Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Phony statistic on pregnant teens clouds YFZ Ranch debate

Mark Twain famously said that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can tie its shoes, and ample proof of that may be discovered by analyzing the claim from the Texas Department of Family Protective Services that 31 of 53 teens found on the YFZ Ranch were pregnant or had children, even though in court the agency only claimed five teens were discovered who fit that description.

This statistic is still being used in the mainstream press even though a cursory interrogation shows it's probably false. Yesterday on the Dallas News' opinion blog, Sharon Grigsby cited the 31 of 53 statistic as a primary reason their editorial board hasn't criticized the state's handling of the case.

At the original 14-day hearing, CPS said it had found five underage mothers, though several of those were disputed by their lawyers. Then, all of a sudden, just before FLDS mothers were to be separated from their children, 26 more underage pregnant "girls" were supposedly identified, and headlines across the planet claimed 60% of teenage girls at the ranch were pregnant.

Even when they issued the statistic, though, DFPS knew it was disputed, contradicted documentary evidence, and was likely inaccurate. Several days after the misleading statistic was put out in the world, DFPS clarified where the new numbers came from, according to a DFPS spokesman: "26 claim to be 18 or older. But we don't think they are."

So add those 26 to the original five, and that's how you get so quickly from 5 to 31. But that math only works if you assume someone is lying. The question is who? And why?

We now know at least part of the answer. DFPS can say whatever it likes in its press releases, but lying in court will get you in trouble. It's telling, then, that in the first instance where one of these mothers whose age is disputed went to court, it turned out DFPS admitted she was really 22 years old, and monogamously married to a 24 year old man. (The agency still wants to seize her kid, though.)

How did she end up in DFPS custody? Here's what happened in a nutshell: Before the kids were herded onto the buses to be taken away from the San Angelo sports arena where they were initially held, their moms were told that only mothers who were underage could stay with their kids (see, e.g., this DFPS press release saying the agency planned to "keep the teenage girls and their children together"). In order to stay with their children, 26 more women announced they were minors, boarded the bus with their kids, and there's your 31.

In other words, as a commenter at The Volokh Conspiracy put it, "CPS' placement strategy intentionally skews the reported ages of mothers by withholding placement with their own children unless they lie."

If the Dallas News and other media are still relying on that 31 of 53 number as anything but media hype from a badly discredited PR machine at CPS, their editorial board should dig deeper and reconsider. That's a phony baloney statistic.


Anonymous said...

If your link is correct, then Sharon Grigsby has misunderstood the statistics. The quote was that 31 of the 51 teens were pregnant or had already had a child.

The key word is "or". That does not mean all 31 are currently pregnant.

Hugh McBryde said...


On April 28th, Michelle Roberts of the AP reported Darrell Azar as saying this;

"A total of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are in state custody after a raid 3 1/2 weeks ago at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Of those girls, 31 either have children or are pregnant, said Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar. Two of those are pregnant now, he said; it was unclear whether either of those two already have children."

This appeared in the Deseret News. I have read nothing to suggest that any other girls were "obviously pregnant" which continues to be the rationale for continuing the search of YFZ after Texas failed to find Dale Evans Barlow.

As it stands now, It looks as if that rationale for the continued search is as false as the original premise for entering the Ranch.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Your data is correct, 2:43, I just stated it clumsily. I edited the text to make it more clear.

Anonymous said...

As the old saying goes, the three kinds of lies are "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." There's even the textbook I had in my stats class "How to Lie with Statistics."

Hugh McBryde said...

What concerns me most is that the two who were reported to be pregnant on April 28th also had to be the "evidence" of other wrong cited by Texas when taking the kids into custody in the first place. These two can be none other than the mom they now admit is of age, and another that just gave birth and will likely be declared an adult as well.

Unless I'm missing something here, it is impossible for the premise they used to be a true one. Just as there is no Sarah, there were no pregnant underage girls that Texas saw.

Anonymous said...

If I understand CPS strategy, it goes like this:

Tell me you are under 18 and I'll let you stay with your children. Knowing that as good mothers they will want to be with their children.

The result is CPS tells the press that 31 of 51 teens are pregnant (2) or have had a child (29). They manipulated these ladies to get information and then published it to their benefit.

The ladies are placed and - are not allowed to stay with their children after all. CPS got what they were after and then they did as they always intended to do. Place the children for their convenience, not the good of the children.

Now the truth comes out but the damage is done. I truly hope the judges in this case care more for the welfare of these children than making sure CPS doesn't look bad.

CPS is bad and now is the time for the State of Texas to cut their losses.

Anonymous said...

hat tip to myself....

....i spotted the inherent perversity of the "you can stay with your kids if you're under 18" thing immediately.

here ends my anonymous ode to myself.

Anonymous said...

restarting the ode to myself...

....we should remember that this wasn't the first time the cps pulled this little game. the first time it was "say you've been abused, see your kids. say you haven't been accused, thanks see you later."

Anonymous said...

"accused" above should of course be "abused".

commentors who post silly grammatical and spelling errors while bragging about their perceptiveness should be shot on sight.

Anonymous said...

Unlike most Texans, these mothers were sure to have known that children taken at "Short Creek" were kept for about 2 years.

They were extremely vulnerable in this situation and did not have access to legal advice. Being a member of the FLDS does not mean they are not entitled to due process in any legal proceedings.

Anonymous said...

And once these "disputed minors" are proven to be adults, in a logical world, we would see CPS's case clatter to the ground with a resounding crash. But as we know, this is not a logical world, and there is a judge in San Angelo who has to cover her butt, and the media damage has been done - the mob is ready with torches and pitchforks, egged on by Nancy Grace, no matter how innocent the FLDS are.

Anonymous said...

I'll give five to one that the moms who lied about their age are charged with some form of obstruction/impeding a gov't investigation...

Anonymous said...

"In order to stay with their children, 26 more women announced they were minors, boarded the bus with their kids, and there's your 31."I don't think it was quite like that DFPS has said many times "they say they are adults be we believe them to be minors". So when the DFPS told them they thought they were minors
the women didn't disagree any longer. I know if I were put in the same situation I would do the same thing. The other mothers in the line didn't say anything either because they knew that now unidentified minors would be with thier children also. Now DFPS will state that the adults staying in the shelters as unidentified minors should not have their children because they lied. This gave the now adults access to the children which in turn might have an effect on the investigation. Afterall didn't they worry about the adult mothers telling the children things in the shelter?
Many times CPS tells you the fastest and easist way to get your kids back is to admit abuse and take the classes. If you take the classes but don't admit the abuse then you haven't reformed in thier eyes. If you admit the abuse, then you don't deserve the kids back.

Anonymous said...

It may not have been necessary for those mothers to lie about their ages.

I suspect there were some, maybe many, compassionate CPS workers in San Angelo when mothers were being separated from their children. They may have let individual mothers know, very discreetly, that if they, the mothers, did not argue with CPS about being minors, they would get to stay with the kids.

I don't know this to be the case, but I do know some CPS workers who were there, and I know them to be people who would have done something like this.

Anonymous said...

Let me add this. When this debacle or C.-F. finally gets to the stage where courts and/or legislative committees are investigating it, these CPS people are the ones who are going to gut CPS management.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

CPS didn't have to let them know discreetly, doran, they were saying the same thing in press releases. It wasn't a secret, it's just what the agency chose to do, and apparently 26 women reacted rationally to an irrational situation.

Anonymous said...

I will shed no tears for CPS Management.

They were handed a difficult job and they muffed it. They will receive an enormous amount of protection as a State Agency. They will surely deserve more than they get for the horrible decisions they have made.

Anonymous said...

Caseworkers with the Austin-Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center said children are being kept in cramped quarters and unfairly separated from their mothers, reported commissioners in New Braunfels.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

It's a little bit like the paper that reported that of all the boys and girls ages 16 and 17, X number of girls were married, and no boys, and there was only 1 17 year old girls who wasn't married.
But they didn't mention the 3 16 year olds who weren't married.
Or the 2 18 year olds.
Or the 23 year old.

The Local Crank said...

"I'll give five to one that the moms who lied about their age are charged with some form of obstruction/impeding a gov't investigation..."

Or giving false or fictitious identification. Damn, rage, I wish I could say you were just being paranoid. But, in the words of the poet, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Thotman said...

Grits...What is the fastest solution in this fiasco? Are there none who can put a stop to this horrendous abuse of governement power? Why have so few been willing to stand up and call a spade a spade...and lack of due process and the violation of civil rights what they are? Is there no one that good and decent people can appeal to in this instance? Are there NO checks and balances in this case? Where is the news media concerning the abuses perpetrated by the CPS? Where are the law enforcement entities who should be charging any man who has married an underage girl with the proper crimes within the rule of law? It appears to me that these kids have fallen into a blackhole and unless some heroic figure in the federal government or at the state level ABOVE CPS, or some honest people in the judiciary stand up and crush this unlawful behavior, they may not get their children back until these kids are traumatized beyond recovery. What are the shortest pathways back to their constitutionally guraranteed freedoms? Is anything in the works? Do you believe that they must deny their convictions to ever be seen as compliant by the criminals at CPS?

Kathy G said...

Individual plans not quite individual.,5143,700225988,00.html

P.S. Sorry, I don't know how to post the link. It's in the Deseret News if you can't get it to work.

Anonymous said...

More people aren't standing up because of the initial smear campaign initiated by CPS in the first few days of the raid. The FLDS were painted in the blackest possible terms, and despite efforts now by the FLDS to present more balanced information, many people still have an image of a sweaty old uncle raping a 13-year-old child, in spite of the fact that no evidence of this has been found at the Ranch. Trying to change public opinion is an uphill battle, especially when Carolyn Jessop and Ms. Walls are out there hawking their books in every media outlet. Make no mistake, this is a battle that is being waged in the court of public opinion, and so far, CPS has been winning.

The reports from the MHMR workers and court decisions which find the women to be adults and/or reverse the initial custody decisions may begin to sway the tide the other way, but no amount of accurate information will change the opinion of many of the slack-jawed, critical-thinking-impaired American public that relies about people like Nancy Grace for "news."

kbp said...

Kathy & any that wish to post links:

This is the basic TAG that will do it.

< A href="LINK" >TITLE< /A >

Copy and paste it to save.

Remove any spaces on either sides of these symbols: < or >

Enter the web address replacing the LINK (leave " " symbols).

Enter any message you wish, spaces allowed, replacing the TITLE.

That will enter links on comments just like this one here: HTML Tags & Codes (A web page showing you many posting tools for you to use)

kbp said...

Kathy's link
Thanks kathy!

kbp said...

A hearing is scheduled for TODAY in a Travis County court regarding the "habeas corpus" of the mother who gave birth most recently. The wife of Rolan Daniel Jessop, Louisa Bradshaw Jessup, claims she is 22.

I anticipate the CPS will concede she is an adult, as it is a waste of time & money to argue that topic.

With similar names, and so many cases mentioned, it's getting very confusing trying to track what's going on.

The most publicized of late include:

- Those listed above, Rolan and Louisa Jessup;

- The couple that had the first born in custody, Jackson and Pamela Jeffs Jessop with her just being listed as an adult on the CPS records; and

- Another couple, Joseph and Lori Jessop, have a child about to turn 1 YO they hope to stay with, and 2 other children that they were granted visitation to.

So there you hav it, the Jessup, Jessup and Jessup cases to keep straight in or minds!

Are we clear so far? If you mention Jessup in any case, you're prolly correct!


kbp said...


In the blog post for these comments, it says:

"It's telling, then, that in the first instance where one of these mothers whose age is disputed went to court, it turned out DFPS admitted she was really 22 years old, and monogamously married to a 24 year old man. (The agency still wants to seize her kid, though.)"

As I understand it, the mother that went to court, Pamela Jeffs Jessop, is 18 YO. The 22 YO is Louisa Jessop, still being held as a minor.

I should point out that the Public Notice of the petition for temp custody lists all Jessops using an "o", while some newspapers show it with a "u". Just something else to cofuse us I guess!

kbp said...

Kathy's link again

"Individual family service plans... expected to be filed in a Texas court beginning today... supposed to include input from the children, their parents and [CPS] on what it will take to reunite a parent with a child... "

Going with the idea that FAMILY is the ONLY objective in which the DEPARTMENT of FAMILY... was established for, the family service plans, absent input from the FAMILY involved, leaves me believing you could print a copy of the "Child Protective Services Handbook",
crumple all the pages and use it for AZZ wipe. Before wiping, check for any pages that do not include FAMILY on them, that may be the ONE they are going by here.

Don't miss CPS's "plan" , which includes the "REASONS FOR CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES INVOLVEMENT" on Page 3.

Interestingly they show "Family Reunification" is a goal, but then it wouldn't look good if they had documented their true goals!

The date they anticipate such will happen: APRIL 13, 2009

Maybe the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is the "FAMILY" now, they are the "legal parent" of 464+ children from the YFZ Ranch!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

KBP, you're right, I conflated the two Jessop cases. I'm sorry, I appear to have gotten a little sloppy in this post. The overarching point remains valid, though, that CPS made its first admission this week that it had miscategorized adult women as minors. Here's a newsclip that discusses the status of both cases and makes the proper distinctions.

Anonymous said...

CPS admits Louisa Jessop is an adult, but judge rules restraining order against moving her to San Antonio is invalid:

Restraining Order Ruled Invalid

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, the judge just said she didn't have jurisdiction, she didn't rule on the merits.

The judge overseeing these cases in San Antonio issued an order this week overruling CPS to allow daily visitation. I think they oughtta get a fair hearing there.

kbp said...

Dallas News
Some overly conclusive comments, but the summary could be what happens.


Among the things that parents in the polygamist sect would have to do to regain custody of their children:

•Provide a home free of abusive persons.

•Tell the state who's living on all floors of buildings they live in.

•Document their marriages and divorces.

•Attend parenting classes.

•Attend individual and family counseling sessions.

•Submit to DNA testing.

Anonymous said...

well since children are being taken from their mothers, whats next when there are millions of underage mothers in the country, heck right here in fort worth alone half the schools would be closed.

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