For starters, it's becoming clear other states don't see Texas' child seizure action as a model. The Utah Attorney General is resisting calls to mess with polygamists, declaring “I don’t care how many talking heads you see on cable television shows that tell us that we need to cowboy-up and be like Texas. We don’t believe that’s the answer,” said Utah AG Mark Shurtleff. (Further detailing Utah's approach, a law professor explained in an informative column why CPS should begin now to fulfill its statutory obligation to reunite children who weren't abused with their families.)
Shurtleff told a crowd last week, according to The New York Times, that Utah wants to identify relatives who might provide foster homes if Texas takes these kids long term:
Utah’s attorney general, Mark L. Shurtleff, sat before a room of perhaps 400 people, most of them fundamentalist polygamists, at a town hall meeting here on Thursday night. He asked for a show of hands. How many people, he wanted to know, were related to the children who were seized last month in a raid in Texas in an investigation of possible marriage and abuse of child brides?I wonder what Texas CPS' reaction will be to that idea? Since their legal theory is that fundamentalist Mormons' religion is an inherent threat to children, they may fight it, but it'd sure be a lot better for the kids to wind up with relatives instead of strangers.
Scores of hands shot up. Then Mr. Shurtleff asked his follow-up: How many of you would be willing to take those children into your homes? Without a moment’s hesitation, the same hands rose.
“We think it would be wonderful if that were to happen, and we’re going to continue to try to encourage that,” Mr. Shurtleff said, as the room exploded with applause.
On the legal front, although child by child court proceedings begin next week (and I've not made time yet to read the relevant court filings), one family with a newborn convinced a judge to listen to their pleas a little earlier, reported the Dallas News:
AUSTIN – Child Protective Services tried to whisk a newborn and his mother, in state custody as a minor after being removed from a polygamist sect's ranch, to a different city within hours of childbirth on Monday.Of course, the reason some older women claimed to be minors at one point, the state well knows, is that CPS told them that was the only way they'd be allowed to stay with their children, in this case a 2 and 3 year old. According to her lawyer, as of last night Mrs. Jessop was staying with her newborn "in the offices of CPS because they don't have anywhere else to put her."
But her husband, saying his wife is 22 and should never have been taken into state custody with the ranch's children last month, rushed to court and prevented it.
Because CPS had no foster care placement in Travis County that was suitable for the newborn, the mother and child were poised to spend the night in a CPS office, a lawyer for the husband said. ...
State District Judge Orlinda Naranjo issued an injunction that temporarily halted CPS' plan to move the mother, the newborn and the couple's two other children, ages 2 and 3, to San Antonio within hours of the delivery at an Austin birthing center.
The judge said the mother and the three youngsters will remain in Travis County until after a hearing Thursday on Mr. Jessop's request that another district judge in Austin, Darlene Byrne, order his wife and children released from state care.
Who seriously contends this woman and her newborn are possibly better off sleeping in CPS' foyer in Austin instead of back home with her (monogamous) husband? It's difficult to understand what the state thinks its accomplishing with such shenanigans. Aren't there any actual abuse cases in Texas to worry about?
Indeed, it's becoming clear that these kids are being abused and neglected worse under CPS' care than they were at the YFZ Ranch. Reports the Salt Lake Tribune, kids have endured:
Children living in crowded quarters that led to upper respiratory illnesses. Youngsters plagued with diarrhea from unhealthy foods they usually did not eat. Distressed mothers enduring widespread rudeness - such as flashlights shined in their faces as they tried to sleep.The tales from these mental health workers included one of the most sad, poignant images yet to emerge from this debacle, describing:
Mental health professionals who helped care for FLDS women and children in the weeks after an April raid on the YFZ Ranch describe conditions and treatment they perceived as harsh and unnecessary.
"Never in all my life, and I am one of the older ladies, have I been so ashamed of being a Texan and seeing what and how our government agencies treat people," wrote one employee of Hill Country Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center in an unsigned statement.
Texas contracts with Hill Country to provide mental health services during disasters. Staff members met with the center's board of trustees last week, leaving them "spellbound." The board has gathered nine written statements critical of Child Protective Services.
Chairman John Kight said he wants state legislators and the governor to hear the employees' stories. "You have damaged these children for their lives," he said. "This is an agency that looks like it's gone out of control."
A boy estimated at age 3 walked along a row of cots asking for someone to rock him after he was separated from his mother, one employee wrote. Two CPS worker trailed the youngster taking notes but not helping him. His brother, age 8, eventually took the child into his arms and sat with him in a rocking chair.How, indeed? Remember, this is supposedly justified on the theory that 30-40 years from now this 3-year old boy "may" become a sexual predator.
"That little boy will always be in my mind," the employee wrote. "How can a beautiful, healthy child be taken from a healthy, loving home and forced into a situation like that, right here in America, right here in Texas?"
My God, Texas ... what in heaven's name have we done? And how long before Texans of good conscience find the courage and means to stop it?
UPDATE: From the Salt Lake Tribune, here are links to the letters from MHMR workers:
"The floor was literally slick with tears ..."
Here are links to letters written by staff members from the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center, which provided assistance to FLDS women and children in San Angelo shelters in April. They are critical of conditions in the shelters and how child welfare workers treated the women and children.
"This was a travesty." "This situation was a tragedy." "It was heartwrenching." "Our roles bacame... confidant and a broker." "That is a very good question." "Ashamed of being a Texan." "I often felt helpless." "Vast amounts of hypocrisy." "Even to be an observer was difficult." "This incident... is not what America or Texas stands for." "Even the simplest request was discounted."