An unemployed nursing assistant from Front Royal, Va., will keep her professional license after all because an anonymous benefactor paid off the nearly $4,000 she owed in overdue child support.
Amber J. Bachand last week became the first Virginian penalized under a new state law intended to seize the licenses of doctors, lawyers and other professionals who fail to pay their child support.
Her case attracted widespread attention, and a man who read about her plight traveled an hour from Arlington to a state office in Winchester on Tuesday to personally deliver a check for $3,899 on her behalf.
"He felt sorry for her and he jumped in the car," said Michael R. Henry, director of the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement. "Even though this wasn't what we all envisioned as a typical case, the outcome is a good one."
Kathleen M. Griffin, the state's lawyer handling the case, said the gift will eliminate Bachand's entire debt. Griffin plans to return to Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to ask amother of woman who owed child support judge to lift both his order suspending Bachand's license and his contempt ruling threatening her with 60 days in jail.
Bachand, who turns 35 Friday, remains in hiding and has not contacted her family. But her mother was overjoyed at the news yesterday.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Katherine Poland, who lives near Front Royal and cares for Bachand's 13-year-old son. "It's wonderful. It's unbelievable. We still do have some wonderful, thoughtful people in this world and I just thank him from the bottom of my heart. . . . I'd just like to give him a hug."
The state started its license suspension program last year and, as of May 31, had sent notices to 291 parents who were 90 days behind on payments or owed more than $5,000. By then, the state had collected $185,000 without actually taking away licenses, wielding the threat as a way to get debtors to cooperate.
The money Bachand owed will not go to her son but into state coffers to repay the welfare checks Poland once collected while caring for her grandson.
Henry defended his division's handling of the case. "The mere fact that she was not a person of great means or high income doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't pursue the matter," he said. "What she was ordered to pay was based on her means, and it was the minimum amount under the law."