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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

FLDS not looking too good...

Appeals court axes hearing on FLDS kids' relocation
The Salt Lake Tribune

SAN ANGELO, Texas - A Texas appellate court has canceled a hearing set for Tuesday that sought to challenge a district judge's decision to send children removed from a polygamous sect's ranch to group and foster homes throughout the state.

The 3rd Court of Appeals said Friday that Tom Green County Judge Barbara Walther's order to move the FLDS children beyond a five-county area met statutory requirements. The Texas RioGrande Legal Aid wanted the higher court to stop the relocations of the children, which were completed Friday.

The court left intact a second petition filed by the legal aid society that argues the judge did not have sufficient evidence or hold proper hearings before deciding to keep the children in custody.

The state's Department of Family and Protective Services have until May 2 to respond to that petition, but has not yet set a hearing date.

Polygamous sect's kids in hospital, moms want answers
By Brooke Adams The Salt Lake Tribune

At least nine children taken from a polygamous sect's ranch are or have been in the hospital and attorneys for most of the mothers say they have received little or no information about their conditions. Attorneys for Texas Rio-Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) are working to identify the children and the hospitals, and to arrange for the mothers to visit the children.
"We can't seem to get anyone on the phone with authority to make that happen and the mothers don't even know the seriousness of the situation," said Amanda Chisholm, a TRLA attorney.
The legal aid society, which represents 48 mothers, said one 2-year-old child lost a severe amount of weight while staying at the San Angelo Coliseum.
TRLA said the organization was told two days ago that the child was in shock and lethargic, but has received no new information since then about where the child is or regarding her current health situation.

The mother is not being allowed to be with this child or her other nursing children, Chisholm said. "We don't seem to be able to get in touch with anyone who can tell us," she said. Depending on the assigned caseworker, some FLDS mothers are being allowed to see their children and some are not, Chisholm said. Texas Child Protective Services said Friday that one child had been hospitalized because of dehydration.
A CPS spokesman Sunday said he had no information on the children. Texas authorities removed the children from the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more than three weeks ago because of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of young girls.
The sect made another appeal to Texas Gov. Rick Perry this weekend for help. In a letter to the governor, FLDS member Willie Jessop said many children "have been left in critical medical conditions, resulting in permanent damage through threats, intimidation and ultimately separating them from their parents."
Jessop writes that even the state's expert witness advised against separating the youngest children from their mothers. He asks for an emergency meeting with Perry.
So far, Perry has declined to meet with the FLDS and has praised Child Protective Services' actions. The agency moved 462 children out of the San Angelo Coliseum last week, sending them to group and foster homes across Texas.

Chisholm said a master list of placements is missing names of two children taken from the ranch and TRLA has so far been unable to determine their location. She also said mothers who were nursing children older than 12 months were told their toddlers would be kept close by so they could continue to nurse or provide breast milk for them.

But some of those toddlers have been moved hundreds of miles away and Texas Child Protective Services has not yet given permission for the mothers to visit them.
"I've been scrambling for the past two days to find out the name of the person I need to call to get permission for my client to enter that facility to nurse her children," said Chisholm, who represents four mothers. "All we've been told is to wait until Monday when they assign caseworkers to individual families."

Some mothers have been unable to confirm where their children have gone and others have learned their children have been split up and sent to different locations. TRLA learned Sunday that a child thought to be in a group home was actually in a hospital.
Some mothers, Chisholm said, "are trying to, sadly, figure out which child needs them more, a child in the hospital or a nursing baby," she said.

Texas: 31 of 53 teen girls from FLDS ranch have been pregnant
By Michelle Roberts
The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Texas child welfare officials say that more than half the teenage girls swept into state custody from a polygamist sect's ranch have been pregnant.

Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar says 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were living on the ranch in Eldorado. Of that group, 31 already have children or are pregnant.
State officials took custody of all 463 children at the Yearning For Zion Ranch more than three weeks ago after a raid prompted by calls to a domestic violence hotline.
CPS says there was a pattern of underage girls forced into so-called "spiritual marriages" with much older men at the ranch.

Judge to rule on which of polygamous sect's documents can be evidence
By Lisa RosettaThe Salt Lake Tribune

SAN ANGELO, Texas - A Dallas appellate judge will begin a private review today of computer hard drives and 1,000 boxes of documents seized from the Yearning for Zion Ranch to determine which may fall under the protections of the clergy-penitent privilege.
The content of the boxes, stacked floor-to-ceiling high in a Texas Department of Public Safety room, includes letters written to FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs, church membership lists and genealogy charts, medical records and hand-written notations pertaining to ongoing criminal cases. The documents were taken from the ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in a raid that began April 3.
Defense lawyers Bob Switzer and John Fahle, both of San Antonio, began going through the papers two weeks ago, Switzer said after a hearing Monday before 51st District Court Judge Barbara Walther.
But the state asked for an independent reviewer to take over the job. Officials were unsatisfied with the pace at which the lawyers were reading the documents - it took Switzer an entire day to read about half of the papers in one box labeled "bishop's records" alone - and were concerned that they may assert privilege in an attempt to exclude evidence from potential criminal cases.

Going through the papers is tedious work, the defense lawyers said, because in some instances only a few sentences on a page are privileged and need to be redacted. Much of the material has no evidentiary value and does not serve the interests of the children, they said.

Walther said Justice Molly Francis, who sits on the Texas Court of Appeals' Fifth District bench, will begin examining the papers today to assess the situation and set up guidelines for going through them.
Meanwhile, FLDS mothers were expected on Monday to visit children being treated at the Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital here. Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Society, said the state's Child Protective Services has set up a supervised visiting schedule for the parents. "We're definitely pleased with that," she said.

FLDS update: Under guard, sect teenager gives birth in Texas
By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune

An FLDS female whose age is in dispute delivered a boy in a San Marcos hospital Tuesday, accompanied by Texas Rangers and CPS workers, an attorney said.

Attorney Rod Parker, an FLDS spokesman, said Pamela Jeffs is 18 - the same age shown for her on a court document prepared by Texas Child Protective Services.
Jeffs is one of 26 females CPS has now classified as minors, an assessment that the FLDS said Monday was erroneous.

"Her husband is 22 and they are a monogamous couple," Parker said. He said Jeffs' husband is not at the hospital with her.

The couple also have a 16-month-old son, who is being held at The Children's Shelter in Austin. Parker said Jeffs is at the Central Texas Medical Center and that he had been told Texas Rangers and CPS workers were with her. "We're not sure what their intention is with respect to that baby," he said. CPS has allowed mothers to remain with infants 12 months old or younger who are in state custody.

Texas authorities have custody of 463 children from the YFZ Ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The children are in group homes and shelters throughout Texas. State officials removed the children from the ranch after alleging they were in danger because of the sect promotes underage and polygamous marriages.

Texas official: Evidence of broken bones, possible sexual abuse found in FLDS kids
By Brooke Adams The Salt Lake Tribune

A Texas official said Wednesday that at least 41 children from the polygamous YFZ Ranch have had broken bones and some young boys may have been sexually abused -- allegations that drew rapid denials from the FLDS sect. Cary Cockerell, commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services, told a committee of Texas lawmakers that investigators don't have complete medical information on all the children but that the findings were "cause for concern."
He said also said the sexual abuse claim was based on interviews with children and journals found at the ranch. Salt Lake City attorney Rod Parker accused the department of putting out "misleading information" to malign the polygamous sect. Parker said some children in the community have brittle bone disease and that Texas Child Protective Services was informed of that.

"That makes some of the children more susceptible to broken bones," Parker said. "The mothers told CPS about that when they were taken in. They've known all along that the reason they might see higher incidence of broken bones was due to this condition. They have no evidence to support the implication it is due to child abuse."

Cockerell shared the information with the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which met Wednesday morning in Austin. In a document written report submitted to the committee, Cockerell described a "pattern of deception" that began in the first interviews with children and adults at the YFZ Ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Some refused to give or changed their names and refused to answer questions about ages and family relationships. Children were moved from home to home at the ranch to prevent investigators from speaking to them, he said.

The state's investigation also has been complicated by the children's fear of the outside world, he said. While in state shelters, women and children were tagged with identification bracelets but the "women and children removed the bracelets or rubbed the wording off them," the department's report said. Some women initially refused to let the children undergo basic health screenings and many teen girls declined pregnancy tests. Children also were coached to not answer questions, it said.

Texas officials raided the YFZ Ranch on April 3 after a San Angelo shelter said it had been contacted by a caller claiming to be a 16-year-old abused by her polygamous husband. Those calls are being investigated as a possible prank by a Colorado woman. But child welfare officials say they found evidence of a pattern of abuse at the ranch that justified removal of all children.

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