Category: Eldorado

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FLDS parents complain of vague custody plans
0520 Polygamist Retreat_BW
Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints make their way towards the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo, Texas for the first round of hearings regarding the family plans on Monday, May 19, 2008. (AP Photo/San Angelo Standard-Times, Brian Connelly)
Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Michelle Roberts – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Children from a polygamist sect were the only subjects on the docket Monday at a west Texas courthouse where five judges began handling hundreds of hearings that attorneys for the children’s parents decried for their cookie-cutter approach.

State child welfare officials gave each of the more than 460 children in state custody the same template plan for parents to follow, and judges made few changes. But parents remained without answers to important questions, including whether a requirement that the children live in a “safe” environment means they can’t return to the Yearning For Zion Ranch.

Donna Guion, an attorney for the mother of a 6-year-old son of the sect’s jailed prophet, Warren Jeffs, complained the plans were so vague they would be impossible to satisfy and were contingent on psychological evaluations likely to take weeks more to complete.

“This plan is so vague and so broad that my client has no idea what she can do now,” Guion said of the boy’s mother.

Dozens of mothers in prairie dresses and fathers in button-down shirts, flanked by pro bono lawyers from the state’s most prestigious firms as well as Legal Aid, arrived at the Tom Green County courthouse hoping to learn how to regain custody of their children.

“What the parents are trying to find out here is what they need to do to get their children back, and there’s no clear answer to that,” said Rod Parker, spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which runs the ranch in Eldorado.

The FLDS parents say they are being persecuted for their religion, which includes beliefs that polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

In one hearing, attorneys complained that the Book of Mormon was confiscated from some of the children at a foster facility.

“If they can openly admit they can take away the Book of Mormon from us today, it’ll be the Bible tomorrow, and it’s outrageous,” said FLDS elder Willie Jessop.

State Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said officials have not been able to confirm whether the members’ holy text was taken from them, but they have removed photos, sermons and books of Jeffs, who is a convicted sex offender.

The hearings in San Angelo, 40 miles north of the ranch, are scheduled to run for the next three weeks, and none of the judges would humor any discussion about whether the initial grounds for removing the children in a raid of the ranch last month were valid. It probably will be months before the cases are reviewed again in court.

The state also acknowledged Monday that two more sect members they listed as minors are actually adults. The state has made that mistake at least four times; child welfare officials have complained that church members have not cooperated with their efforts to determine ages and family relationships.

Texas child welfare authorities argued that all the children, ranging from newborns to teenagers, should be removed from the ranch because the sect pushes underage girls into marriage and sex and encourages boys to become future perpetrators.

Church members insist there was no abuse. They say the one-size-fits-all action plan devised by CPS doesn’t take into account specific marriage arrangements or living circumstances.

Some members of the renegade Mormon sect lived in a communal setting in large log houses they built themselves. Others lived as traditional nuclear families in their own housing on the ranch.

CPS spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said the plans look similar now but will be customized as officials get more information.

“It’s logical they all look the same. All the children were removed from the same address at the same time for the same reason,” she said. But “it’s an evolving plan.”

All the plans call for parenting classes, vocational training for the parents and require the parents to prove they can support their children. They also call for safe living environments, though they offer no specifics.

CPS supervisor Karrie Emerson said the parenting classes will be tailored to explain Texas laws regarding underage sex. “The goal isn’t to change any of their religious beliefs per se but just to educate them what might be a problem under Texas law,” she said.

CPS has said that reunification of the families by next April is the goal.

Jessop, however, said the state has made it impossible for parents comply with vague plans and to visit their children, many of whom are scattered to facilities up to 650 miles apart.

“Every parent is accused of being bad, and there’s no cure,” Jessop said.

The unwieldy custody case has been unusual from the beginning. All the children of the ranch were treated as if they belonged to a single household, so the chaotic initial hearing involved hundreds of attorneys for children and parents and broad allegations from the department about the risk of abuse.

So far, 168 mothers and 69 fathers have been identified in court documents; more than 100 other children had unknown parents as the hearings got under way. DNA samples have been taken, but the first results are at least two weeks away.

The children were removed from the ranch during an April 3 raid that began after someone called a domestic abuse hot line claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old abused by a much older husband. The girl has never been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

The FLDS is a renegade breakaway of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Sect leader Jeffs, who is revered as a prophet, has been sentenced to prison in Utah for being an accomplice to rape in arranging a marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He is awaiting trial in Arizona, where he is charged as an accomplice with four counts each of incest and sexual conduct.

Court documents listed 10 children of Jeffs living at the ranch. If DNA tests confirm that any of the children are his, the children will be allowed to keep a photo, said Meisner, the CPS spokeswoman.

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ElDorado Childrens’ Removal by CPS was based on False Allegations

But still … they are keeping the kids in foster care…. ?  Why?

Warrant dropped against man named in polygamist retreat raid

May 2, 2008

ELDORADO, Texas (AP) — An arrest warrant has been dropped for a man thought to be the husband of a teenage girl whose report of abuse triggered a raid on a polygamous sect’s Texas compound, authorities said Friday.

A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman would not say why the warrant was dropped for Dale E. Barlow, 50, who lives in Colorado City, Ariz. Barlow has denied knowing the 16-year-old girl who called a crisis center.The girl reported that she was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and that she was beaten and raped at the sect’s Eldorado ranch.

An investigation led to the April 3 raid, in which state welfare workers took 463 children living at the Yearning For Zion Ranch. A boy was born to one of the sect’s mothers Tuesday; he and the other children remain in state custody.

Authorities have not located the 16-year-old girl and are investigating the source of the call.

Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger would not say when the warrant for Barlow was dropped, only that “it is no longer active.”

Rob Parker, an FLDS spokesman, said the dropped warrant shows the weakness of the state’s case against residents of the ranch.

“I think that’s just one more piece of evidence that the whole basis on which this raid was premised was unfounded and was inadequately checked out, to the formulation of what basically amounted to an army that went in there and took their children,” Parker said.

The phone number used to call the crisis center is the same one once used by a Colorado woman, identified as 33-year-old Rozita Swinton of Colorado Springs, accused of making previous false reports of abuse.

Investigators have not said whether Swinton made the call to Texas authorities, though Vinger said she is “still considered a person of interest.”

“There is an investigation centering on that,” Vinger said. “We have quite a bit of evidence that still needs to be analyzed.”

A judge has ruled that children removed from the ranch should stay in state custody until all can have a hearing.

Child welfare officials told the judge the children were living in an authoritarian environment that left girls at risk of sexual abuse and raised boys to become sexual perpetrators.

The FLDS is a group that splintered from the Mormon Church, which does not recognize the sect and disavows polygamy.

In Utah, members of the polygamous church have asked the state’s governor to intervene in its fight with Texas authorities over the custody the children.

A letter written by FLDS elder Willie Jessop says Texas officials are rejecting Utah-issued birth certificates and other documents as “fake.”

The letter asks Gov. Jon Huntsman to exercise his executive authority to assist in protecting the civil rights of native Utahns and FLDS members. FLDS parents claim they have been denied their due process by the Texas courts.

“Without your leadership and personal intervention in this matter, the parental rights of every Utah family is at risk,” Jessop wrote.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelly said the governor has been in contact with Jessop and was reviewing his request.

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Keepin’ the Kids – The Latest News on Eldorado

News Brief: Friday, April 18, 2008

We are very gratified with today’s decision to keep all the children in temporary state custody because it stops the abuse and keeps all the children safe.

This allows us to keep children safe as we conduct a complete and thorough investigation and provide the physical and mental health services they need.

The children’s safety is our top priority. Our goal is always to reunite children with their parents if we can do so and make sure the child will be safe.

Today’s decision is about the safety of children.  It is not a decision about religious freedom. The children will be allowed to worship freely. We respect and value the strong sense of faith these children have.  We are not trying to change them; we are trying to keep them safe.

We’ll continue our efforts to identify the biological mother and father of each child, and it is our hope that the parents will work with us to ensure the safety of their children. On Monday, DNA testing will begin for the children and later in the week, testing will be available for the parents.

We’ll begin moving the children into more appropriate placements where we can provide all the services they need while continuing our investigation. We will try to keep children as close to their families as possible so they may see their parents under the conditions outlined by the judge.

Each child will have several people who are looking out for his or her best interests.  The children will have court appointed special advocates and attorneys who will monitor their child’s care and progress and report back to the court.

This isn’t the end of the legal process or a final determination on the custody of the children.  We will work with the judge, attorneys, special advocates, and hopefully the parents, to make the best decisions we can for the long-term health and safety of the children. We will update the court on the progress of each child’s case by June 5.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z49IR0EubOM]

camp, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, children, cps, el dorado, Eldorado, family, foster care, foster home, government, news, system failure
Keepin’ the Kids – The Latest News on Eldorado

News Brief: Friday, April 18, 2008

We are very gratified with today’s decision to keep all the children in temporary state custody because it stops the abuse and keeps all the children safe.

This allows us to keep children safe as we conduct a complete and thorough investigation and provide the physical and mental health services they need.

The children’s safety is our top priority. Our goal is always to reunite children with their parents if we can do so and make sure the child will be safe.

Today’s decision is about the safety of children.  It is not a decision about religious freedom. The children will be allowed to worship freely. We respect and value the strong sense of faith these children have.  We are not trying to change them; we are trying to keep them safe.

We’ll continue our efforts to identify the biological mother and father of each child, and it is our hope that the parents will work with us to ensure the safety of their children. On Monday, DNA testing will begin for the children and later in the week, testing will be available for the parents.

We’ll begin moving the children into more appropriate placements where we can provide all the services they need while continuing our investigation. We will try to keep children as close to their families as possible so they may see their parents under the conditions outlined by the judge.

Each child will have several people who are looking out for his or her best interests.  The children will have court appointed special advocates and attorneys who will monitor their child’s care and progress and report back to the court.

This isn’t the end of the legal process or a final determination on the custody of the children.  We will work with the judge, attorneys, special advocates, and hopefully the parents, to make the best decisions we can for the long-term health and safety of the children. We will update the court on the progress of each child’s case by June 5.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z49IR0EubOM]