Those are just the tip of the iceberg in the problems that lie before the five judges set to preside over the status hearings of more than 460 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch (YFZ), which is a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound.
5 judges, 5 court rooms and 3 weeks of court dockets cleared in the largest child custody action in America. A Canadian child with no parents at the ranch, family service plans, child abuse allegations and 100 children with no parental matches yet.
Todays hearings are not custody hearings, they are status hearings, which means custody will not be the main focus, but the status of the children and the status of what needs to be done by the parents to assure the children, if given back to them, will not suffer abuse.
It started with a phone call that allegedly from a 16 year old girl claiming she was being abused at the YFZ ranch in Eldorado Texas, although it was later speculated that the call was a hoax, which is being investigated, when Child Protective Services (CPS) investigated they witnessed a pattern of abuses happening to underage girls, via those children being pregnant and/or already having children.
Those observations prompted the state of Texas to remove all the children from the compound to investigate that pattern of abuse.
CHILDREN WITH NO PARENTAL MATCHES.
DNA testing was ordered by the court when Judge Barbara Walther order that 60 day temporary custody be given to the state of Texas of over 460 children removed from the FLDS compound on April 3, 2008.
The DNA test results will not be conclusive for two to four weeks, but using court documents as well as items removed, by order of a warrant, from the FLDS compound, 168 mothers and 69 fathers have been identified, leaving 100 children from the compound still have not been matched with mothers.
One of those children has been established as being a Canadian resident, which at first her Canadian parents said she had been visiting her grandmother at the Texas compound, but further investigating has found that the girl had no grandmother in Texas.
According to Debbie Palmer, who has compiled genealogical maps of families in the B.C. polygamous community, "the girl could not have been in Texas to visit her grandmother. There is no grandmother in Texas." The teenager's maternal grandmother lives in Alberta; her paternal grandmother is in B.C."
FAMILY SERVICE PLANS.
The purpose of these status hearings are for the judges presiding to assess the needs of individual families and examine what needs to be done so the parents can regain custody of the children and assure the state those children will not suffer any abuses if returned.
This involves what are being called "service plans" which have been generated using general templates that will be modified individually as per the needs of each family, at least those where family ties have or will be established.
Although these plans will be individualized, there are aspects of these plans that will stay the same across the board, such as the stipulation that parents who want the custody of their children back must renounce the sect practice of marrying under aged girls to older men.
Other steps that CPS workers are expected to recommend to the judges include assuring the state they can provide a home free from child abusers and demonstrating the ability to protect children from abuse.
One former Texas district court judge who now directs the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Scott McCown, says, "You can't be in bigamist marriages, and the other thing you can't do is marry off young teenagers to very old men."
In another interview, McCown also cautions those critical of the state by saying they "don't have all the confidential information that's before the state."
The family plans also call for psychological evaluations, a safe home environment and concessions that CPS workers be allowed to visit those homes.
There are many schools of thought on the actions of the state in this case, in which they removed all 460 plus children by considering the compound a "household", but these hearings are not addressing that action. The children were removed and these hearings are to determine the way forward, not to look back.
These status hearings are for one purpose and that is to establish what needs to be done to reunite the children with their parents and to assure the state that those children will not be put into an atmosphere where underage girls are "spiritually" married to older men and impregnated.
Five judges, five courtrooms, three weeks of cleared docket schedules all to assess the needs of individual families and what needs to be done to reunite the children with their mothers.
CPS spokeswoman, Marleigh Meisner, asserts that the ultimate overall goal will be reunification of parents and children and she states, "It is not about religion. It's about keeping children safe from sexual abuse. When we look to the possibility of returning children, we're going to be looking at a safe home environment for children."
She goes on to add, "The plans of service being filed with the court will be addressing specifically what the parents need to do to have their children safely returned."
Texas has up to a year to work with the families toward reunification. After that, extensions can be granted or the state can move to terminate parental rights.
The service plans will serve as a guide for the parents about what needs to be done to reunite with their children permanently and some parents are already declaring a willingness to do whatever it takes and some are not and have not even submitted the DNA samples to establish family ties.
That will most likely be the difference in who has their children returned to them and who will not.
All previous related articles on the FLDS children, from Wake up America, found here.