CYFD puts youth group home on admissions hold amid escapes, violence | KOB 4

CYFD puts youth group home on admissions hold amid escapes, violence

Jen French
October 09, 2017 10:21 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A group home meant to help kids with emotional and behavioral problems is on a state-mandated admissions hold. Desert Hills, also known as Youth and Family Centered Services of New Mexico Incorporated, must give the state a corrective action plan that demonstrates its staff can handle the students.


The 4 Investigates team discovered 15-year-old Shaquan Ketcham escaped the facility in June 2016 and then allegedly tried to burglarize a Rio Rancho house. Ketcham was shot by the homeowner. The teen boy sustained life-changing injuries.

Court records reveal that Ketchum was staying at Desert Hills. The home is for kids between the ages of 5 and 18 who struggle with emotional, behavioral or substance abuse problems. A lawsuit accuses the staff of being negligent and not properly supervising him.

Juvenile felony charges filed by Rio Rancho Police were later dismissed because the juvenile judge felt the teen was incompetent to stand trial.

Police reports and lapel video reveals Desert Hills has had the most assault and battery calls in the entire City of Albuquerque from January until May this year. Nearly all of the calls involved youth hitting other youth or youth hitting staff.

The Children, Youth and Families Department keeps track of these incidents. Other complaints 4 Investigates discovered in the state file kept on Desert Hills included teens smoking marijuana, getting into fights or having sex.

During an annual inspection, CYFD staff noted that 20 out of 122 youth didn’t have immunization documentation and 70 didn’t have a record of an annual dental checkup.

When it comes to the adults supervising the youth, state inspectors learned that 20 out of 150 personnel didn’t say why they quit their job at Desert Hills. Forty-eight out of 150 personnel didn’t verify their last three years of employment before taking a job at Desert Hills. Twenty-six staff members didn’t have three job references on file.

4 Investigates asked Desert Hills administrators twice for an interview. CEO Michael Girlamo declined to comment.

Records reveal CYFD reinstated Desert Hills’ license to operate June 21. 4 Investigates asked CYFD why the facility is still open.

"Well, right now, one of the sanctions is that the group home is on an admissions hold," said Bryce Pittenger, CYFD director of behavioral health services.

The center must demonstrate that it has addressed many of its staffing and youth issues within three months.  If the facility does not comply, the state could revoke its license.

"We would need to consider either further action extending the hold from the group home to the accredited residential treatment center,” Pittenger said.  “Everything up to termination to revocation."


Jen French

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