Lawsuit alleges wrongdoing by caretaker, CYFD in death of 11-month-old girl | KOB 4

Lawsuit alleges wrongdoing by caretaker, CYFD in death of 11-month-old girl

Brittany Costello
July 30, 2019 10:28 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Our state has a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable population – Ariza Barreras was part of that.

Barreras was just an 11-month-old baby girl. She was found dead in the care of a state-licensed respite care foster parent

A newly amended wrongful death lawsuit against Stephanie Crownover – the woman who was caring for her when she died – is now listed along with CYFD and five employees.

Those court documents reveal disturbing details on everything our state allegedly failed to do to protect her.

In December 2017, Stephanie Crownover discovered 11-month old Ariza Barreras unresponsive in a car seat by her bed. Barreras was dropped off just days earlier, along with her two siblings, at Crownover’s home for respite care, or temporary care, from their foster placement.

“When we first found out that an 11-month-old girl had died while she was in state custody in a foster home that’s what really caught our attention,” said Andrew Schultz, one of the co-counsels for Barreras’ surviving siblings in an amended wrongful death lawsuit filed this weekend.

“The initial police investigation was shocking,” said Schultz. He is an attorney with Rodey Law Firm

It detailed a house of horrors. According to documents, the smell inside Crownover’s home was unbearable. The deputies noted animal feces, urine, even structural issues all inside the home of a state-licensed respite foster parent.

Schultz said they started digging through subpoenaed CYFD records. 

According to the lawsuit, Crownover applied for a foster care license in 2016. Her vetted home study revealed she had a criminal history, an annual income she could barely support herself on, no bedding for children – it even noted that CYFD had investigated her a number of times for inadequate food and shelter and excessive discipline. The lawsuit said the claims were listed as substantiated by CYFD.

Crownover still received a stamp of approval.

The five others named in the lawsuit include her social workers, supervisors, and CYFD manager on the case.

“CYFD is also an agency with a very, very checkered past,” said Schultz.  “It has allowed state employees not to follow the rules and regulations and policies the department has set up.”

According to the lawsuit, CYFD failed to investigate reports about Crownover from other parents before Barreras died.

It alleges that even though the social worker and supervisor supposedly had numerous interactions with Crownover – they never entered any notes in the system. Days after Barreras died, they said they discovered dozens of new entries.

Schultz said the defendants named have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

KOB 4 reached out to CYFD for comment. We were told they cannot comment on pending litigation.

They said three of the five named defendants, who were all supervisors, are still working for the agency.


Brittany Costello

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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