Albuquerque-Metro

CYFD says it didn't do enough to protect little girl in abuse case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Court documents reveal the Children, Youth, and Families Department had more than 21 opportunities to help a 7-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution. 

Meanwhile, police had at least six times to save her, so why didn't they?

"I think there are stops we could've and should've taken to better protect this little girl and her brother," CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson said. 

Court documents reveal CYFD had been dealing with Teri Sanchez and James Stewart for years. 

Starting in June 2004, CYFD was called to check on the couple's three children after reports of everything from medical neglect, physical abuse, the kids not going to school, to sexual molestation concerns. 

In all, CYFD met with Sanchez a staggering 21 times; and Stewart, who was convicted of child abuse in 2009, 14 times through the years. 

Only one claim was substantiated, and the oldest sibling was removed from the home.

"Looking into how decisions were made to take action or not take action in those instances is concerning to me," Jacobson said. 

The state was called three times alone in November. 

CYFD made a welfare check at the family's hotel room, but would say there was "no concern of abuse that would allow them to take the girl into custody." 

"I'm disappointed, I'm heartbroken, I'm angry," Jacobson said. 

CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson has launched an internal investigation, saying she'll hold her employees accountable if the proper procedures weren't taken. 

However, it's not just CYFD that may have dropped the ball. 

The criminal complaint shows police were called a half dozen times, including in 2016 after the parents left the children with a neighbor who allegedly fondled them. 

"There's some dates we can't figure out and some of the interactions laid out in there are quite as portrayed, so we're trying to get to the bottom of that and see exactly what happened," APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said. 

APD will only say it's reviewing all the police reports involving the family. 

Finally, it was a Lew Wallace Elementary School nurse who recently reported that she believed the homeless student was a victim of human trafficking and got the Attorney General involved. 

The AG writes, "the next time a child may not be so lucky to have such dedicated educators." 

"All of us at Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) -- employees go through a training in which we are reviewing signs of abuse and neglect and understand that we're mandated reporters," APS Homeless Liaison Patrick Scott said. 

Teri Sanchez will face a judge Saturday on child abuse charges.

James Stewart is being held without bond.

Police say besides making his daughter fondle adults in exchange for drugs, they say he was prostituting two women at a motel off I-25, where officers saw up to 11 men entering and leaving the room.


STORY TOOLS

Trending Stories

News Briefs