A new complaint claims that the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department negligently handed back two children to their parents, who eventually abandoned them in a burning apartment in Santa Fe.
Ages 1 and 3 were “saved by a neighbor who broke down the door of the apartment,” claims the case, which was submitted in state District Court on behalf of the kids by the lawyer acting as their guardian ad litem. But according to the complaint, they inhaled smoke and experienced severe burns.
One youngster had burns covering 40% of their body, while the other needed to be evacuated to a hospital in Denver for treatment, according to documents submitted to the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court in a criminal prosecution connected to the incident.
According to court documents, the child’s mother, Maria Salazar, told authorities that she had gone for a walk to obtain some fresh air. According to accounts, their father Carlos Garcia was not home when the fire started.
On behalf of the siblings, the complaint demands unspecified damages. An email sent to CYFD seeking comment on Friday went unanswered.
The complaint is one of many made in recent months accusing the long-struggling child welfare organization of failing to uphold its duty to safeguard the state’s children.
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Earlier this month, a court-appointed guardian filed a lawsuit against the organization on behalf of two daughters who, after being returned to their drug-addicted and violent parents, consumed methamphetamine and witnessed gun-related domestic violence.
The allegations come as Barbara Vigil, the cabinet secretary, readies to leave her post on Monday in order to join the agency’s newly established Policy Advisory Council.
Additionally, they come at a time when some state legislators are pushing for a special session on CYFD reforms after a 60-day session that saw a large number of proposed bills but few actual successes.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who held a press conference during the session to outline her administration’s efforts to change an agency she called “dysfunctional” — including independent audits, new leadership roles, and the recruitment of more caseworkers — has said she will not call a special session.
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