7 Feb 2008

Lost Boys: State needs to help FLDS refugees

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial
February 6, 2008

They call them the "Lost Boys," the mostly male refugees from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They grow up in the twin polygamist towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where young girls often have been married off to older men, and many young males reportedly are deemed expendable.
Some are turned out by their parents, with encouragement from the church, for violating the sect's strict rules regarding dress, movies, music, substance abuse and fraternizing with girls. Others are turned off by their religion, and leave voluntarily.
Either way, they're alone in a world they find difficult to navigate, or even comprehend. Undereducated, unsupervised and ill-prepared, many of the Lost Boys become delinquent, or turn to drugs and alcohol. They need all the help they can get.
That's where New Frontiers for Families, and the Utah Legislature, come in. The non-profit New Frontiers and its team of volunteers operates "The House off Bluff Street" in St. George, which houses and helps these disenfranchised youths obtain life skills, complete their educations and find jobs.
Currently, nine former FLDS teens and young adults live at the home, 15 gather for evening meals, and 20 attend weekly life-skills seminars. Another 15 live in host homes in St. George.
Last year, the Legislature provided $95,000 to support New Frontiers. More is needed. This year, the group is requesting $315,000 in ongoing funds, enough to hire a professional staff, to continue and expand programs, and to help these wayward youths get their lives on track. It would be money well-spent by lawmakers, an investment in humanity.
The Legislature should also do all it can to break the cycle of abandonment fomented by the FLDS, and approve House Bill 23. Sponsored by Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem, it was drafted on behalf of prosecutors in southern Utah and the Utah Attorney General's Office in an attempt to hold parents who abandon children responsible.
While it would apply to any parent, the bill targets the FLDS, providing for felony charges against persons who abandon children and the sect leaders who encourage them. It would also allow the government to seize assets of any "enterprise," i.e. the FLDS church, that encourages and endorses child abandonment.
We need to help the Lost Boys find themselves, and break this cycle of abandonment and abuse.


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