ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – An Albuquerque facility that treats some of New Mexico’s most vulnerable children is shutting down after a CYFD investigation uncovered multiple cases of worker-child violence. In November, KRQE News 13 reported on the announcement of the sudden closure of the Bernalillo Academy, as some parents were given reasons like COVID and resources. However, new material we obtained through CYFD tells a much darker story behind the doors of the facility being shut down.
The Bernalillo Academy was one of New Mexico’s last full-time institutions for children with behavioral and developmental disabilities. However, the reasoning behind the shutdown now involves the state’s highest attorney.
“New Mexico keeps repeating the same mistakes when it comes to protecting children,” said Hector Balderas, New Mexico attorney general. “We hope that after our investigation we will be able to provide a real roadmap on how to improve safety and supervision, especially for the most vulnerable children who need support and services.”
Last month Allen Brown, a parent of a nonverbal autistic child in care at Bernalillo Academy, informed us of the closure, saying they were told to transfer their children by December 22 for no real reason. for the given closure. But in the absence of other such facilities in New Mexico, parents and caregivers have found themselves with few options.
“We’re going to have kids with autism, we’re going to have kids who have other mental issues or things like that, you’re going to have kids from broken homes who need a little help,” we said. Brown. last month. “In the future, what are we going to do?
After Brown reached out, KRQE began to dig into the cause of the shutdown. Documents obtained from CYFD show a darker side of the facility with years of abuse allegations, which led state officials to ultimately order the Bernalillo Academy to shut down. “It’s a very ugly case,” Balderas said. “It’s a black eye for New Mexico.”
Investigators found that the Bernalillo Academy did not perform adequate background checks and verify the employment of many of its employees, with some staff not even meeting the requirements of the position, where they faced. severe cases of development and behavior in children and adolescents. But other allegations go much further – from reports of staff members whipping children with tree branches and bark, leaving them with serious bruises and injuries, to countless reports of physical assault between children without staff intervention.
Detailed in the report, one child said ‘I guess they’re just waiting for me to die’ while another said he ‘doesn’t really feel safe here’. CYFD also found cases of sexual assault between those in the facility’s care, with one saying they feared being assaulted after another ‘client’ in the facility’s care requested to have oral sex with them.
“I am very concerned that these allegations go back several years. I am concerned that there has been a lack of timely reporting, which is required by law, ”Balderas said. “It’s horrible.”
The survey also found that some children were heavily sedated and many did not have access to private phone calls to communicate with their parents or guardians. The facility also lacked basic necessities like chairs to sit on, and children could now take their belongings as toys until they were “earned”. Balderas says his office is now launching a full investigation into Bernalillo Academy and its parent company, Sequel Youth and Family Services, not excluding criminal and civil charges against the staff members involved.
“I would expect that in these types of situations there is always prevention, intervention, and then of course then comes accountability and scrutiny,” Balderas said. “But we only have one chance to protect a child, so it’s a horrible, horrible situation.”
According to CYFD, the establishment voluntarily relinquished its license on December 1, just weeks before the scheduled closure tomorrow, December 22. All the children involved in CYFD have been moved elsewhere.
KRQE News 13 has contacted Sequel Youth and Family Services several times, which recently saw closures and similar allegations at its other facilities nationwide. They did not return our calls and emails.