ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KOAT/CNN) – A father in New Mexico is facing several charges after being accused of forcing his 7-year-old daughter into prostitution.
Teachers at the girl's school alerted officials to launch an investigation, but it was months before action was taken to protect the child.
"My immediate reaction as a mom, and as a human, is just absolute disgust and heartbreak," said Monique Jacobson, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department – or CYFD.
The man is behind bars after New Mexico's attorney general said he prostituted his 7-year-old daughter for drugs.
Court documents said the little girl is homeless and would show up to Lew Wallace Elementary School, exhausted and disheveled, telling teachers: "Mom and I hustle."
Back in November, the criminal complaint said a teacher called police when she noticed dried blood on the girl's underwear. Police took a report and notified CYFD.
But the little girl and her brother stayed with their parents.
Documents show the Albuquerque Police Department talked to the family at a nearby motel and said there was "nothing that could cause concern of either of these children being abused in any way by their parents."
Six months later, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas became involved because a school nurse said she was worried about the little girl.
Investigators talked with the 7-year-old and her brother.
According to court documents, their father prostituted the girl and made both children panhandle and steal.
Balderas is angry that nothing happened to help the children six months ago.
"There absolutely just need to be earlier interventions when it comes to protecting young children," Balderas said.
CYFD has ordered an internal review. If something was done incorrectly, they said the right people will be held accountable.
"We're still – from our perspective – doing a real deep dive into all of that," Jacobson said.
APD said they're still looking into what happened on their end. Balderas said that’s simply not good enough.
"These types of agencies need to take some responsibility in evaluating all of these cases, but there clearly needs to be timelier interventions when it comes to protecting children," Balderas said.
James Stewart, the father, is facing human trafficking and child abuse charges. It’s unclear if the mother will be charged.
Balderas gave credit to school faculty and staff for contacting authorities. He said they likely saved the girl's life.
CYFD officials said they're unable to remove children from their parents until they're ordered to do so by a judge or law enforcement.
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