I apologize for the lack of updates. I was out of town for a few days, and then for some odd reason blogger decided this site was inappropriate and shut it down for awhile. I will get to posting soon.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The outpouring of support for these children that were going to be denied the best nutrition, breast milk, was amazing.
I received emails from all over the county, from people of all backgrounds asking how they can help this cause. A good majority of the responses were from mothers just like me, and many were breastfeeding mothers. They asked me how they could help the FLDS children receive breast milk. I was not certain in the case of directly helping each individual FLDS child, so I contacted several different agencies to see what could be done if the FLDS mothers were not going to be able to breastfeed or give their children their expressed breast milk. Thankfully, for now, these children will be receiving their mother's breast milk. But had the judge decided otherwise, it is likely these children would have been abruptly weaned and put on infant formula, which is far cry from being like breast milk.
One solution for these children, as well as children all across the country that are not able to breastfeed, is to receive donated human milk. The AAP states that next to mother's milk, donated breast milk is the next best thing. The recommended and safest way to donate human milk is to donate to a milk bank that pasteurizes the milk and screens each donor. But because milk banks do not receive enough milk donations to supply all the children in need, they must give their supply to the most needy ill children.
One way we can make sure that no child goes without breast milk, is to donate our breast milk to these milk banks. If the supply was there at these milk banks, then even healthy children without breast milk from their mother, whether because of maternal death or illness, a natural disaster (as seen with Hurricane Katrina) or custody cases (as with the FLDS children) could receive this vital nutrition.
Please consider donating your breast milk today. There is a thorough, yet easy, screening process. I spoke to the Mother's Milk Bank in Austin, TX and they said they are ready for you to contact them today.
Your breast milk will save lives.
If you are no longer breastfeeding but would like to help, please consider making a cash donation to your nearest Mother's Milk Bank (http://www.hmbana.org/index.php?mode=locations). If you would like to donate a breast pump or breastfeeding supplies to a mother in need or to a mother that will pump for the milk bank please contact me. If you are a mother in need of a breast pump please contact me as well.
Thank you. --Nicole
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I will sleep better tonight knowing that the little tummies of the FLDS babies will be full of breast milk tonight. I am sad to think of what the supplements would have done to their health as well as their discomfort and anxiety level. In a time when their world is turned upside down, whether for the better or not, the sweet familiar taste of their mother's milk will give them comfort. I can only hope these young innocent children will continue to receive the best nutrition, breast milk. I am grateful that someone told the judge and CPS the importance of breast milk for the FLDS babies and that a decision was made to allow nursing infants under 12 months continue. I hope for the older nursing children, away from their mothers, that breast milk can be expressed and given to them. I will continue to advocate for the children without a voice. --Nicole
Adult moms to stay with nursing FLDS infants; children to still be home-schooled
By Paul A. Anthony (Contact)
Originally published 04:06 p.m., April 23, 2008
Updated 05:36 p.m., April 23, 2008
In deviations from the normal practice in child-removal cases, infants removed from the YFZ Ranch will not be separated from their adult mothers if they are still nursing, and older children will continue to be home-schooled in their foster placements.
The details, revealed at an informational gathering today presided over by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther, appeared to defuse much of the tension that had been building between attorneys for the hundreds of children housed at the San Angelo Coliseum and the state's Child Protective Services agency.
"I would like for this case to take on the normal progressions these things take," Walther told a crammed courtroom of more than 60 attorneys and reporters. "The Department (of Family and Protective Services) has been stretched beyond belief."
CPS attorney Gary Banks told Walther the agency planned to separate nursing infants from their adult mothers, an idea she rejected. Those 18 mothers should be placed with their babies, she said.
Likewise, Banks said, CPS plans to break from its normal practice of allowing children placed in foster care to be enrolled in public schools.
"They might down the road be in the school system," he said, noting the "cultural shock" the children likely would feel, "but right now, the plan is not to do that."
Attorneys after the meeting said they were glad to see information exchanged, and Walther said she expects communication to improve between CPS and the attorneys as the case begins to break down into smaller groups.
Local attorney Tom Goff said he agrees with that sentiment.
"It's just overwhelming," he said. "I think it'll settle down."
FLDS update: FLDS moms to stay with babies in state care
The Salt Lake Tribune
The judge overseeing the cases of more than 400 FLDS children in state custody said this afternoon adult mothers of infants age 12 months and under should remain with their babies in the state's care.
District Court Juge Barbara Walther made the request of Texas Child Protective Services after receiving an update from the agency on its attempts to place the polygamous sect's children in foster homes or shelters. CPS agreed.
Earlier this week, Walther rejected a temporary restraining order request seeking to keep breastfeeding mothers with their babies.
CPS attorney Gary Banks told Walther this afternoon there are 18 adult mothers with babies 12 months and under. Placements have already been found for 16 of those mothers and their children, he said.
Walther also requested that CPS keep children older than 12 months in proximity to their parents so they can visit frequently. The judge rejected a motion earlier that would have required the agency to keep the children within a five-county radius.
"What this is, is when I take possession of a child, I take personal responsibility for that child, and I'd like to know where these children are," said Walther this afternoon.
Banks said there are 23 adult women with children between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Those women have 28 collectively. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 will go to foster care settings, said Banks, and some children ages 5 to 18 will go into group settings.
The judge also told Banks she wanted the children to be able to exercise their religion and have access to the clothing they desired while in foster care. Banks said CPS is in the process of setting up educational evaluations for each child.
Banks told her it is urgent the children be placed into foster homes at this point, calling conditions at the San Angelo Coliseum where children are being housed "untenable."
Walther said individual hearings for the children will begin May 18, and urged attorneys representing sect members and those lawyers appointed by the state to represent the interests of the children to refrain from making filings with her at this point.
"We have four to five feet of filings, and it's very hard for me to go through five feet of filings," she said.
She said CPS has been stretched "beyond belief" and asked the various parties involved in the case to be patient.
"No one wants to see these children separated from their parents," said Walther. "In a perfect world, that wouldn't happen, but this isn't a perfect world."
Yesterday, 111 children ages 5 and older left the Coliseum for temporary homes located throughout the state, according to CPS spokeswoman Sheri Pulliam. The agency has said siblings under age 5 will be placed together, and attempts will be made to place older siblings together.
Authorities late Tuesday finished taking DNA samples from all the children. The attorney general's office sent 10 technicians on Monday to the Coliseum to take the court-ordered samples as child welfare officials try to sort out the complicated family relationships at the compound. Roughly 500 samples were taken.
Spokeswoman Janece Rolfe said the testing at the Coliseum was completed late Tuesday, but technicians are still taking samples from parents in Eldorado.
The removal of the children is the latest blow to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The April 3 raid of the sect's YFZ Ranch was prompted by calls to a local shelter from someone claiming to be a 16-year-old girl being abused by her FLDS husband.
Texas Rangers have said they are investigating whether the call could have been a hoax perpetrated by a Colorado woman with a history of lying to police there. Court documents released today show one phone number used to place a call to the Texas shelter had been used by Rozita Swinton in the past.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Some information has been given to me, and as of today this is what I know...
1. The FLDS mother's do know of the amazing benefits of breast milk and the majority breastfeed their infants until the children self wean (about 18 months). This information was given to me from an FLDS mother today.
2. The FLDS mothers are familiar with WIC and may or may not be receiving benefits. I would like clarification from someone involved to let me know if these mothers are in need of breast pumps and supplies.
3. Outsiders are not being allowed to talk to the women, children, and or foster families to offer any assistance. If this is not true, then I have not been able to contact the right representative to give the mothers a message of breastfeeding support.
4. La Leche League in the area has made a statement offering help. "At this time, La Leche League has made resources available to the community if they need mother to mother BF support and assistance. We have a group of Leaders ready to assist these mothers if they contact us. Melia Boyer Area Professional Liaison LLL of Texas"
5. There is an attorney that has contacted me that is willing to represent these clients on the issue of making sure the children have breast milk.
6. The women are not against using technology and have electricity. Usage of breast pumps will not be impossible.
7. The Texas Breastfeeding Coalition is offering support and has contacted CPS officials.
8. Some women will be allowed to stay with their nursing infants. Some nursing infants have already been removed from their mothers.
This is information that I need, and what I do not know...
1. Do these mothers already have access to breast pumps, and are willing and able to use them?
2. For the women that are not allowed to stay with their nursing infants: Will these mothers be able to give their children the pumped breast milk? What if the foster family is hundreds of miles away?
3. For the infants that are not allowed to stay with their mothers: What are they being supplemented with? The AAP states that the next best thing to mothers milk, is donor human breast milk. http://www.aap.org/breastfeeding/
4. Can we collect breast milk for these infants, and have a mothers milk bank collect and distribute the milk to the children? If only the children that are sick may have the breast milk, can we make sure there is awareness that it is available?
5. What education is being given to the foster families about infant nutrition and breastfeeding?
More to come. I have a birth to attend but will be off and on trying to update as often as I can in the next few days. Do email me and keep me posted if you have more information.
Texas abuse: Nursing mothers should be with little ones
The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial
Article Last Updated: 04/22/2008 06:46:57 PM MDT
It will take many months, maybe even years, to determine whether the actions by Texas authorities in removing 437 children from their homes in a compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was justified.
But Texas District Judge Barbara Walther's order that nursing mothers not be allowed to breastfeed their babies and toddlers - 77 under age 2 at last count - while in state custody seems unwarranted, even heartless.
We cannot see how these infants and toddlers, even if their parents' polygamous lifestyle puts female children at risk of sexual abuse when they're older, as the state claims, could be endangered simply by breastfeeding.
In fact, the judge's reasoning on this point seems ludicrous. Breastfeeding is certainly not one of the polygamous practices that are being challenged as systemically abusive. And it's not likely that the mothers could plot with these small children to hinder the state's case in some way as they are nursing.
Worse, the judge's order is not in the interest of these children's physical and mental health. And it's not something that the mothers can resume if the children are, eventually, returned to them. In other words, the court would be permanently depriving these children of the best nutrition available, even if the state fails to prove its case against their parents.
And breastfeeding is more than good nutrition. The bond that forms when a child is fed at a mother's breast has been found to be important to its emotional good health.
Nevertheless, the state Child Protective Services plans to send 95 mothers home who are now caring for their children under age 5 under state supervision.
We believe that is unconscionable.
If, as one Texas CPS official said, "Our main thing is to protect children from abuse and neglect," these tiny children should be allowed the benefits of breastfeeding. To deprive them of those benefits, when so much that is familiar has been taken from them, is simply abuse by another name.
I am hoping this is a positive step in the right direction.
Some nursing mothers and children may stay together. I am hoping that everyone, particularly Judge Walther, is beginning to understand the importance of breast milk for these children. If officials thought Judge Walther's safety was in jeopardy, I wonder if they would deprive her of water? --Nicole
More sect moms may join children
Number of youngsters held rises
By Paul A. Anthony
San Angelo Standard-Times
Monday, April 21, 2008
SAN ANGELO -- A state district judge seemed to open the door Monday for adult women to be placed with their nursing children in foster situations, telling attorneys in the historic Schleicher County child-removal case to negotiate such provisions on a case-by-case basis.
Judge Barbara Walther declined to rule on a temporary restraining order sought by attorneys representing adult women and infants held at the San Angelo Coliseum since their removal from the YFZ Ranch northeast of Eldorado. Instead, the 51st District judge said the question was one for each mother's and each child's attorney to settle with the state's Child Protective Services agency.
"This is really one of the cases where y'all should be talking instead of running to the court every time," Walther said. "These most private matters should be handled in an individual manner."
CPS as a rule does not place adult women with their children, regardless of age or whether they are nursing, said spokeswoman Shari Pulliam, but that it has found placement for the at least five girls identified as juvenile mothers with their children.
Allowing adult women to be placed with their nursing children "would be something I would say is new," Pulliam said.
'We're going to keep these teenage girls with their children,' she said; however, 'None of our plans involve placing (adult) mothers with their children.'
Placement likely will begin by next week, Pulliam said.
Since Walther ruled Friday that all 400-plus children removed from the compound should remain in CPS custody, attorneys have filed dozens of motions and requested orders -- including 35 writs of habeas corpus.
Walther conducted a pair of hearings Monday in an effort to answer some of those questions, not least of which is how many children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
compound the state actually has in custody.
CPS began removing children April 3, a process that took nearly four days.
Attempts since then by attorneys ad litem and CPS caseworkers to solidify birth dates have led to an increase in the count to 437
from the previously reported 416 children in custody, Pulliam said. The number of adult women believed to be willingly staying with their young children also has risen, from 82 to 95.
It means a total of 519 people from the ranch are now housed at the San Angelo Fairgrounds.
The numbers have jumped for two principal reasons, Pulliam said:
• Some girls claiming to be adults have since been correctly classified as juveniles and the totals of both categories remain in flux as numbers are added and subtracted from each.
• The sheer numbers of children has made counting difficult, something CPS hopes will be eased by this week's DNA testing.
"We're just not getting a lot of factual information," Pulliam said. "It's just been really hard."
The state alleges all children at the ranch were at risk for physical or sexual abuse because of a 'pervasive pattern and practice' of underage marriage.
Walther, in her brusque style, entreated attorneys to work together to resolve other issues brought to her Monday -- such as the usage of eight telephone lines recently installed at the coliseum to allow women and older children to communicate with their attorneys and how to allow the devout detainees the private prayer and worship they've requested.
In the end, Walther, urging flexibility, suggested finding a monitor from the mainstream Mormon church whose presence may be more palatable to the FLDS members than a complete outsider.
"I'm not going to monitor what color napkins get handed out," she said, "and that's where this is leading."
Attorneys for the women and children used the hearings to more fully air concerns first broached during last week's initial custody hearing -- including allegations that CPS was unfairly restricting access to attorneys and being uncooperative in striking agreements on such issues as prayer time and foster placement for nursing children.
Andrea L. Sloan, an Austin-based attorney representing several mothers in the case, said she had met extensively with attorneys for both mothers and children in preparing the motion, which she filed with San Angelo attorneys Deborah Keenum and Terri Harris Motl.
Sloan and Keenum said they did not have any immediate comment.
While acknowledging that infants were best served by receiving breast milk from their mothers, Walther highlighted CPS' position that the mothers had placed their children at risk for abuse in the FLDS setting.
"The court has ruled the conditions those children were in were not safe for the children," she said. "I did not make the facts that got this case into the courts."
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I was interviewed today by a Salt lake city news station. While in Utah, far from Tx I was pleased with the media coverage. I hope it spreads. Note that I am not the sole founder of the Tx breastfeeding coalition as the story implies. I'm one of the original members as it was being organized. I appreciate this coverage and the kind reporter.
Video HERE: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=3141379
Courtney Orton reporting
Nursing babies are among the children that have been taken into state custody in Texas. Although still with their mothers, a judge has refused to protect them from separation in the future. She left it up to child welfare officials.
Advocates for breast-feeding in Utah and Texas are now rallying around the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints mothers.
Lactation consultants don't want to weigh in on the allegations of child abuse at the FLDS ranch. They just want Texas authorities to know how damaging abrupt weaning can be for infants.
"It's not my right to judge whether the children should be with their mothers, but I do feel it is our right to make sure they have the best care and the best nutrition," said Nicole Hoff, a certified lactation consultant.
Hoff, the founding member of the Texas Breast-Feeding Coalition, says the best care and the best nutrition is breast milk. She set up a Web site to organize support and make breast pumps available to nursing mothers if they are separated from their children.
"These children have been breast-fed and that is the only thing they've known. It's what their body, what their system, is used to. It's important for them that they continue to have that breast milk," Hoff said.
Hoff says that could be accomplished in a couple of different ways: either in supervised breast-feeding visits or allowing FLDS mothers to pump their breast milk.
The Utah Division of Child and Family Services says breast-feeding can come up in custodial cases. "When it comes to something like breast-feeding, we wouldn't want to be making the decision on our own. We would be a part of that team, but we would be looking to medical professionals, law enforcement and that kind of thing to help us make a decision," said Charri Brummer, deputy director of the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
Brummer says removing a child can be traumatic regardless of the circumstances. Breast-feeding advocates say taking breast-feeding away from the child can make it even more traumatic.
"To separate them only causes trauma. If these mothers have chosen to be with their babies, then their babies are used to being with them; and they are not only used to being with them, but the are programed to be with them," said Nicole Bernshaw, also a certified lactation consultant.
Texas judge Barber Walther responded to the FLDS women's plea by saying that women every day in this country go back to work after six weeks of maternity leave. Advocates for breast-feeding say the comment was insensitive to mothers who continue to breast-feed even after returning to work.
To view Hoff's Web site, click the related link.