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 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepare to board a bus in Eldorado,
Texas. (AP)

More Children from Polygamist Sect Return Home as Texas Drops Abuse Cases

September 05, 2008 11:23 AM
by Cara McDonough
Since the April raid at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, 235 children's custody cases out of 440 have been dropped. Officials say more dismissals are on the way.

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 considerable 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

533 women and children were removed from the Yearn for Zion ranch in April, where underage girls were found pregnant and taking care of their own infants.
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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