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CYFD among defendants in lawsuit alleging rape

Familyworks on Coors and Sequoia NW has had its license revoked by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department after an internal audit. (Elise Kaplan/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The mother of a teenage girl who was housed with a foster father accused of sexually assaulting multiple children over the past 20 years filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging he raped her daughter repeatedly for more than a year and a half.

According to the lawsuit filed in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, the girl told police about the abuse in August 2018 after she was returned to her mother. She does not appear to be one of the seven girls previously contacted by law enforcement and reported on in the Journal.

No criminal charges have been filed against the foster parents, and the Albuquerque Police Department has said it is still investigating prior allegations.

The lawsuit claims foster father Clarence Garcia raped the then-14-year-old “almost every afternoon” from August 2015 to November 2016 and that his wife, Debbie Garcia, forced the girl to get birth control shots to keep her from getting pregnant.

Treatment care provider Familyworks, which licensed the Garcia family, and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department are also named as defendants in the suit.

CYFD revoked Familyworks’ license over the summer, and it was shut down after a CYFD investigator uncovered that the agency continued to place children with the Garcias despite several allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 2001.

At least seven girls have told investigators with the District Attorney’s Office about abuse, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape.

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson

CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson

Several of those allegations were reported to CYFD as well, but a preliminary review by the department found its workers had followed policies and procedures in their prior investigations. CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson has said they are waiting until the criminal case is completed before doing a more thorough critical review.

However, the lawsuit alleges negligence by both CYFD and Familyworks for failing to prevent or stop the abuse, as well as assault and battery by Clarence Garcia.

“CYFD seems to be outsourcing its responsibility to the detriment of kids,” said attorney Kate Ferlic, who filed the lawsuit. “I think that they have a moral imperative to participate in the selection and certification of foster parents and take seriously complaints of sexual abuse.”

Ferlic said the girl, now 17, is developmentally and intellectually disabled, and functions as an 8- or 9-year-old. She said the girl had been living at Desert Hills residential treatment center before being sent to live with the Garcia family. She declined to say why the girl was not living with her mother.

“I don’t think it matters,” Ferlic said. “I think families do trust CYFD to take care of their kids when they can’t for whatever reason, and CYFD certainly failed here.”

A CYFD spokesman said the department “is not able to comment on this case given pending litigation and the ongoing criminal investigation.” The CEO of Desert Hills, which had a business agreement with Familyworks, did not respond to requests for comment.

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