BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – The Children, Youth, and Families Department is investigating what led to a baby’s death while in the care of a licensed foster parent.
“A child is dead, there are ways we must improve our system,” said Cabinet Secretary of CYFD, Monique Jacobson.
It happened Sunday morning at a Belen home.
The criminal complaint says it was a caretaker’s “lack of care” and negligence that caused the 11-month-old’s death. Now, 55-year-old Stephanie Crownover is facing several charges.
The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office says deputies arrived at the Belen home Sunday morning to reports of an unresponsive baby.
“The residence was in disarray, it was dirty, it had dog feces and urine throughout the residence,” said Lieutenant James Harris.
When asked about the last time CYFD checked in on the home, Jacobson said, “Based on…the information that has been provided to me, is that we had a CYFD worker in that home in early December.”
She said they’re now trying to determine what changed from their visit to just weeks later when law enforcement found the dead baby.
“At that point, none of these concerns were raised, the conditions of the house were not reported to be anything like what we’re now hearing from law enforcement,” said Jacobson.
According to the criminal complaint, the baby and her two siblings, ages 2 and 3, were at Crownover’s home, a respite foster home, while the children’s foster mom was out of state visiting relatives.
The complaint says Crownover put the baby, who had reportedly been sick with a respiratory illness, to sleep in a car seat and placed the car seat by a space heater to keep warm.
Crownover called police in the morning when the baby was unresponsive. When police arrived, they found the baby dead.
The baby’s biological mom says she’s devastated and offended that CYFD would allow Crownover to care for kids in that environment. She says she had a visit with them Wednesday and they appeared to be fine.
“Then going to see them Friday, when they were under the care of her, they had soiled diapers, no socks, no shoes, they hadn’t been bathed, they were not in good conditions,” Alicia Patterson said.
She also said she reported those things to the monitor during that supervised visit.
CYFD says it’s taking this investigation seriously.
“When a child loses their like, an 11 month old baby in this case, it’s absolutely heart breaking, and I think that at CYFD we have to kind of push through that heart break to immediately jump in and make sure we’re doing the right thorough investigation,” said Jacobson.
In response to those who may be questioning if something fell through the cracks in this case, Jacobson said, “I understand where they’re coming from, I’m a mom and when these things happen I respond first as a mom and as a person and I respond with heartbreak and outrage.”
The complaint also mentions the two other children being sick. Investigators questioned Crownover as to why she didn’t take them to see a doctor.
Crownover is charged with one count of child abuse resulting in death and two counts of abuse of a child. She is expected to appear in court for a hearing on Thursday, to see if she’ll get out of jail.
The two other children are still in CYFD custody. The children were in foster care for concerns of drug abuse and sexual abuse in the home
Editors note: KRQE News 13 originally aired the incorrect house. The house in question is a stucco home, not a mobile home.