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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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N.Y. Girl’s Disappearance Blamed on Nonprofit

BRONX (CN) - The mother of a 16-year-old girl missing since August blames a charity that serves troubled youth for her daughter's disappearance.

Maria Olivo sued MercyFirst and Girls Educational and Mentoring Services Inc. (GEMS) in Bronx County Supreme Court last Friday.

Olivo says she enrolled her daughter, named only as JMF in the lawsuit, into the MercyFirst's program, which offers an "integrated continuum of care for children in need," for those who have been abused, suffer with "serious emotional problems," and those dealing with "poverty, domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse," according to the complaint.

GEMS' mission is to "empower girls and young women, ages 12-24, who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop their full potential," the Feb. 12 complaint states.

The girl was placed into MercyFirst's "Hard to Place Program" last April in a facility in Syosset, N.Y., at the behest of the New York City Administration for Children's Services.

The program deals with children who didn't thrive in community-based foster care settings or who needed to be hospitalized because of serious mental issues and aggressive behaviors.

Even though she was not supposed to be allowed to leave the property, she was taken from the Syosset campus to attend an after-school program at a GEMS facility in Manhattan on Nov. 11.

The girl hasn't been seen since, according to the lawsuit.

Olivo says MercyFirst failed in its duty to control the girl and "her activities to make certain that [she] did not abscond or otherwise leave the custody and care of MercyFirst," the 10-page complaint states.

The girl's mother seeks an unspecified amount of damages, and is represented by Joseph Mullen Jr. in Manhattan.

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