report, which includes the most recent data on child well-being status, such as teen birth rates, preschool enrollment, and health insurance coverage—along with policy recommendations—makes it clear that state lawmakers should make it a priority to address the needs of all children by supporting a holistic, coordinated and two-generation approach that serves both children and their families.

“The fact that we’ve seen a deterioration in key indicators—child poverty, children living in high-poverty areas, children living in single-parent families, and reading and math proficiency scores, for example—shows us the importance of creating and taking action on a comprehensive plan to make New Mexico a better place for working families and their children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices, which runs the KIDS COUNT program in New Mexico. “We recognize that the data change over one year does not provide a trend, but it is still concerning that some of our worst child well-being outcomes continue to decline.”

The data book talks about the need to take a two-generation approach to reducing child poverty. Such an approach would mean coordinating services for children—such as health care, food benefits, and early care and education—with services that give their parents tools to improve the family’s economic situation. These would include programs that help parents gain more education and job training that also take child care needs into consideration.

“When children have a strong start in the very early years—from zero to five—they are much more likely to do well throughout school and life, so we need to increase our investments in those years. And since children grow up in families, we also need to ensure that all parents and guardians have the tools they need to be successful. That’s the way to make lasting progress, break the cycle of poverty, have an educated workforce, a strong economy and improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans,” she added.

As it did last year, the data book includes a section that tracks changes in the 16 indicators that are used in the national KIDS COUNT data book, which is released every summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This section also looks at legislation that has recently been enacted that aims to address these problems and presents data at the county level where available.

“In short, we must take bold action to mitigate the impacts of poverty on our children,” said Dr. Garcia. “The future of our state is being decided today and will be balanced on the investments we make—or fail to make—in our children.”

The data book is available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-NM-Kids-Count-data-book.pdf

More data on child and family well-being are available at the state, county, school district, and tribal levels at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#NM

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                        KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

 New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org

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Honorees Announced for Annual Spirit of Hope Awards

Awardees include a judge, early childhood educator, legislator and foundation CEO

November 14, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—Four New Mexicans who have dedicated their lives to making the state a better place will be honored at the Spirit of Hope gala. The annual event, a fundraiser for New Mexico Voices for Children, will begin at 6pm on Friday, November 21, at the Sandia Resort and Casino.

The Alice King Public Service Award will be presented to Judge John Romero, Jr. He has been a District Court Judge since 2003, presiding over juvenile justice, child welfare and adoption matters. He currently serves as the only presiding Therapeutic Court Judge over the Program for the Empowerment of Girls, an intensive probation program for girls and their parents. The award is named for former First Lady Alice King, whose contributions to child well-being include playing a significant role in the creation of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

The Patty Jennings and Polly Arango Citizen Advocacy Award will be presented to Olivia Rivera, a life-long early childhood educator. As a school administrator, she worked to establish full-day kindergarten programs in New Mexico, and secured federal funding for the bilingual preschool Even Start and family literacy programs. She is currently with the city of Albuquerque’s Office of Child and Family Development, where she helped to design the Science Learning Center, a hands-on classroom near the Rio Grande Zoo. This award is named for two remarkable women who often advocated together for public policies benefitting families with special-needs children. 

Two Spirit of Hope Awards will be presented this year. State Representative Rick Miera has long championed public policies that have positively impacted the lives of New Mexico children and their families. As Vice Chair of the Legislative Education Study Committee he has fought for higher funding levels for public education. After 24 years of service, Rep. Miera is retiring at the end of this year. Susan Herrera is the CEO of the LANL Foundation where she manages an annual giving budget of $4 million and an endowment of over $68 million. One important initiative she successfully expanded is the First Born Program, a high-quality home visiting programs for first-time parents that now operates in 15 New Mexico counties. 

The award presentations will be the highlight of the evening’s festivities, which will also include dinner, entertainment, and silent and live auctions. Tickets are $100 and are available online at http://www.nmvoices.org/spiritofhope.

The Spirit of Hope Gala begins at 6pm on Friday, November 21, at the Sandia Resort and Casino, and is made possible by our Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Joseph’s Children and Silver Sponsor McGinn Carpenter Montoya & Love, P.A.

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Report: Half of NM Families with Young Children are Low-Income

Casey report recommends connecting families with early education services

November 12, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—More than half of New Mexico families with children under age eight are low-income. A new KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at the challenges faced by the 10 million families nationwide who are just trying to make ends meet. The report looks at two-generation solutions, meaning they address the needs of both the young children and their working parents.

“The early years in a child’s life are so critical to shaping that child’s future,” said Veronica C. García, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which is a grantee of the Casey Foundation. “What that child experiences—both the good and the bad—will have an enormous impact on his or her potential for future success. Unfortunately, our high rates of child poverty and child hunger, and other adverse conditions harm our children. We need to balance those experiences with positive building blocks like home visiting, high-quality child care and pre-kindergarten.”

The Casey Foundation’s report focuses on the importance of delivering these early childhood services while simultaneously providing parents with access to job training, career paths, and other tools that enable them to support their families.

The report conclusions are based on data that were provided separately. In New Mexico there are approximately 154,900 families with children ages eight and younger. Of these families:

  • 54 percent are low-income;
  • 11 percent have resident parents without high school diplomas;
  • 35 percent are headed by a single parent;
  • 12 percent are headed by parents younger than age 25; and
  • One-third live in housing that places a high cost burden on them.

“Investments in low-income families provide multiple benefits to the state as a whole,” Dr. García said. “High-quality early childhood services save us much more money in future spending than they cost and would improve our school and college outcomes. This helps us raise a well-educated future workforce. Similarly, when parents get more education and job training, we build the kind of workforce our businesses need to thrive, while families with higher incomes become the kinds of consumers that help our businesses grow. Educating parents also has a dual benefit. Their education has a positive impact on their children, who are more likely to do well in school. It’s a win-win all around.”

The Casey Foundation’s report, “Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach,” is available online at http://www.aecf.org/resources/creating-opportunity-for-families/

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Report: New Mexico’s Rate of Uninsured Children has Declined

Gains could be erased if Congress fails to act

November 6, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—A new report by a Georgetown University research center found the number of uninsured children in New Mexico declined by nearly 5,000 between 2008 and 2013.

The report, released today by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, found of the children who remain uninsured, 24 percent live in rural areas of the state. Many of these children are eligible for Medicaid (Centennial Care) but are not enrolled because their families don’t know about the programs or need help overcoming barriers to coverage.

“Fortunately, the Medicaid expansion has enabled more parents to enroll their children,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which has worked with the Georgetown group on the Medicaid issue. “When parents don’t have unpaid medical bills, financial stress is reduced for the whole family and children’s health needs are more likely to be met.”

The Georgetown report tracked coverage gains in the state through 2013. Since the Medicaid expansion came online earlier this year as part of the Affordable Care Act, it is estimated an additional 15,000 children have been enrolled.

These recent gains could erode in the coming months, however, as funding for the national Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which supports Medicaid for kids, will expire unless Congress votes to renew it.

 “Without a renewed commitment to children’s health coverage, we are concerned that the progress we’ve made for children will stall,” said Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “States rely on federal funding to serve uninsured children and it’s crucial that those funds continue to support these successful efforts.”

Preliminary estimates suggest as much as $24 million in federal funds to support children’s coverage in the state could be at risk if Congress fails to act.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report is available online at: http://ccf.georgetown.edu/ccf-resources/childrens-coverage-crossroads-progress-slows/

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Report: Expanding Working Families Tax Credit Would Generate Economic Activity and Help Hard-Working Families

October 27, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE—As New Mexico’s recovery from the recession continues to lag behind the rest of the nation, lawmakers should expand the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) to increase the purchasing power of low-income working New Mexicans and generate economic activity.

The WFTC is a state-level version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is considered one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs. This is especially important because while things are getting better nationwide, recent Census data show that in New Mexico, poverty has actually gotten worse.

“These tax credits for low-income families further incentivize work and the money is spent quickly and in local stores and businesses,” said Veronica García, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “The credits can also help families with big expenses, such as a car repair and child care, that can help keep parents in the workforce.”

New Mexico’s WFTC is currently worth 10 percent of the federal EITC, but the report recommends raising it to 15 percent or more. Expanding outreach efforts so that more eligible workers know to claim it, and offering more low-cost or free tax preparation services are also among the recommendations. The report recommendations were presented to the legislative Revenue Stabilization and Tap Policy committee last week.

The credit benefits almost 300,000 New Mexico children and has lifted more than 40,000 families out of poverty. Among those who benefit from the credits are 14,000 families headed by military veterans who are making their way back into the workforce.

The full report is available online at: http://www.nmvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/WFTC-report-10-2014-web.pdf

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