Thursday, April 10, 2008

Will Eldorado case expose overwhelmed Texas CPS system?

To put it bluntly, it's unlikely the children from Eldorado who have been taken from their homes will end up better off if they are dumped into Texas' overtaxed Child Protective Services (CPS) system.

Regardless of your thoughts on polygamy or the arranged marriage of teens, information dribbling out past the supercharged headlines in West Texas indicates that the 400+ kids seized by the state this week were well cared for. Can Texas' foster care system, frequently in the headlines for its own failures, promise the same?

Child services workers in Utah have a lot more experience than in Texas dealing with polygamist communities, so what do they have to tell us about what the Lone Star State should do with 416 children seized from the Eldorado compound in West Texas ("Scale of Texas' tough task unprecedented," Deseret News, April 9):
The scale of the decision by Texas child welfare workers to take 416 children into state custody dwarfs any endangerment response in Utah — or anywhere else for that matter.

Removing 416 children from their homes would be an overwhelming task for any state, local public and private child welfare workers said Tuesday.

Texas is literally warehousing the kids taken from the compound, although many had been placed with relatives in nearby towns.

One element in that case that may cushion the trauma for the children involved is their mothers are with them.

Texas Child Protective Services authorities have said they want to keep the mothers and children together as long as the mothers are willing to stay with the children.

This particular group of FLDS "operates in a sense as one, huge extended family," Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, told the Deseret Morning News Tuesday evening. "A case can be made that taking away all the children is like taking away all of the siblings in a family where several children allegedly were raped and beaten.

"On the other hand, the facts don't always turn out to be as CPS alleges," he noted

"For several years, (Texas) has been going through a foster-care panic, with huge surge in removals in the wake of deaths of children "known to the system,"' he said.

Whether or not these children needed to be removed, their suffering has been increased because Texas has taken so many other children there is little room for these children in the system," he said. "And that is a lesson every state should remember."

An option like that or an all-out call for help is really the only option at that scale, local child safety advocates believe. They said while the welfare of the children in the case is clearly the top priority, they privately said they wonder if the move might be a kind of pre-emptive "better safe than sorry" strategy.

"I certainly agree that the way children — particularly young women and girls — are treated is de facto abuse or worse," one state Division of Child and Family Services caseworker said. "But from what I've seen these kids are in no way neglected; not nearly to the degree of some of kids we meet here and around Salt Lake."

The distinction that these kids are not poorly cared for in general lies in sharp contrast to many of the cases CPS sees. For the most part polygamist children in Eldorado are loved by their parents, not abused. The alleged abuse stems from a reinterpretation (the law was changed in 2005) of marriage laws in Texas specifically targeting this religious sect.

(As an aside, it strikes me as bizarre that in an age where the idea of changing the definition of marriage to include gay people generates such strident opposition, changing the marriage definition to target a specific religious sect seems to be entirely non-controversial. Irony, thy name is Eldorado.)

There's an arrogance in the state's decision to impose a group punishment for alleged acts by an individual against a victim who may not even exist. Again from the Deseret News (April 8):

State officials said the adult women are being sheltered as a courtesy to them and their children.

"These are women that wanted to come. They asked to come. They came voluntarily. They're free to leave anytime, but they have thus far chosen to stay," Meisner said.

Men at the YFZ Ranch are not allowed to leave their 1,700-acre compound while police investigators continue their search.

"We're controlling access to the ranch, in and out," Tela Mange, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Monday.

Even after the men are allowed to leave, they won't be able to see their children immediately.

"The men at this time don't have any right to visit their children at the shelter," Meisner said. A judge will have to decide later if visitation is appropriate.

So it's now a "courtesy" to let mothers stay with their children, but the fathers are confined to the compound and "don't have any right to visit their children." If the state had seized my daughter when she was a minor and placed me under house arrest, I'm sure my wife would have "voluntarily" agreed to stay with her, but it sure wouldn't seem very "voluntary."

The assumption here is that the state can and perhaps still will separate all these kids from their mothers, too, at any time (custody has already been transferred to CPS pending an April 17 hearing), which IMO would hardly be in the best interest of the child, especially in cases where no physical abuse is alleged, which is by far most of them. Ron in Houston was right when he declared in Grits' comments yesterday that "hell hath no fury like a social worker who thinks they're doing things in the best interests of the child."

And let's face it, CPS isn't the best-run state agency in Texas by a country mile. A 2004 House Research Organization publication declared (p. 2):
In its Forgotten Children report, the Comptroller’s Office found that the foster care system – a mix of state-run and outsourced services – faces many of the same problems as the abuse investigation area of CPS: too few case workers with insufficient experience to handle an increasing number of cases. In addition, the office found that inadequate licensing standards and lax enforcement of regulatory or contractual requirements allowed a wide array of living standards among foster homes.
These problems are still far from solved, and won't be helped in the least by this tremendous bump in caseload, if all these kids ultimately wind up in foster care.

Another question arises: Who will pay for all this? Under state law it should be the county, but they can't afford the cost of housing the kids (and the "courtesy" of housing their mothers), much less paying for all their attorneys. So state government is scrambling to pick up the tab (under what authority, I do not know).

Anyway, CPS may turn out to be the weak link in all this from a pragmatic perspective. It's one thing to seize the kids with media-hyped allegations, but quite another to separate them all from their parents and place them in foster homes with culturally dissimilar hosts. Regardless of the legality I doubt there's the money, staff or families willing or able to take such youth readily available, certainly not in a culturally competent fashion that will help the kids more than harm them.

SEE ALSO: Related Grits posts rounded up here.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is hard to imagine what the right scenario would be in this case. It is hard for children to adjust to a life so different than the one they have been brought up in.

This a cult and although it is wrong, they were not hurting anyone, just living the lives they had chosen.This is the key point, they choses to live this way!

I am not condemning this, but neither do I agree with our government for going in and removing families from their homes. Somehow this is against God's will. He is the real Judge and for someone in our State to make the decison to go in and remove these women and children from their homes does not seem right.

It is my understanding the 16 year old girl has not been found and where did she get a cell phone. I have a very hard time believing a friend loaned it to her. They live to themselves and bother no one, so why did this happen? Our goverment is not God and not very good at following the rules in the Constitution as our Judicial System it totally corrupt.

This distresses me to see these children and their mothers removed from the home they have always known and for what reason. Has our government just interferred and ruined other's lives?

Anonymous said...

8:28 asks "Has our government just interferred and ruined other's lives?"

In a word: yes.

Everything I've read and heard about this case so far smacks of bigotry. There's no way such an operation would occur if an abuse allegation came from any other town with a similar sized population. Could you imagine if an allegation were received from Gholson city (randomly selected example based on population size) and all the children in the town were taken into custody? If they have evidence to justify such a massive action, we need to see it. Otherwise this will become a fiasco that will make it all but impossible to do something when they really do have evidence of abuse.

Elliephant said...

I must say I am stunned at how badly this is being handled. Not only does it "smack of bigotry" as another person commented, but this is exactly the kind of thing that will, in the long run, compound the sense of "us against the world" that leads to suspicion and isolationism within such groups.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

"To put it bluntly, it's unlikely the children from Eldorado who have been taken from their homes will end up better off if they are dumped into Texas' overtaxed Child Protective Services (CPS) system."

To respond bluntly, bullshit. Yes, these children will be traumatized in the short term, maybe in the long term. The alternative is to leave them in a closed system that enslaves women -- no, girls -- and denies them even the chance to know that they live in a country where they have opportunities to choose their own destinies. How many of the adult women left the ranch when they were given the opportunity to do so? 133?

Yes, the CPS system is underfunded and overtaxed. What else is new? Its primary beneficiaries -- children -- have no political power. Yes, this case will be a massive drain on the system; attorneys with CPS skills are being recruited from around the state. But the alternative is to leave the girls in a pedophilic, male-centered society masquerading as a church, in which the women are treated like chattel.

Of course they're going to be better off. They're regaining their birthright -- their freedom. Shame on you, Scott; I thought freedom was what you were all about.

Or maybe you had a better idea about how to get the girls out of the church without involving CPS? If so, let's hear it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Michael, you're just wrong. For victims of actual abuse, certainly, remove them, but not for kids from loving families.

There is ample legal authority to investigate and prosecute honest-to-god child abuse, but there's simply no evidence most of these kids were abused or mistreated. (Where there are credible allegations, that's a different matter, but so far those are few and far between.)

Since when did picking and choosing in which religion parents may bring up their children a government function? Absent any specific allegations of abuse, I fail to see any authority for the state "to get the girls out of the church," which sounds suspiciously to me like prohibiting the "free exercise" of religion, or at least this particular one. So I find your question of how best to do it pointless and moot. How should the state get children out of the Catholic church, which has its own history of sexually abusing children? Bottom line: They shouldn't. I don't think most people and certainly most constitutional scholars believe that should be the state's role.

Michael said...

Well, my day job is practicing law, so that's going to stand in the way of me responding promptly to your reply today. Look for me to reappear this evening, though.

Doran Williams said...

Michael, I suspect you have some insights and suggestions that are interesting and valuable, but I must say, you have fogged them in with hyperbole. Please, turn off the hyperbole generator and speak to us in measured tones with facts as your selling points.

The women are enslaved? Describe what you mean by enslavement, please. They've been denied a chance to know the country in which they live? Really? Can you support that assertion with facts?

Perhaps you can tell us how many women left the ranch only in order to stay with their children who had been removed by CPS, but who would have stayed had their children not been removed. Any data on that?

"...the alternative is to leave the girls in a pedophilic, male-centered society masquerading as a church, in which the women are treated like chattel." You could be describing some well-known Muslim sects, as well as some well-known Southern Baptists sects. Do you advocate that some bureacrats of the State of Texas take the initiative and forcibly remove children from those sects, and close down their churches? Did someone change our system of Constitutional government last week with asking me about it? I think it unlikely that you really advocate that position.

This Eldorado Mess has caused otherwise rational and calm people to lose control of their rational thought processes. It is just amazing to see comments like your own, which to me have the appearance of sane, intelligent, rational people diving off of linguistic cliffs.

I see no conflict between skepticism about the CPS/DPS raids, on the one hand, and concern that children not be abused, on the other. I suspect that there will be no prosecution at all arising out of the original cell phone outcry, because of the way this "investigation" was corrupted and derailed by hysteria, bigotry, and incompetence. You know as well as the next lawyer that this was not the way to conduct a child abuse investigation. It was much more like stirring up a fire ant mound and then attempting to "investigate" the structure of the mound and the behavior of the ants living there. Indeed, seems like you, and others who think the perpetrator should be prosecuted, would be just a tad pissed off at DPS/CPS for screwing up.

Anonymous said...

You could not have left these children in the environment while any investigation was ongoing. If abuse is occurring, the children certainly wouldnt tell if left there, for obvious reasons, including fear of retaliation. I cannot believe that someone would state on here that "they were not hurting anyone." Are you not reading what is coming out in the news--and no, "they" didnt choose to live this way. What child would choose to be the victim of sexual abuse? To say that the state should not go in and remove families from there home--it's against God's will, is apparently not thinking clearly. What about Nixmary Brown in New York...if the workers there had been more diligent and removed her from the home, she would still be alive, or the hundreds of children each year that neighbors, family, and friends fail to intervene knowing that the child is in danger, later feeling guilt for not stepping up to the plate. I think that a lot of people who do not know the system and have not seen the horrors of child physical and sexual abuse, just dont understand. Its impossible to know what these children go through. And yes, the state is overburdened and believe me that none of these CPS workers enjoy the amount of work that they have been burdened with with the Eldorado incident, but I think that in the end, when these little girls do talk, we will all be amazed and disgusted at what they have been forced and subjected to.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Of course I'm reading the news, 11:12. Quite carefully. The complainant hasn't been found. The named suspect lives in Arizona and hasn't been arrested because authorities don't think he did it. Hardly any arrests have been made, and there's zero evidence the vast majority of the 400+ kids seized were ever subjected to physical or sexual abuse.

Otherwise, most of the allegations come from often bitter activist who're former members of the sect, but inevitably contain few if any specifics. That's what I've noticed about the press coverage. To what are you referring?

Looking to history, I've also noticed that very similar predictions to yours were made regarding these kids' ancestors caught up in the Short Creek raid. I suspect your suggestion that some ultimate depravity will inevitably be revealed ("in the end, when these little girls do talk, we will all be amazed and disgusted") is as misguided as those were back in 1953.

I'm not condoning abuse. Instead I fear this mess will make it more difficult to separate actual abuse from rampant religious bigotry. I'll be surprised if any successful prosecutions ever occur from this fiasco because of the way it's been mishandled.

txwordpounder said...

CPS can't place most of the kids it had custody of prior to this mass roundup. What state agency is well-operated in Texas? DPS stormtroopers perhaps?

Though not related specifically to this post but relevant to the FLDS fiasco, I found another interesting tidbit concerning Rep. Harvey Hilderbran's tweaking of the law in 2005. He also sponsored legislation raising the residency requirements for voters and candidates for public office, specifically to obstruct any political ambitions of the FLDS.

The deeper you dig into this, the stronger the stink.

Doran Williams said...

Mr. Anon (#9 comment). What is the evidence that any abuse was happening? Do you have a cite to that? There was one call out. The CPS guidelines for investigations generally require an interview with the child who made the outcry. If it could not have been done on site, they could have removed that child to an office and interviewed her there. It was not necessary to remove everyone but adult males from the ranch in order to conduct an investigation of the outcry.

This was not a CPS child abuse investigation. This was a raid by
armed police, who had, at best, a search warrant.

Apparently, everyone from the local, or regional CPS and DPS offices succumbed to hysteria, rumor and poor judgment. Just as you have. If there were 14 and 15 year old girls there who had been legally married in some other state, then they were not the victims of child abuse if they consented to sex with a spouse. If they did not consent, it was still not child abuse, but sexual assault just as if they were 25 and did not consent.

Please, get your emotions and biases under control and look at this situation calmly.

Here is a little test for you. Which of the following do you think should be illegal:

1. A fat nasty 50 year-old man having consentual sex with a 14 year-old girl to whom he is married.

2. A fat, nasty 18 year-old man having consentual sex with a 14 year-old girl to whom he is married.

3. A fat, nasty 18 year-old man having consentual sex with a 16 year-old girl to whom he is married.

4. A fat, nasty 50 year-old man having consentual sex with a 16 year-old girl to whom he is married.

5. A fat, nasty 50 year-old woman having consentual sex with a 16 year-old boy to whom she is married.

6. A fat, nasty 80 year-old man having consentual sex with a fat, nasty 80 year-old woman to whom he is not married.

Cicero said...

The only thing I can think of to help with this huge number of children would be to contact the Texas LDS Relief Society (the mainstream LDS women's organization) and plead for help with some temporary housing. (perhaps until this April 17th hearing).

I'm not sure if the mainstream LDS wants to get tangled up in this tar baby- but the women and children would probably feel much more comfortable in a home that has at least some similarity in prayer patterns and scripture study. Especially if organized through the Relief Society (an organization the FLDS women are familiar with).

Perhaps it could be sold to the mainstream LDS as a way of showing that the government sees a difference between FLDS and LDS- something a lot of LDS families are worried about right now.

The FLDS and LDS do have a long history of bad blood and fear by the FLDS of the mainstream LDS taking their kids away.

But after such a terrifying event like this, even an old familiar rivalry can become a source of comfort- and I suspect that the FLDS would much rather end up in an LDS home then a Baptist or Lutheran or some other Protestant home.

No offense to Protestants- I'm sure they are good people motivated by Christian charity- I'm just suggesting this as a way of reducing the amount of culture shock.

Anonymous said...

I would agree about the limited number of prosecutions that will come out of this whole thing. I have seen numerous times where offenders do not get prosecuted, but not because they shouldn't be. In something such as the Eldorado raid, unless the state wants to spend a lot of money, the evidence will just not be there. However, that is not my concern. Mine is that any child that has been sexually abused not be subjected to it anymore. What happens to the perp is secondary. At this point, we just dont know what the evidence is. So, dont say there is zero evidence. WE might have zero evidence, but not everything will be made public. The report very well could have been made by an activist or former member of the sect that became disenchanted, but the legal duty to investigate, regardless of where it came from, still exists. I believe that DPS and/or other involved members of law enforcement that were involved, did so for the protection of the CPS workers who were required to go by law and because no one knew what they would encounter. Numerous "stand-by" officers accompany CPS and mental health workers who make home visits to conduct investigations daily. This is standard procedure. They could not allow the workers to go out and be "sitting ducks" unaware of what they might find. As far as the search warrant, I am not sure why it was authorized and under what conditions. That is probably another story completely and may or may not be justified. And, I am sure that you, being well informed, would know that if the situation was different and these childen that are alleged victims, went to public school or participated in other activities, the CPS workers would have began the ivestigation there. For example, an allegation is made--allegation....typically, the worker would attempt to make contact with the child away from home, such as at school, for obvious reasons. If there was nothing there, they would inform the parents about the interview and investigation afterwards. That was not possible in the case. I dont see any other way to handle what happened here. Knowing the situation, what alternative would you suggest? Also, concerning the alleged 16 year old that made the call, it is even more concerning to me that law enforcement cannot verify where she is. That is a really scary thought. They identified her in court records as "Sarah" which may or may not be ficticious. But, if she is real and a real victim as she stated, I am sick to know that contact with her has not been made. However, I also, not knowing all the facts at this point, also believe that her identity may be known and not being revealed to the public, again, for obvious reasons. Can you imagine the retaliation this child would face. This CHILD and her children....

Clark Goble said...

To respond bluntly, bullshit. Yes, these children will be traumatized in the short term, maybe in the long term. The alternative is to leave them in a closed system that enslaves women -- no, girls -- and denies them even the chance to know that they live in a country where they have opportunities to choose their own destinies. How many of the adult women left the ranch when they were given the opportunity to do so? 133?

While at the moment I'm giving the state the benefit of the doubt, I do wonder if you're willing to apply the above equally to everyone.

Would you, for instance

Clark Goble said...

(whoops -- sorry)

Would you treat fundamentalist Evangelicals who homeschool the same way? Should their children who typically are taught ridiculous history and "science" and who aren't allowed in the general popular also be confiscated?

I don't like the FLDS in the least. But I'd suspect that Texas has a large share of fundamentalist Christians doing as bad if not worse. But because they are "closer" religiously to most Texans they are given a free pass.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Williams you are wrong. This did start out as a CPS investigation. Based on the circumstances, law enforcement had a duty to be involved, search warrant or not. It would have been ignorant of CPS to go out without the help of law enforcement. I dont think anyone would disagree that if a young woman, age 15-16 consented to marrying an older man with her parents consent in a state where it was legal, not our problem. However, for anyone to condone or compare that to what is being alleged here, is wrong. These girls have no choice. They have brought up to believe this and it is chosen for them. They are brainwashed from childhood.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that even if CPS received a report just like the one that was allegedly made--from a 16 year old that had been sexually abused by a 50 year old man--duty to investigation. That said, if the alleged victim lived on a typical "good ole boy" ranch with her "good ole boy" father, brothers, cousins, ranch hands, and friends--that were okay with her being raped--what CPS worker in their right mind would travel to the remote location, 5 miles off the highway, to meet up with these guys without some help? No way. Think about the vulnerability of her victim if found and the workers, without law enforcement. Not to mention, cell phones, especially Sprint, get no reception...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To Clark who writes, "I don't like the FLDS in the least."

I hope readers realize I'm 100% with you there. I'm defending religious freedom principles, not FLDS values and ideals stuck in the 19th century. To borrow a sentiment from Voltaire, I disagree strongly with their religious tenets, but remain obligated to defend their right to follow them.

rage said...

Well, my day job is practicing law

Ohhhh, this ought to be good.

When you reappear, please also explain why it's OK to keep these mothers with these children. If the allegation is that all of them are in danger, then their mothers must be part of the problem.

So, if protecting the kids is the real agenda here, taking them away from both parents who were giving them up voluntarily for these fixed marriages, would be the way to go.

Also, that is most likely no the real issue.

Cicero said...

Hmm.. another point is that this will surely have a chilling effect on abused girls who want out of these marriages.

I mean, it's one thing to call up some strange outside organization for help to leave everything you've ever known behind in the hopes that the outside life is better.

But who is going to call up an outside organization inviting them in to seize all their friends and relatives and their children and drag them off to who knows where?

Didn't anybody think about that?

It's must be hard enough to try and leave such a situation yourself- but if you think that asking for outside help is going to destroy the families of everybody you've ever known- many of whom are your friends...

We'll I'd just say that it's unlikely a FLDS girl will ever request help from CPS again.

Anonymous said...

CPS does not have to have evidence that physical or sexual abuse was committed, they just need to show that there is "risk". I would not expect these children to be returned to their families at any time in the near future. This will drag on for at least a year or two, then some children will be returned to the FLDS, but the ones who definitely were physically or sexually abused will stay in foster care or be adopted out.

doran williams said...

Will you guys PLEASE explain which girls you are talking about? You seem to have made up your mind that there was rampant sexual abuse of children at this ranch. What is your basis for that assertion? Do facts have any part to play in your review of this mess, or is fantasy in charge?

Anonymous said...

To GritsForBreakfast @ 12:26:00 PM:
So you even defend a "tenet" that encourages middle-aged and elderly men to impregnate 12 year-old girls? The tenet that told one rescued 16-year-old girl compound that she is more likely to get to heaven since she's already produced four children for her husband? Is pedophilia in the name of God OK by you?
IMO, you are taking a pretty extreme position by defending this institutionalized abuse just because the men leading this group say they speak for God.

Anonymous said...

doran williams:
Read the affadavit. Unless you are claiming a crazy conspiracy, I would think that the allegations are disturbing enough for you to hope that there is a very thorough investigation.

http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site297/2008/0408/20080408_033754_FLDS_Affidavit.pdf

doran williams said...

That web site with so-called affadavit is refusing to respond. Have you a better link?

doran williams said...

Of course there should be an investigation of every allegation of child abuse. But you don't do a child abuse investigation based on one telephone call by raiding the place with armed cops (one or two along for CPS safety is perfectly reasonable), and evicting everyone. An investigation means talking to complainants and witnesses, not disrupting their lives with forced moves under armed men.

There has been a massive fuckup by CPS and DPS in this matter. They have undoubtedly alienated potential witnesses, destroyed evidence in the move, rendered outcry testimony subject to successful challenge, and given defense lawyers all sorts of ways to win any prosecutions that may be brought.

When I was handling criminal defense cases like this, it was common for me to review the evidence, talk to witnesses, and then go off to some private place and curse the stupidity of CPS and law enforcement incompetent investigators. I was going to win my case, because those people had fucked up spectacularly in the way they handled evidence and witness statements. I just hated it that it was so easy to do my job as a defense attorney, and get some creep released. Which is why I've stopped doing it and left it to lawyers who don't mind losing every now and then.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 5:25, who writes, "you even defend a "tenet" that encourages middle-aged and elderly men to impregnate 12 year-old girls?"

No, you just would rather argue against a straw man than anything I've actually said. Throughout all these posts, I've consistently held, as I did here, that "I'm not condoning abuse. Instead I fear this mess will make it more difficult to separate actual abuse from rampant religious bigotry."

You should look at everything I've written on this in the last couple of days instead of taking one word out of context to call me extremist.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, I notice the girls keep getting younger in these examples by raid supporters, in ways that are totally at odds with reality.

The girl who allegedly called was 15 when married and impregnated. But most commenters say 14 (no evidence at all yet of brides that young), and now you've knocked the age down to 12, though there's surely no evidence of abuse of 12 year olds in this case.

That's demagoguery, not argument, and it's not supportable with facts, as Doran keeps pointing out.

JK said...

CPS definitely needs to be careful on this one. But consider facts in the case:
-abuse is alleged by the initial caller
-impregnated, underage mothers
-reports from FLDS escapees that many of the children have parents in other states, who they were taken from

It would be religious bigotry to NOT take children out if the agency has legit fear those conditions would continue. Grits, even your main source on the post admits that it's a logical leap to treat the whole group as extended family.

This is a mess though, no two ways about it. CPS needs to frame its actions around the question: how many children can we safely plan to reunify/keep with their mothers?

Anonymous said...

Let's get to the real reason for a raid with a questionable warrant that lasted for nearly a week. It's call a search for evidence without probable cause. That is why it was so hard for all those CPS and law enforcement to locate that 16 year old pregnant girl. They are trying to justify any evidence they find on exingent circumstances. No criminal conviction is ever going to come out of this raid that would stand up on appeal. We'll get lots of civil/CPS court success based on the "if it feels right, let's take em standard" applicable to CPS cases.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

JK, what if the mothers want to return to their husbands? It's not like they left of their own accord.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I'm sorry, but you're wrong when it comes to these girls. The original caller was 16, had already had one child, and was pregnant with another. Warren Jeffs is now sitting in prison based on his involvement in forcing a 14 year old girl to marry her first cousin and the rapes that ensued.

And news reports today have said that an affidavit released by the police today allege that, during the raid, police found a 16 year old girl who had 4 children and was currently pregnant. That's probably the most vile of them all. 16 years old, and she's likely spent 3 years of that life, if not more, pregnant.

That's just the few cases we have from government involvement, and not stories we have from former FLDS members.

I'm all for religious freedom, but religious freedom is not a license to be a pedophile or abuse children. If you're a 49 year old man raping and knocking up 14 year old girls, I don't care if God Almighty commanded you to do it, you should be prosecuted and thrown in jail.

And if your entire church compound jumps to your defense and says that they legitimately believe that, then that environment should be judged to be dangerous to children and they should be removed, because it's a breeding ground of child abuse and rape.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

All reports claim the child was 15 when "spiritually married" to Mr. Barlow. She was supposedly just "weeks" pregnant a second time. Please go read the news accounts.

Any individual case of abuse they find, and I hadn't seen anything about the 16-year old with four kids (plese give a link) prosecute by all means. I've never said otherwise, and doing so should give pause to other FLDS members who might deflower underage girls. For children where there's no specific abuse allegations, though, this is an abuse of government authority that IMO is likely to backfire and allow the group to become MORE insular and immune to intervention, not more accountable, as happened in the wake of the Short Creek raid.

Ron in Houston said...

Well, I guess I'll jump into this fray.

Grits and Michael - you're both right and you're both wrong.

Grits your right in that they were well cared for and the foster care system is probably not a better alternative.

Michael you're right in that even though they're not being physically abused, the psychological harm caused by extreme religious indoctrination is no less worse than physical abuse.

You just can't make blanket statements that they'll be better off one way or another.

Long ago CPS worked with families to try to solve problems. Now the philosophy is to snatch the children from the only home they knew and then move quickly for termination.

Wholesale removal is an insane idea, then again allowing 14 year olds to be given as child brides to old religious nuts is more insane.

They don't have the resources to take it on a case by case basis. They don't have the manpower to monitor and work with the families like they should.

CPS is without a doubt one of the most insane bureaucracies. They don't understand that no matter what they do there will be harm in this case. They don't get that their goal should be to do as little harm as possible.

No matter what this case is a lose-lose proposition.

JK said...

Grits,

Coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune includes the story about the 16yo with 4 kids. She told CPS she had one, another child later told them 4 kids.

To me, there is really a philosophical test here: Is the ranch a home, where all members are one family? Or is the ranch of community of many families.

If your view is the former, then you are dealing with a family of men who have either or married underage girls, or condoned it in their "home." Men who have impregnated underage girls, or condoned it. ANd if that was any tradition home vistied by child welfare workers, it would be tough to envision workers allowing the men to stay in those kids lives(and i bet your source, Richard Wexler, agrees). The women, if they're willing to leave behind the "home" that tolerated abuse, should be the chance to reunify with their kids.

With the latter philosophy, you're saying: each father-mother-child relationship is unique, and should be treated thusly by CPS. Now the coverage suggests it has been very difficult to establish which kids belong to which mom at the Fort (which also might be because some kids were taken from other FLDS locations and given to these women). So if you ascribe to this philosophy, you have to acknowledge that CPS is going to need a LOT of time to sort this out.

Michael said...

Well, I'm back from my "day job" -- which usually consists of representing parents and children in CPS cases, including today -- and I see the posts, which this morning were mostly anti-CPS, have evened out a bit, and many folks have made points I would have. So I'll be brief.

If you look at the timeline of the investigation (http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About/News/2008/2008-04-09_chronology.asp), you can see that CPS didn't go in with guns blazing, grab every girl they could find by the hair, and yank them out of the church. Of course, many of you won't believe CPS's version of the timeline.

The standard for CPS to do an initial removal of a child from a home is whether it believes the child is in danger. They don't have to have probable cause to make that call. If they believe a child is in danger, their grant of authority extends to other children similarly situated; so if they find 2 girls in a home who they have reason to believe suffered sexual abuse, they can also remove the 3 other girls who are similarly situated. Hope it's apparent why that's a good idea.

The reason probable cause is not required is because there's a post-deprivation set of due process rules found in Chapters 262 and 263 of the Family Code.

Grits, I guess in a way CPS is interfering in the YFZ men's exercise of religion. I'm sorry, but those rights have to coexist with the rights of the children to practice religion and society's interest in public health and safety. I wouldn't protect a religion that sanctioned parents beating their children until their bones were broken. Your comparison to the Catholic Church is specious; that Church's creed does not call for the molestation of young boys, though of course its practices have resulted in that outrage. The men molesting the girls in this "church" are following the tenets of their religion, or so they'll say in court.

I'd like to respond to the rest of y'all, but it's late and my day isn't over yet. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow.

Cicero said...

jk- could you please provide a link to the specific Tribune story as I haven't seen that one yet.

I'd like to point out a more likely reason for one of the kids to say she has 4 children when she says she has one:

It is not unusual for "sister wives" to share the child raising duty, and occasionally all of them might be termed "mother" by the children.

I don't know if that is the case here but it is very possible that the quoted kid is including all of the 16 year-old's step-children in the count.

This is particularly likely if the children have been separated from their (older) biological mothers and the 16 year-old girl is the only mother figure currently with them.

As for the other issue:

"each father-mother-child relationship is unique" is probably more accurate.

I don't mind the media references to a "compound" so much as I am irritated by the references to "the living spaces" and "living quarters" when simply looking at the pictures show that these "living quarters" are nothing more than houses.

Extra large houses to be sure- I guess for the extra wife and kids- but clearly separate dwelling units. They were not all living dormitory style like in Jones town- which is what the term "living quarters" keeps bringing to mind.

Polygamist families are separate families- though just about everybody is at least a second cousin somehow.

No doubt CPS would have required more time a resources treating them as individual family units- but I believe such an effort would have produced a greater likelihood of success.

Anonymous said...

They can say whatever they want in court. They don't have to fuck the children. Wait until they are adults.

Don't see a whole bunch of converted adult women wanting to be part of some freaks harem.

please.

Anonymous said...

Of course this will expose an already overwhelmed Texas CPS system. Shine a flashlight long enough on any Texas human services agency and you will find an overwhelmed system.

This is Texas. What else would you expect.

rage said...

Don't see a whole bunch of converted adult women wanting to be part of some freaks harem.

Except, maybe, all of the adults in this sect? You know, the mothers that are allowed to stay with the children that are in such imminent harm?

Grits is right on with this one. Prosecute the hell out of any abusers or rapists. But this whole thing smells of the local churches not wanting this in their back yard and CPS over-reaching.

One abuse allegation so they take 416 kids? On what basis? It's OK to uproot 415 other kids who have made no such allegation, just because they can?

jsand said...

CPS can't win, can they? If they had only removed the one child, then some of these other situations came to light, or another child gave birth, they would be criticised for not having anticipated the situation and removed all the children. So - they remove them all and are considered wrong for that.

Before casting stones over how this was handled - tell us how you would have done it. Who gets left with individuals who believe any female past puberty is fair game? Then how do you answer that you "protected" those girls?

Anonymous said...

Something I have yet to think of just entered my mind...What awesome men all of these FLDS members must be. I bet they felt really big and strong the moment they were raping these teenagers and taking their virginity. I just wonder how many of these gus have "little man syndrome" and are so insecure that they have to take on teenaged brides to feel like a man? Most real men I know are concerned about protecting children, not abusing them.

Anonymous said...

Of course the women go with their children but I doubt any of these mothers converted, meaning decided to become a member of or involved with a man from this sect, as an adult.

Jade said...

This "secretive" sect is no secret. We are all aware of their existence. They have been exposed in the past on television. Oprah winfrey had Lisa ling enter the areas and spoke with a former member that fled.The people in the community were nothing but freaky. Of course it is not correct to remove children from their parents that protect and love them, but this is not the case here.In the name of love unhappy,miserable women repeat what they know is wrong. Where has the laws been all these years? The Contitution has let these kids down. This has been long overlooked and many should be prosecuted. Very very sad..but old and this is not about religion. Polygamy,Incest..what's next?

Anonymous said...

Michael needs a refresher course in law. The US Supreme court has ruled that children like adults have a right to be secure in their home without undue interference into their lives. Apparently he seems unaware that Texas has one of the worst CPS systems in the country (right down there with Missouri) from what I can tell. SWs lying on a regular basis seems to be a recurring problem.

I'm certain that the FLDS is using high handed persuasion methods (just like CPS uses on their child witnesses) to get those young women to go to bed with those old men. However, I'll bet it is rare that they use force - those girls do it because they know they'll receive increased community benefits from it. Just like other teens think they'll receive special benefits if they have a baby. It's a form of persuasion not coercion.

Now I'm certain that some FLDS leaders do use coercion on recalcitrant members for all sorts of things. However, it usually seems to be done outside the home (often out of state). Even if the the YFZ ones did it they didn't do it in front of the other members in their homes (the Temple could have been used for it).

Texas can't get them for bigamy, they didn't get legal marriages. They may be able to make them men provide support, but then they have to take into consideration their other children who would reduce the amount to poverty limits.

It would probably be better if Texas CPS sued first and settled with an agreement that required the teenagers to be educated in the local school system. You're not going to be able to save the girls who already have kids, all you really can do is try to ensure they aren't used as slaves. Just because these people try to indoctrinate their kids with ideas you find disagreeable doesn't mean they can't teach it to them. Indoctrination isn't abuse. These kids are better off with their parents in their preteens than they are with multiple foster parents.

It appears CPS in this case decided to remove all of them without any real evidence of in-home abuse. Given the vast number of cases where Texas CPS has been accused of lying, withholding evidence, producing fictional reports, I think maybe the courts there need to start handing out contempt fines on CPS for taking kids without real evidence of an emergency. If the Texas courts don't, I'll bet the FLDSers will sue (see Beltran v Santa Clara 2008 US 9th Ct App enblanc).

Jason R said...

I do not agree with having multiple wives but seperating the mothers from children?
CPS has gone to far and are acting on what they think is going on. Most of those kids cannot answer these adult questions. Take them off the compund fine. But take their mothers with them. It is alleged that the males are abusing the teens SO WHY SEPERATE THESE KIDS FROM THE MOM'S?

I want to know when the Fed's(Federal Goverment) is going to step in and say enough is enough.
Sometimes Texas goes to far.
I love the people and landscape of the Lone Star State but some laws are just plain crazy.

Just today I saw on the new at the court hearing there was a circus. Lawyers upon Lawyers filled the court room and it was just plain messy.

When will we learn.
To seperate young children from their moms.

Sick.

Turtle of Xanth said...

"The distinction that these kids are not poorly cared for in general lies in sharp contrast to many of the cases CPS sees. For the most part polygamist children in Eldorado are loved by their parents, not abused. The alleged abuse stems from a reinterpretation (the law was changed in 2005) of marriage laws in Texas specifically targeting this religious sect.(As an aside, it strikes me as bizarre that in an age where the idea of changing the definition of marriage to include gay people generates such strident opposition, changing the marriage definition to target a specific religious sect seems to be entirely non-controversial. Irony, thy name is Eldorado.)There's an arrogance in the state's decision to impose a group punishment for alleged acts by an individual against a victim who may not even exist." Grits for Breakfast, http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/04/will-eldorado-case-expose-overwhelmed.html.

So what you're telling me is the State of Texas passed a bill of attainder against the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints? We can add that to the list. Also, according to Fox Radio last night, the younger children who were initially ALLOWED to remain with their mothers are now to be separated from them and removed to "specialized housing." Tack on habeas corpus violations, too.

There is no part of the United States Constitution that is sacred to a child welfare fanatic.

Turtle of Xanth said...

Thursday, April 17, 2008
What I said to the jackbooted thugs of Texas CPS.
This is a consolidation of my four messages (to get around their 2000 character limit) to Texas Children's Protective Services. Not a word was left out of the content of my messages.

To: Office of Consumer Affairs

Subject: Jackbooted thuggery and fascist oppression

Message:

1. If you people of CPS had any decency whatsoever, you would return those children to their mothers immediately with an apology and a slate of numerous resignations for your role in the evil you have perpetrated against my fellow citizens in your state. You should be ashamed of yourselves over what you have done to those 416 children and their parents, the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As a Christian, one not of that denomination, I am appalled.

2. The last time I checked there was still a United States Constitution that is the supreme law of the land even in Texas. You violated the First Amendment right to freedom of worship by going after this religious group AS A GROUP. You violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure -- how it is reasonable to seize kids from mothers over what is accused between one child and one man is beyond me utterly, and the so-called probable cause is ONE anonymous call to 911??? You besmirch and insult the memory of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 by that trivialization and abuse of that number. And so you ARE an insult to rescue and protection services everywhere.

3. You violated the Fifth Amendment by depriving those children of their parents without due process of law which by the way IS determined by Amendment Six, which you also violated by taking persons WITHOUT a trial, AND by taking the word of one witness who they have not been given the opportunity to confront at a trial. You violated the Eighth Amendment by depriving those mothers of their children for nothing more than membership in a group you don't like, which is cruel and unusual punishment of both those children and their parents. Proud of yourselves?

4. This act by CPS tells me that you have gone way beyond redemption. I doubt you will change your minds because of how seared your consciences must be to have carried out this felonious, treasonous crime against Americans and against Texans. Nevertheless I certainly think it is right that you should be told to your face what you did is WRONG in every sense of that word. When you face your Judge in the afterlife, you will be made to account for every one of these mothers and children. I believe that to be a fact. I am praying not for your redemption, but for your demise in this world at the hands of the American Civil Liberties Union or whoever else wants to sue you for every farthing you own, and by the way -- FIRST AMENDMENT CIVIL RIGHTS LIABILITY is UNLIMITED UNDER FEDERAL LAW!!!

Turtle of Xanth said...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Raid on polygamist group in Texas
Two stories about the heart-rending and outrageous attack on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Texas, by agents of the Texas Children's Protective Services and (what I heard from the Michael Savage radio program were) Texas Rangers (state police.) Over 400 children were forcibly removed from their mothers and put into state custody pending their adoption out to other families -- on the basis of a so far unsubstantiated allegation that one male leader of this church sexually abused one young teenage girl.

http://www.sltrib.com/polygamy/ci_8927977
http://www.star-telegram.com/189/story/582608.html

There has clearly not been an attack on the First Amendment and half of the Bill of Rights to match this since Waco, and in terms of everything done to this group of women and children -- women who by the way were never charged with a crime; all of this is pursuant to what ONE anonymous tipster alleged happened with ONE man and ONE teenage girl -- a mass atrocity of this scope, short of bloodshed, has not been perpetrated on any group, religious or otherwise, since the 19th century when it was used as a means of genocide against the American Indians. Not even Mafia families have ever been this grossly and unconstitutionally violated.

Texas state agents kidnaped this group's children, based on a LIE about what someone ELSE did to someone ELSE's child, and scattered them to the four winds. I can promise that if in the future I find any of these Texas CPS agents miraculously surviving the Tribulations in whatever land God deigns to give me in the Millenium, they will have to beg long and hard to give me a reason not to line them up against a wall and have them shot, while I scatter THEIR families to the four winds and make their houses dunghills.

I pray to God that this injustice, this perversion, this obscene rape of the Constitution of the United States, is undone and reversed, and the perpetrators are brought to justice. Michael Savage has it right when he says these Nazis should be arrested and thrown in prison. I would have them executed were it in my power.

Posted by Turtle of Xanth at 10:25 PM

Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is that CPS can take so many children on such megar evidence, yet when they have picture proof of a child being neglected, abused, and maltreated, they are very slow to act if at all, claim they only have 5 mins to give a child,turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to a child truely in need, tell the reporter that they are causing more trauma to the child than the abusive parent, go so far as to attempt to alienate the child from the reporter, and yet they have time and resources and all of a sudden care about 416 children on the basis of one phone call.

Can someone tell me how CPS can ignore the documented abuse, neglect, and child endangerment of hundreds of individual Texas children daily and yet be so quick to act on an anonamous phone call and confiscate so many children at one time.
When you have picture proof of a child being injured, definite signs of abuse, neglect, many reported incidents of emotional abuse, physical and medical neglect, and they say it is no good because you are the "grandparent" the non custodail parent, etc... that to be valid the report has to come from a stranger, yet when an outsider does report it, they still turn a blind eye.

I would like to know why these children deserve more "protection" than my grandson or the countless other children in Texas who definitely need protection, yet the caseworkers turn blind eyes and deaf ears to cries of help for these children whom some have paid the ultimate price "thier lives". What makes these obivously healthy, happy children so much more important than all the children CPS refuses to help????

Turtle of Xanth said...

anonymous,

It goes to show you you can't get good fruit from a bad tree, nor good water from a poisoned well. They have already proceeded from a basis in law that from ground up is unconstitutional. Is it any wonder that incompetence and arbitrary procedures (or the lack thereof) are the end results?

Turtle of Xanth said...

Jade said...
'This "secretive" sect is no secret. We are all aware of their existence. They have been exposed in the past on television. Oprah winfrey had Lisa ling enter the areas and spoke with a former member that fled.The people in the community were nothing but freaky. Of course it is not correct to remove children from their parents that protect and love them, but this is not the case here.In the name of love unhappy,miserable women repeat what they know is wrong. Where has the laws been all these years? The Contitution has let these kids down. This has been long overlooked and many should be prosecuted. Very very sad..but old and this is not about religion. Polygamy,Incest..what's next?'

4/17/2008 09:45:00 AM

How about slavery and tyranny? Under your government?

What do you mean, the Constitution let the kids down? Are the issues of polygamy and mind control more important than the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Do we now use the end of breaking up little religious tyrannies to justify the means of a big government tyranny to do it with?

Have you ever once asked yourself, what if the government decides YOUR religion is to be targeted because of some sort of abuse or criminal behavior on the part of a few of its believers? The Constitution did not let those kids down. The incompetent government lets people down and they idiotically take it out on the Constitution when it's arbitrary bureaucrats that are to blame, or criminals.

Don't forget there were FLDS members that were making money with some lucrative defense contracts that they were using to employ other members of FLDS in conditions of slavery. Where was the government then? They didn't seem very concerned about the children when it suited the low-bidding Feds to get weapons systems out of them. (Anyone remember I.G. Farben? And Schindler's List?) But now that that's over with, Texas CPS is all over them with this total hypocrisy that some great criminal enterprise is going on because some old man in the cult boinked a 14 year old girl, or so it is alleged by this so far still undiscovered minor. What happened to the SLAVERY issue? They don't want to touch that one because it implicates the Department of Defense!!! They're just hoping to eliminate this group before they turn this around on the United States Government's complicity!!

Do I believe a crime may have been committed at that ranch? Yeah, probably. Does that mean I would support a fishing expedition in force that violates five amendments of the Constitution and two core clauses of the same? Is it worth it to shred the document that enshrines the rights we all supposedly enjoy? Or do you think like an Esau and prefer to sell it for pottage, whenever a little hunger for your version of justice goes unsatisfied?

Turtle of Xanth said...

jsand said...
'CPS can't win, can they? If they had only removed the one child, then some of these other situations came to light, or another child gave birth, they would be criticised for not having anticipated the situation and removed all the children. So - they remove them all and are considered wrong for that.

Before casting stones over how this was handled - tell us how you would have done it. Who gets left with individuals who believe any female past puberty is fair game? Then how do you answer that you "protected" those girls?'

4/11/2008 11:24:00 AM

First of all I would totally change the way all children's protective service agencies are run and the laws under which they operate. The Constitutional rule of law needs to be restored here, it isn't just a matter of this one cult being done violence by this bureaucracy.

I would make it so that if there is a suspected case of parental child abuse, neglect or other crime involving a child, you get a warrant and pick up the said child only long enough to determine if there is more evidence of wrongdoing that is worth pursuing in a trial. If said evidence is there, the next person that would get picked up is the suspected perpetrator(s) of the crime; if he is a parent with legal custody of that child, upon being charged, the child would be sent to go live temporarily with the responsible next-of-kin party, which could be the other parent or other relatives if there is no other parent available, or into foster care if no responsible next-of-kin exists. None of these actions would impair legal parental custody per se, as yet, because no trial has yet occurred.

The next thing I would do is try the perp in a court of law before a jury, in which all due process would occur including confrontation with witnesses as required. The Constitution's Sixth Amendment REQUIRES that the accused have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him, so none of this testifying behind shields or on video or that kind of nonsense. It's a RIGHT. Non-negotiable.

Now, if the perp(s) is convicted of a crime against the minor child, and has legal custody, I presume virtually all existing laws revoke custody upon conviction of that sort of a crime. If he is a member of the household without legal custody (which can include a compound), or otherwise resides close to the child, upon conviction he should lose the right to be within 1000 feet of THAT child. As for bail requirements and other pre-trial concerns, a judge should have the power to decide whether or not to set bail but also have the power to issue a restraining order forbidding the perp to come within a certain distance of the victim child. This would be considered replaced with the legal result of the trial.

Conviction and sentencing should take place within the realm of existing law, but I would add that if one is convicted of a crime against a child involving loss of custody, the period of loss of custody should be until the child is no longer a minor, if it's a felony, or if it is a misdemeanor sexual assault or other crime of that nature.

If the suspect is acquitted, the child should be returned to his or her legal adult custodians as existed before charges were filed, if he was removed from them.

Moreover all custody hearings apart from criminal procedure should be held in a court of law before a jury of one's peers unless the parents waive this right and opt for a judge, as in civil and criminal cases. A family court judge should be appointed or elected in the same manner as any criminal or civil trial judge is (in my opinion, ALL judges for ALL manner of hearings should be either elected by the people or appointed by the executive under confirmation from the legislative branch. This is often not the case in many agency-run court systems, where the judge presiding is appointed by the agency doing the prosecution of alleged violations.) It should be made unconstitutional to change the permanent or long-term custody of a child without the hearing of an independent judiciary.

CPS did wrong because it violated Constitutional procedures and due process of law. It HAS to be applied in EVERY case. If it comes to light that another child has been abused or coerced into illegal activity, you repeat the same process for that charge, and you be consistent. But to me, "anticipating the situation" is not and never has been a valid justification for state action against citizens under Constitutional law. That's mind-reading, like "anticipating" that a fellow wandering by a bank is going to rob it.

If we let police "anticipate" crimes, we might stop some, but every law abiding citizen trying to figure out when the bank is open or trying to find the ATM would get arrested too. And then you have a police state that's out of control. I might "anticipate" that my next door neighbor's child care business is harming the children in its care. Maybe I'm just annoyed by nerf footballs sailing over the fence. Am I justified in turning them in? Should DCF investigate them for allowing children to throw objects? I'm just anticipating that if today it's nerf balls, tomorrow it might be steak knives. Hey, it could happen.

Okie said...

CPS another arm of the Evil Beastly Sytstem.
This system will fall very soon, not before it has taken its toll on many families.
The lesson learn will not be forgotten, we will never allow this
type atrocity to take place in the soon coming Kingdom.

O

Anonymous said...

"It would probably be better if Texas CPS sued first and settled with an agreement that required the teenagers to be educated in the local school system."

Parents have the right to home school their children. California recently tried to require public school and phase out home schooling and they got blasted. The Amish were also targeted for their educational practices with their children a few years back. They only educate them up to an eighth grade level? That went all the way to the supreme court and the Amish won.

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