ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A grandmother is suing the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and Acadia Healthcare, alleging her grandson was sexually abused by older patients at the Desert Hills treatment center in Albuquerque in 2017.
“It should never happen to any child and he was 7 years old at the time,” said Alexander Crecca, Diana Peterlin’s attorney.
The lawsuit was filed in 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe Wednesday.
A CYFD spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Attorneys for Acadia Healthcare did not return phone calls from the Journal.
According to the lawsuit, CYFD took Peterlin’s grandson away from his mother and put him into the custody of Desert Hills.
It is unclear when he was admitted there or how long he had been there, but in February 2017, the boy reported being sexually abused by older children at the center.
“As a result of the February 6, 2017, medical evaluation, the Presbyterian Hospital physicians who evaluated (the boy) recommended that (he) not return to defendant, Desert Hills,” the complaint says.
It is unclear whether he was returned to the facility and Crecca, said he is still gathering specific information about the incident.
“Upon information and belief, at the time of the incident that is the basis of this lawsuit, no Desert Hills staff member was monitoring either (the boy) or the older children who sexually assaulted (the boy),” the complaint says.
The lawsuit alleges CYFD – the agency that placed the boy at Desert Hills – was negligent because it failed to recognize the concerns of sexual abuse at the center and failed to recognize the threat to the boy.
It alleges Acadia, the company that runs Desert Hills, has a “professional duty” to supervise patients at the facility and to “develop an understanding of the risks and dangers presented for each patient within its facility.”
“Defendant knew or should have known that other, older children had a problem with sexually acting out and posed an unreasonable danger, particularly to other children in the facility, and did not take appropriate steps to protect the other children, including (the boy),” the complaint says.
The suit asks for the boy and his grandmother, who represents him, to be compensated for his injuries.
Crecca said he’s aware of other complaints against Desert Hills.
“When this case came into my office, I took it very seriously,” Crecca said. “When I saw the medical records substantiating the abuse, I felt compelled to take the suit.”