FLDS update: FLDS moms to stay with babies in state care
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.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Article Last Updated: 04/23/2008 03:16:39 PM MDT
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