21 Jan 2009

13 FLDS children in court custody

Deseret News - January 20, 2009

by Ben Winslow

Only 13 children remain under court jurisdiction in the ongoing custody case involving children from the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch in Texas.

Texas Child Protective Services has officially "nonsuited" 426 children, leaving only 13 left in what was once the nation's largest child custody case. Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins confirmed to the Deseret News on Tuesday the four remaining legal cases involve children from three mothers.

The two children recently nonsuited are the first to be dropped since an investigative report by Texas Child Protective Services claimed that a dozen girls from the Utah-based polygamous church were sexually abused or neglected because they were married at ages ranging from 12 to 15. The report also cited 262 cases of child neglect because their parents "failed to remove them from a situation in which the child would be exposed to sexual abuse committed against another child within their families or households."

The FLDS Church has criticized the report saying that "the only real abuse that either women or children suffered was at the hands of Texas law enforcement and CPS."

In April, law enforcement and child welfare workers raided the YFZ Ranch outside Eldorado, Texas, after a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old in an abusive, polygamous marriage. The call is believed to be a hoax, but on site authorities claimed to have seen other signs of abuse prompting a judge to order the removal of all of the children on the ranch.

The 439 children were ultimately returned to their families when a pair of Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and the children were not at immediate risk of abuse. CPS has steadily dropped children from court oversight after finding either no evidence of abuse, or that the children's parents have taken steps to protect them from harm.

So far, 28 out of 91 individuals who have been labeled "abusive or neglectful" have filed challenges to the CPS findings.

A dozen men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted by an Eldorado grand jury on charges ranging from sexual assault of a child and bigamy to performing a marriage ceremony prohibited by law and failure to report child abuse. Some of the men will stand trial later this year.

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