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Old July 4th 03, 06:25 AM
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Parents sue ex-social worker
By Dawn Bowen
Jul 3, 2003, 09:40

ARTESIA — The parents of an Artesia girl are suing the social worker who
they say falsely accused them of child abuse and took custody of their
children in 2001. They say the social worker failed to have the girl
treated for a serious medical condition, causing the child to be
permanently handicapped. Jacinto Arredondo and Marisela Olivas filed a
federal lawsuit in February seeking $1.5 million and an order declaring
that Naomi Locklear, a former social worker for the Children, Youth and
Families Department in Carlsbad, violated their parental rights. According
to court records, CYFD was also initially included as a defendant in the
suit, but was later dismissed when a federal judge determined that a U.S.
constitutional amendment bars anyone from seeking a monetary award of
damages that would be paid from public funds. Locklear filed a court
pleading in June responding to the complaint against her, denying the
allegations and stating that her actions were taken in good faith and were
reasonable. Olivas said her family has endured “a tragedy and a nightmare”
that began in February 2001 when her 10-month-old daughter, Jasmine
Arredondo, accidentally fell off a bed in her home and injured her arm.
Olivas took the child to the Artesia General Hospital emergency room to be
treated for a possible injury. X-rays were taken and an emergency room
practitioner determined the child had a fracture on her left arm, Olivas
said. The child was referred to an orthopedic specialist in Carlsbad who
put a cast on the arm the next day. Four days later, Olivas returned to the
Artesia hospital when Jasmine appeared to be having trouble with her left
hip. She said the child had been walking around tables and standing before
the fall, but now she would not put any pressure on her left leg. X-rays
were taken and the emergency room practitioner said she believed the hip
had been fractured. She told Olivas that the X-ray would be read by a
radiologist in Hobbs to obtain the official results. Olivas would later
learn that the practitioner had contacted CYFD to report that she believed
Jasmine was the victim of child abuse Within days after the second trip to
the emergency room, CYFD took custody of the child and her older sibling,
Ashley, 5. Olivas said Locklear denied her requests for another doctor to
examine her daughter’s hip and issue a second opinion. Doctors would later
determine that the hip did not have a hairline fracture as was first
diagnosed, but was instead severely infected. Because the severe septic hip
infection on Jasmine’s left hip was misdiagnosed as an injury, the
infection went undiagnosed for several weeks and was allowed to worsen,
Olivas said. Doctors now say that the delayed diagnosis caused a total
destruction of the femoral head and neck in Jasmine’s hip, according to a
doctor’s report dated A Surgery was performed to attempt to relocate the
hip in March 2001. The child was in a body cast and later a brace for more
than a year. Now at age 3, Jasmine walks with a limp and her left leg is
about one centimeter shorter than the right leg. Olivas said the doctors
have told her that Jasmine’s left leg will continue to grow at a slower
pace than the right leg, resulting in a considerable difference in the
length of her legs when she reaches adulthood and a pronounced limp. They
also told her that Jasmine will suffer from severe arthritis in her left
leg, she said. Doctors are planning procedures that may slow the growth of
Jasmine’s right leg, Olivas said. They will perform a total hip replacement
when Jasmine reaches age 10, or sooner if the pain in her hip becomes
unbearable, she said “The bigger she gets, the worse she walks. Now when
she falls, especially when she falls on her left side, she cries and cries,
” Olivas said Olivas places the blame for Jasmine’s condition entirely on
CYFD and Locklear. “I believe a social worker should know more about
children, how to take care of them and what kind of care they need. They
ruined Jasmine’s life for the rest of her life,” she said. “I know what my
daughter’s future is going to be like. When she goes to school, you know
how kids are, they’re going to laugh at her.” She said Locklear’s actions
in the days after the fall caused irreparable damage to her daughter that
will last a lifetime “If she had left me alone and let me take her for a
second opinion, my child would not have a leg like she has,” she said,
adding that the child’s infection could have been treated with oral
antibiotics and would not have caused irreparable damage to the child’s
leg. Instead, Olivas said, CYFD took custody of Jasmine on Feb. 20, 2001,
two days after the second visit to the hospital emergency room. Olivas said
she arrived at her Artesia home that day after a trip to Roswell with
Jasmine and Ashley to find Artesia Police Detective Rudy Arrey and Rebecca
Garcia, a CYFD social worker, waiting outside her house. They told her that
they wanted to talk to her about Jasmine’s injuries. “I told them they
could come in, so they came inside my house,” she said. “They wanted me to
show them the bed where Jasmine fell from, so I showed them the bed. Then
we went into the kitchen and they told me they were going to take Jasmine.”
Olivas said she told them she did not want them to take Jasmine. They
agreed to allow her to accompany them to the CYFD office. “I didn’t want to
let go of her and I told them, ‘I’ll take her’,” she said. At the CYFD
office, the social worker agreed to allow Olivas’ sister to take Jasmine to
her home in Carlsbad pending an investigation. Olivas said she understood
the authorities were following a standard procedure that occurs when a
child is believed to have two consecutive injuries. “I didn’t mind their
investigation, I just wanted them to do the right thing,” she said. The
next day, Olivas took her older child to Artesia Head Start where she was a
student. When she went to pick her up at 2 p.m. that afternoon, she was
told she could not take the child. “I went to her room and her teacher
pulled me to the side and told me Ashley was in the office with social
services,” she said She went to the office and was met by the principal and
detective Sgt. Michael Pitts of the Artesia Police Department. Ashley was
playing in an adjoining room, she said. Olivas said Pitts told her to sign
a document giving them permission to take the child. She said she initially
refused to sign it and said she was not giving them permission to take her.
“(Pitts) said if I didn’t sign it, it was going to be worse for me. So I
signed it. I signed the paper,” she said Pitts told her that she and the
children’s father were being charged with child abuse. She was told to
leave the building, Olivas said, and she stopped at the door to the office
to say goodbye to her daughter. She said the child had tears in her eyes
and was beginning to cry. “I told her she had to go watch her sister,” she
said. “They sent me out first and they told me I could not go near the
school or they would arrest me. Not even around the block, nothing,” she
said. Olivas said she went to Artesia General Hospital and picked up the
X-rays that were to be back from Hobbs that day. The X-rays showed there
was no fracture on the child’s hip, she said. Then she went home and called
her sister in Carlsbad. “That’s when I found out they took Jasmine, too,”
she said. Her sister told her that Locklear and another social worker came
to her home and said they needed to take custody of Jasmine. She said her
sister told Locklear she needed to give them Jasmine’s diaper bag because
it contained two prescriptions — one for pain and the other for an ear
infection — and a special formula that the child was on. She left the room
to get the diaper bag and when she returned, Locklear, the other social
worker and Jasmine were gone. “When she came back to the living room where
they were standing, they were gone. They just took off and left her
standing there with the bag in her hand,” she said. Three days later,
Olivas was allowed to visit the children. During the visit, Locklear told
her that Jasmine didn’t want to drink her bottle. “I asked her what she was
giving her and she said, ‘fresh milk,’” Olivas said. Olivas said the child
should never have been given fresh milk at 10 months old and should have
been given the special formula to which she was accustomed. Two weeks after
the children were placed in a foster home in Artesia, Ashley was
hospitalized in Carlsbad Medical Center for five days due to dehydration.
Jasmine underwent emergency surgery on March 5, 2001, after the severe
septic hip infection was discovered. She was airlifted to Carrie Tingley
Hospital in Albuquerque where doctors placed a tube into a vein that was
used to administer antibiotics to the child for five weeks, Olivas said.
Criminal charges were filed against Olivas and Jacinto Arredondo on Feb.
23, 2001. According to court documents, the charges were dismissed on March
20, 2001, after the state determined there was no evidence of child abuse.
Olivas said when the children were returned to them, and the case had been
dismissed, she was left with a “totally disabled child.” “When Jasmine was
taken away from us she was a complete, healthy child with no defects in her
life,” she stated in her federal complaint. Despite the child’s medical
condition, and frequent trips to doctors, the family tried to return to
normal, Olivas said. “Ashley went back to Head Start, but the teachers
weren’t the same with me. They knew about the case, they knew it had been
dismissed but they didn’t know why,” she said. Olivas said her children
have suffered emotionally from the ordeal. Ashley, now age 7, continues to
have trouble sleeping and is fearful, she said. “She’s afraid when she sees
a cop. She’s afraid when Jasmine’s sick. She wants to make sure that
Jasmine eats well and she watches to make sure Jasmine doesn’t fall of the
bed,” she said. Olivas said she hopes the lawsuit will cause the CYFD to
ensure that their employees are well trained and are capable of performing
their job and caring for children. “My main decision to do this is I want
the state to know the employees they have hired to do the job so it won’t
happen to someone else,” she said. Locklear is represented by attorney Sean
Olivas of the Keleher & McLeod law firm of Albuquerque. He could not
immediately be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2003 Carlsbad Current-Argus.

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