ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The death of Omaree Varela has turned everyone’s attention on APD and CYFD, with many asking how a system failed him.
Now, a family says a young girl was also a victim of the system.
According to a just-filed federal lawsuit, a CYFD worker defied a judge’s order and took an 8-year-old girl away from her father and gave her to her mother – and into harm’s way.
The grandparents say CYFD washed their hands of the case and for months, the family didn’t know where the girl or the mother was. They hired a private investigator to find her.
“We discovered that she had been starved,” said grandmother Carolyn Silverman. “She had been physically abused, beaten by her mother and uncle and sent out in the streets to buy them drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and whatever.”
The grandparents now have sole custody of the girl. They say the mother doesn’t have a permanent home, so they don’t know where she is.
Neither CYFD nor Belen police would comment on the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, it started in 2011, after Sandoval County’s District Court Judge John Davis granted the girl’s father primary custody and said the girl was to live with him at his parent’s house.
“In this case, we had a judge who had heard testimony and decided what was best for this child – and it was a very thorough analysis,” said the family’s attorney, Colin Hunt.
That’s when they say the case took a devastating turn.
According to the lawsuit, the CYFD investigator knowingly ignored the court’s order and told Belen police to take the girl away from the father.
A police officer allegedly took her out of the father’s car during a traffic stop.
“Not only did they not intervene to safe the kid, they put the kid – who is a wonderful child – in a horrendous position and said ‘We’re done,’ and left it up to these grandparents,” Hunt said.
The grandfather says he dipped into his IRA to pay for the investigator.
“He found them in Española, living with a cousin who was on probation for burglary and possession of drug paraphernalia,” said grandfather Don Pass.
The girl is now in the grandparents’ custody and they want someone held responsible for what she endured.
According to the family’s attorney, the CYFD worker who’s named in the lawsuit no longer works for CYFD.
According to court records, she was going through her own custody battle with the same judge when this happened.