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Editorial: Incredibly, CYFD never looked at big abuse picture

It’s true, of course, that the policies and procedures in any bureaucracy have the potential of eliminating common sense from any exercise – sometimes with devastating and tragic consequences.

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson

By way of illustration, one need look no further than the most recent debacle at the state Children, Youth and Families Department, where Secretary Monique Jacobson said an examination of CYFD’s interaction with a foster family that included allegations of assault by at least seven different girls over a period of years concluded the agency’s investigators had consistently followed policies and procedures.

Boxes were checked off. The agency looked at each case and none of the complaints was “substantiated.” In some cases, victims recanted. Files were forwarded to the Albuquerque Police Department.

But despite the repeated claims of abuse by different children against the foster father, more kids were assigned to this family through a private company that had a contract with CYFD.

That raises the question of why, for years, no one at CYFD bothered to look at the foster home/parent “file” – if there is one.

Although complaints dated back to 2000, it wasn’t until April – after a 10-year-old girl accused the foster father of touching her sexually – that a CYFD investigator “discovered” there had been other allegations of abuse stretching back more than a decade.

The same questions hold true with the Albuquerque Police Department. Many of the reports were forwarded to that agency, but it’s unclear whether any of the responding officers were aware of the previous complaints – or had the time or resources to check out the family’s history. APD and the city remain mum on whether APD is conducting an investigation into how its officers responded to the previous reports involving this foster family. Such an investigation seems warranted, but the public has no way of knowing. So much for transparency.

Jacobson commended the investigator who did take the time to look at past allegations, which included a 15-year-old girl reporting in 2012 that the foster father touched her inappropriately. In 2015, a 10-year-old claimed the foster father had raped her. And so on.

The CYFD investigator immediately removed the 10-year-old who complained in April and two other children from the foster home, and substantiated the disclosures of “sexual penetration, molestation and emotional abuse,” according to court documents. Then, because of the prior allegations, CYFD began a long-overdue audit of the company, Familyworks, that had been contracting with the family. The audit found the business had not followed procedures, had in some cases failed to report claims of abuse and hadn’t been providing adequate treatment. Its license was revoked.

Jacobson, who was confirmed as head of the agency in 2015, said the agency’s review found investigators followed procedures in investigating the earlier reports, but have tended to look at allegations in isolation. Jacobson said the agency is trying to encourage its employees to take a broader view and look at entire family history.

Just encourage? Why isn’t the bigger picture in CYFD’s policies and procedures playbook? Isn’t that just common sense?

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.