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Foster parent sues state over beating by ward

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

_copyright”>Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Valencia County foster parent who says she was beaten by her ward has sued the state claiming she was not given enough information before she agreed to take in the 17-year-old.

In a state court lawsuit, the woman says the Children, Youth and Families Department told her he needed a place the stay while he went to college and held a job, but never told her about the boy’s violent past or mental health problems.

After the teen returned to his biological father, she cut off his cellphone service. Her lawsuit says that he became angry, returned to her Bosque Farms home, broke in and beat her in June 2015, leaving her with serious injuries.

She did not recognize her attacker, but the police investigation led to the boy, according to the lawsuit.

The foster parent, identified only as G.S., now is suing CYFD and placement workers Leeann Edmondson and Mary Shorter-King, who is no longer with the department, claiming they knew about the teen’s violent past before she took him in.

The suit says the boy’s “prior aggressive history created a dangerous condition” and risk at the woman’s home. The beating at the boy’s hands left her with “severe physical injuries,” the suit says.

According to the woman’s attorney, Michael Hart of Albuquerque, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office didn’t conclude until March 2016, about nine months after the attack, that the person who beat the woman was her former foster child, identified in the suit as Z.V., and initiated a criminal case.

As the case proceeded, the foster parent learned about the boy’s background, which included charges of domestic violence. The suit also alleges that CYFD had investigated the teen several times before she took him in.

The complaint argues that CYFD was obligated to share information on the social, medical, psychological or educational needs of the child so that the woman could make an informed decision before accepting Z.V.

CYFD spokesman Henry Varela declined to comment on the case last week but said CYFD tells a foster parent everything the department knows about a foster child.

According to the lawsuit, a CYFD employee called the woman in July 2014 and wanted to know if she would accept Z.V. on a temporary basis. She initially declined but reconsidered and accepted the boy after a second call a few days later.

The suit says that the only information CYFD provided about the boy was that he was 17, was taking classes at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus and had a job at a lumberyard. The woman was told that Z.V. “does not have any problems” and didn’t want to stay with his prior foster parent because there had been a fight over his failure to keep his room clean.

Shortly after the woman accepted the placement, the complaint says, CYFD’s Shorter-King told the woman she needed to take Z.V. to see his probation officer. When G.S. asked why he was on probation, Shorter-King said she didn’t know and thought it might be for using marijuana, according to the suit.

In March 2015, G.S. found a note from Z.V. that said he was going to Texas to live with his biological father. The suit says he had also taken all of the money out of their joint bank account. She later turned off Z.V.’s cellphone service, which angered Z.V., the complaint says.

In June 2015, the suit says, Z.V. broke into the woman’s home and attacked her, but she apparently didn’t know it was he. The following March, deputies determined Z.V. was the assailant, the complaint says. She became aware of Z.V.’s history through the court process.

The lawsuit does not say how the case against Z.V. was resolved.

According to the complaint, a March 2013 CYFD investigation found that Z.V. was on probation for physically abusing his siblings and had been referred to a counseling and anger management program. A July 2013 CYFD investigation revealed that he was again physically harming his siblings.

CYFD launched yet another investigation into allegations of Z.V.’s mother physically abusing him and his siblings in November that year.

The suit says CYFD found in February 2014 that Z.V. had behavioral and mental health problems due to exposure to domestic violence. By 2013, he had four juvenile justice referrals – one for truancy, one for criminal damage to his mother’s car, one for battery on his mother causing great bodily harm and another for battery on his brother.

In 2013, he violated a consent decree and failed to stay in a treatment program, the suit says, and Children’s Court called for him to be in foster care. He was an inpatient at the Children’s Treatment Center in Albuquerque for three to six months, according to the complaint.

Z.V. was in a program called Grace House, a home for troubled boys in Carlsbad that closed in 2016, but in August 2013, he inflicted serious injury on a peer that required the victim to have surgery on his hand, the complaint says.

An evaluation at the home found that he had problems with anger, aggression and family conflict and had a lack of respect for those in authority, according to the complaint. The lawsuit is seeking compensation for the woman’s damages, court costs and other relief.