investigation against polygamist sect members ongoing
Tony Gutierrez/AP
A group of local residents, left, gather after a church service and look on as members
of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prepare to board a bus in Eldorado,
Texas. (AP)

New Report Indicates Abuse, Neglect of Children From Polygamist Sect

December 24, 2008 01:26 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Child Protective Services has concluded its investigation into a polygamist sect in Texas, and reported several instances of abuse and neglect.

Investigation Concludes

Months after child welfare officials raided a ranch belonging to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a report has been released detailing findings from the investigation into activities there, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) has reported that 12 girls in the polygamist sect between ages 12 and 15 were "spritually" married to men; some have at least one child.

"What that means for a parallel criminal investigation, which has led to indictments of 12 men so far, is unclear," writes The Salt Lake Tribune.

The report also indicated several cases of child neglect among the 146 families investigated.

CPS has come under considerable scrutiny for how it handled the case at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and for the fact that more than 400 children were removed from their parents' care. But the state Department of Family and Protective Services has defended CPS's actions, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The case "is about parents who condoned illegal underage marriages and adults who failed to protect young girls–it has never been about religion," the Morning News quoted a report as saying.

Although 96 percent of child welfare cases against the sect have been dismissed, a few are still pending.

Reuniting With Family

Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said the fact that cases are being dropped does not mean that the abuses, which in most cases inolved charges of young girls having sex with older men, never occured. Dropping the cases simply means children can return to living with their families or close relatives.

There has been controversy about how the situation, one of the largest custody cases in U.S. history, was handled from the beginning. 

“It most certainly goes back to the idea that the proper way to have conducted this process was to get evidence as to what children, if any, were at risk,” said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, an organization that represented dozens of mothers in the case, to The Houston Chronicle. “They went through this ordeal, and in the end, CPS found they were a good parent.”

In the cases that have not yet been dropped—fewer than half of the original cases—children and their parents “remain bound by a court order to stay in Texas, attend parenting classes or be available for unannounced visits by Child Protective Services,” according to the Chronicle.

Authorities raided the sect’s Yearn for Zion Ranch near Eldorado in April, after receiving a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old who had been forced into marriage. More than 400 children were taken into state custody, but many were returned to family members after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state had overstepped its bounds in removing them from the ranch.

Since the raid, five members of the group, including group leader Warren Jeffs, were indicted by a West Texas grand jury on charges of sexual assault of a child related to older men marrying young girls.

Background: Raid in Eldorado

The inhabitants of the ranch belong to a Mormon FLDS sect not recognized by the mainstream Mormon Church. The FLDS broke away from the central Mormon Church after the Church banned polygamy in 1890.

An intensive investigation followed the raid. Officials found that more than half of the teenage girls taken from the ranch already had children or were pregnant. Other reports suggested that dozens of children taken from the ranch had previous broken or fractured bones, and some of the boys may have been sexually abused.

Reference: Mormonism and FLDS


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