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Sunday, May 04, 2008

FLDS Children Update Given To Senate Committee

Many details have come out since authorities took 463 children from the YFZ Ranch, which is a FLDS compound, the latest showing that boys who have turned 18 are choosing to stay with the state and some children might not have parents at the ranch.
According to the latest update that the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)provided to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, two boys in state custody turned 18 and have chosen to stay in state's care and based on interviews with the children, the Child Protective Services has reason to believe that some of the children in their care, "do not have parents at the Eldorado ranch."

Those are just the highlights of the news coming out about the children that were removed from the Yearning for Zion Rach (YFZ), which is a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound, using a warrant based on calls from a person who claimed that she was an underage girl suffering physical and sexual abuse, including rape, at the ranch.

Although that original call might not have come from an underage girl and might have been a false call, once the authorities entered on a "good faith" basis, they discovered pregnant underage girls, girls with more than one child, papers indicating that rampant polygamy was occurring at YFZ, and even a document involving cyanide poisoning, they were able to obtain a removal order for all the children at the ranch based on their observations.

The very first interviews with underage girls at the ranch revealed a pattern of underage girls being “spiritually united” with adult men and having children with the men. Investigators also observed a pattern of deception in those first interviews. Women and children frequently said they could not answer questions about the ages of girls or family relationships. Children were moved from location to location in an apparent attempt to prevent investigators from talking to them. Investigators observed numerous girls who had small children, and girls told us that marriages could occur at any age. When an investigator asked one girl how old she was, she looked at her husband. “You’re 18,” he said. She then answered that she was 18. Other school-aged children and teens would provide only first names and said they didn’t know their birthdates or had been told by their parents not to answer questions.

Since then there has been a flurry of activity, there was a two day hearing to determine temporary custody of all the children, which led the judge ordering custody of the children be given to the state for 60 days and further ordering DNA testing to establish family lines and relationships.

The children were then moved to facilities, in large groups to keep many siblings together and the investigation continued to expose further details, including the fact that out of 53 young girls in Child Protective Services (CPS) custody from the ranch, 31 of them were pregnant or already had children.

The update provided to the Senate Committee on Wednesday, included some of the key challenges for investigators, the findings to date, and the care of the children.


One of the key challenges from the beginning of the case has been that CPS had no degree of certainty about the identities of the parents of children in their care because the women that left the ranch originally to be with the children, gave multiple names and ages for themselves and the children and those stories about their names and family relationships continued to change with further interviews.

For example: When the children were to be moved to their temporary foster homes, after the buses had been loaded, one minor female who had previously said she had no children came forward and begged not to be separated from her baby, so CPS made arrangements for that young girl to be placed with the child.

Another challenge presented is due to cultural issues where due to the nature of the children of the YFZ Ranch being cared for, consoled, disciplined and breast fed, by multiple women, the children were not able to point out who was their actual mother, because all the women from the household were considered mothers and all the children considered siblings.

Based on interviews with the children, we have reason to believe that some of the children in our care do not have parents at the Eldorado ranch.


Although the investigation is still ongoing, the DFPS reported to the Senate Committee their preliminary findings which they state are "cause for concern".

* There are 27 girls who have indicated that they are 14 to 17 years old. There are an additional 26 girls who have provided conflicting information about their ages, at some points indicating they are minors and at other times saying they are adults. Of these 53 girls, more than 30 have children, are pregnant, or both. Six of these girls have two children, and two have three children.

* Medical exams and reports by the children indicate that at least 41 children have had broken bones in the past. We do not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information, but it is cause for concern and something we’ll continue to examine.

* Based on interviews with the children and journal entries found at the ranch, we are continuing to look into the possible sexual abuse of some young boys.

It was already reported that 31 out of 53 underage girls were pregnant or had already had children, what wasn't previously known is that six of those those girls had two children and two of them already had three children.

If a 17 year old has three children, the reader can do the simple math about how young she was at the time of impregnation for the first of those children and that is assuming that the underage girls with three children were indeed the 17 year olds.


Once the judge had decided to grant the state temporary custody of the children, a main concern was not placing them in a position where the cultural shock of integrating them into society would prove damaging for the children, so the DFPS created a "Cultural Awareness Guide for Children from Eldorado", dated April 22, 2008, (6 page PDF file), which included information for that the caregivers should be aware of and prepared to deal to meet the needs of the FLDS children.

This also includes a glossary of terms that the children may use in their every day language.

In the guide it discusses the teachings of the children prior to their removal from the FLDS compound, such as children being taught to distrust the "outside world", males’ dominant females, electronics, including TV and radio, are prohibited although some women and older boys were allowed cellphones.

It was also noticed that "Since 4/4/2008- Children, while in care, especially young boys, have made derogatory remarks to staff of color."

The guide also discusses behaviors, foods that are acceptable, clothing for boys and girls, educational and healthcare backgrounds, recreation, home environment and religious beliefs.

The glossary of terms has a few items which some would find interesting, a couple examples listed below:

"Poofer", which is a slang term for girls who suddenly disappear from their community in order to take part in an arranged marriage. The girls are either kept hidden or moved to another state or country. This term is most often used by the FLDS Church.

Curse of Cain: Some fundamentalists believe African Americans are an inferior race. They also believe that black people are descendants of Cain and have been cursed by God and therefore ineligible to hold the priesthood.

There is a full list in the glossary portion of the PDF linked above, starting on page 5.

The DFPS also has another 4 page PDF document called, "Model for Care For Children from the Yearning for Zion Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Sect", which discusses recommendations on how to handle individual issues that might arise while the children are in the custody of the state.


Reports are also coming in about how the children are adapting to their temporary placement homes, or to better state it, how the homes are adapting for the children.

Finding placement for 463 children wasn't an easy process and throughout the state of Texas, facility directors are keeping the press away from the children but are reporting how children and homes are adjusting.

Children are asking to bake bread, plant gardens, they want to pray twice a day, sometimes just siblings and sometimes all together and they sing. According to Delma Trejo, executive director of The Ark Assessment Center and Emergency Shelter for Youth in Corpus Christi, "They sing very beautifully."

DFPS prefers to keep siblings together but because of the unique situation where some minors have children, they have made arrangements to keep those young girls with their children and place them together. Those minors and their babies went to Seton Home in San Antonio.

Seton Home is a facility for providing a nurturing environment that fosters childbirth and proper parenting skills for homeless teens that are pregnant and/or parenting and have chosen to keep their babies.

Boys over the age of 8 years old went to Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Amarillo, which is one of America's largest privately-funded child welfare providers specializing in both residential and community-based services and has been in business since 1939.

Some of these facility directors are reporting how things are going with their new wards with specific descriptions of how they are accommodating the religious and cultural differences of the FLDS children.

Televisions have been covered up or kept off. Walls have been repainted to cover up hues of red, a color the FLDS consider sacred. And activities are being kept simple.

Ed Knight, president of the Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services says, "We're not hiding our culture, but we're certainly sensitive to theirs. It's a very slow process of developing trust, but we're not having difficulties." He continues on to say that the FLDS children, for the moment, are being kept apart from other youths and that, "They are not interacting with the other children. We're limiting the number of our own staff that are interacting with them. We're taking it slow and easy."

The children also are being shielded from media, who have come from across the world to track the raid on the polygamous sect in Texas.

"They just deserve privacy like every other foster child on earth," said Charee Godwin-Smith, director of development at the Presbyterian Home for Children in Amarillo. "You don't want to walk outside and have news cameras in your face."

A spokesman for Methodist Children's Home, Bryan Mize, discusses their dietary preferences and needs, saying the children prefer a natural, healthy diet and that some have asked to make smoothies of almonds, water, honey and olive oil. He says that now they are becoming comfortable at the facility they are eating more.

For group activities, children at the home prefer kickball, jump-rope, tag, and arts and crafts. At two Presbyterian Children's Homes, in Waxahachie and Amarillo, children have been given chalk, crayons and Etch A Sketches and are participating an hour a day in educational games as part of assessing literacy, Knight said.


Last but not least is the issue of the custody hearings which as per the judge's orders will be complete for each child by June 5, 2008.

The FLDS lawyers are arguing the removal of the children on the basis of constitutional issues, claiming the removal constituted a "massive" violation of due process because allegations that the calls to the authorities spurring the raid were placed by a woman who was not within the YFZ compound.

One judge has already thrown that argument out because the FLDS lawyers would have to prove and have not been able to, that the state fabricated the call or misled the judge who granted the initial search warrant, neither of which the judge found plausible.

Once the authorities entered and started their interviews, it was their observations, specifically of multiple minors being pregnant and/or already parents, that led a judge to sign the order of removal.


Under Texas law, parents are allowed to visit their children in state custody.

According to Mary Walker, a spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, the DFPS is trying to make the appropriate arrangements for supervised visits for the parents with their children on state protective services. For the mothers and some of the fathers.

The difficulty in making those arrangements stem from some of the key challenges listed at the beginning of the article. The DFPS has to be able to establish who the mothers and fathers are and of which children, which is where the DNA tests will come in handy for the state of Texas to make those arrangements.

Many of the people from the FLDS Ranch are packing up their belongings and moving to different cities so that they can be closer to their children for visitation. They are finding jobs, made harder because many have no work histories at all, and apartments in a world now foreign to them.

Previous related articles:

CPS Official: History Of Injuries Found in FLDS Children

FLDS Teenager In State Custody Has a Baby Boy
31 out of 53 teenage FLDS girls pregnant or already had babies
FLDS Children Moved, Samples Sent, Senate Leader Speaks and FLDS Men On The Run?
Accommodations and Education For The FLDS Children- Women and Children Being Moved
More FLDS Children In Texas State Care Than Thought, Some Canadian Children
As DNA Testing Begins For FLDS Members, Questions of Lineage, Disease, and Law Arise
Polygamist Group, FLDS Children To Be Placed In Foster Homes This Week
Judge Orders Polygamist, FLDS Children To Stay in Texas State Custody
Update On The FLDS Custody Hearing Regarding the Children of the YFZ Ranch- Day Two Begins--All Day Updates
Custody Hearing for the Children of the Polygamist FLDS Sect Starts
The Forgotten Children of the FLDS Polygamist Group, The Lost Boys
The Children From the Polygamist YFZ Ranch
Update on Polygamist Compound Raid-Documents Unsealed And Beds In The Temple
Documents Detail Abuse at YFZ Ranch
Now 400 Children In Custody from Polygamist Compound- Updated, Second Person Arrested
Standoff at Polygamist Compound-Updated
Children Removed from Warren Jeff's Polygamist Retreat in Texas
Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Found Guilty In Utah