ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A mom was accused of murdering her own child, inside a home riddled with rotting food and feces. Yet a Children, Youth, and Families Department worker still tried to keep the rest of the kids at home. KRQE News 13 looked at the video of that interaction with Bernalillo County Deputies who expressed concern after the children were not initially removed from the home.

The 16-year-old with special needs was malnourished and covered with maggots when she died. Prosecutors say the mother left her daughter alone to wither and die. But, a CYFD worker didn’t think that was enough to take the mother’s four other children away from her. 

“But it’s an active homicide investigation,” said a confused Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Detective speaking with a CYFD worker who had just arrived to a murder scene in the South Valley last month. Deputies were investigating 32-year-old Doraelia Espinoza for the suspicious death of her daughter. 

Deputies called CYFD to figure out what to do with Espinoza’s four other children. The deputy asked, “We have a dead young lady that has been clearly neglected so why would we be okay with sending them back? At least for 48 hours.” The detective is trying to convince the CYFD worker that the rest of Espinoza’s children should be taken away from her custody on what’s called a 48-hour hold. 

Maralyn Beck is the founder of the New Mexico Child First Network – a non-profit working to improve the lives of foster children. She explained, “Removing a child for 48 hours under law allows us an opportunity to have a breath and figure out if the child is safe.”

But the CYFD employee disagrees. “That’s our rule. Forty-eights only last so long. Can’t keep doing that because there’s nothing to hold them…(inaudible),” she said. 

The detective still doesn’t understand why CYFD doesn’t want to take the children away while their mother is being investigated for the death of their sister. “That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he tells her. 

Beck shares, “What’s so concerning about the lapel camera is, it is just one person who arrives on scene with very little information, fighting law enforcement against taking these children into a safe environment.”

In the end, the deputy would finally convince CYFD to take the children into temporary foster care for 48-hours. 

According to BSCO the four other children are now safe and have been taken out of Espinoza’s custody. She’s charged with child abuse resulting in death. 

CYFD gave this statement to KRQE News 13:

1.  The safety of the child is paramount.  CYFD uses evidence-based safety and risk tools to assess whether a child is safe. If, based on this assessment, CYFD knows that a child is an unsafe situation, our protective services investigators will do everything they can to get children the supports they need to be safe and to thrive.

Sometimes that means wrap-around services. Sometimes it means finding health care, mental health care or educational resources. Sometimes it means finding family members who can step in. Sometimes it means bringing a child into foster care. Each case is different.  

2. CYFD will investigate and determine the safety of all children in the home and determine if other household members (parents/guardians) are appropriate and safe. 

If the children can remain safely in their home with another parent or caretaker, then perhaps not they would not be removed. As above, the goal is to intervene for safety’s sake, but in a way that reduces further trauma for the children involved – often during an extremely difficult situation. 

Rob Johnson, CYFD Public Information Officer