Eldorado, Texas case of FLDS Sect

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Postby Marina » Thu May 15, 2008 6:45 pm

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http://deseretnews.com/article/content/ ... 88,00.html

Plans for FLDS families are not so individual

By Ben Winslow
Deseret News
Published: May 15, 2008

Individual family service plans for the children taken into state protective custody in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch are expected to be filed in a Texas court beginning today.
But just how "individual" those plans are is in question.

The plans, which are supposed to include input from the children, their parents and Texas Child Protective Services on what it will take to reunite a parent with a child, are being filed under a Friday deadline. Individual status hearings for the 464 children in state protective custody are scheduled before five judges in San Angelo on Monday.

Attorneys who have received copies of the plans complain that the only thing individual about them is the case number assigned to each child.

"Normally we have input. Normally we talk to a caseworker. Normally we have input with the parents," said Rene Haas, an attorney representing an FLDS father. "This is not normal."

The Deseret News obtained copies of some of the family service plans from several different sources. Each had identical paragraphs and essentially said the same thing. Texas CPS officials characterize it as a "template" that was leaked, and not the official plans that will be submitted to the courts.

"We did use a template on these plans of service and this was due to the large number of plans we are developing," said Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner. "Each child in care has their own plan of service. If the mother and father are together as a couple they have their own plan of service. With one child involved we could have three service plans."

Template

In the plans, Texas child welfare officials repeat why they placed the children in protective custody in the first place.

"Interviews with underage girls at the ranch revealed a pattern of underage girls being 'spiritually united' with adult men and having children with these men," it says. "The department's investigation has found an apparent practice of training young girls to submit to this behavior and training young boys that when they become adults it is appropriate for them to become perpetrators, which conduct constitutes sexual and mental and emotional abuse."

CPS says a large number of girls, ages 14-17, have children, are pregnant or both. Several children have or have had suspicious broken bones, and CPS alleges there are indications of possible sexual abuse of young boys.

Haas objected to the blanket forms that portray everyone on the YFZ Ranch.

"You cannot take children away because their parents think something or believe something. You can only take children away for what you can prove parents have done," she said Wednesday. "There is no proof on our family of anything that remotely could be called child abuse."

The reports praise the families on the YFZ Ranch for their strong work ethic, their resourcefulness and the communal support in raising children.

"The adults generally demonstrate basic parenting skills," it says. "The adults express a desire to be good parents. They have strong religious beliefs."

Under "Family and CPS concerns related to risk and safety," the plan outlines sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse and neglect. Meisner said they included the definitions in Texas law.

"That's so the families have a clear understanding of the definition of child abuse and neglect," she said. "We also want them to have a clear understanding of why their children are in care."

Goals

The service plan goals say the parents will understand what abuse is and take steps to protect their children. They also ask parents to cooperate with DNA testing and providing identifying papers to establish paternity and family relationships.

"We want them to be better equipped to work with their individual caseworkers to work toward the eventual goal of family reunification," said Meisner.

For parents, tasks include participating in parenting classes, psychiatric evaluations and following the recommendations of counselors.

"Establish safe living arrangements for children and provide verification to the department of living arrangements, including methods of support the family is receiving from all sources," one recommendation says.

The recommendations obtained by the Deseret News make no mention of any requirements for the parents to leave the FLDS faith, or explicitly say to move off of the YFZ Ranch. But an attorney representing the FLDS Church said they are underlying themes.

"A safe living environment sounds just fine, but what they mean is get off the ranch," said Rod Parker. "It asks the parents to admit many of the false premises this raid was based on."

The goal of the child welfare system is eventual reunification between parents and children. Over the next year, the judges in San Angelo will have to decide how and when that happens. An introduction letter to one FLDS mother that was included with the plan urged cooperation with CPS.

"If the judge is not satisfied that you can provide a safe place for your child where they are free from abuse, the judge may decide to limit or even permanently take away all of your rights as a parent of a child," it said. "The child then could be placed in permanent foster care or be adopted."

Interviews

As part of the family service plans, the parents, the child, advocates and CPS workers give input. With 464 children in foster care facilities and their parents scattered in Texas, Utah, Arizona and elsewhere, some complain the interviews simply aren't happening.

Cynthia Martinez with the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Society, which is representing a group of FLDS mothers, said that for the most part, they have not been interviewed by child welfare workers.

"They've been presented with this plan and that's pretty much been it," she said Wednesday.

Haas said she has made repeated attempts to contact CPS caseworkers to set up an interview with her clients about the family service plans, but has never received a call back. Her client, Joseph Steed Jessop Sr., won a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, blocking CPS from separating his 1-year-old son from the child's mother.

Meisner said they are working toward the Friday deadline, but could not say if the hundreds of caseworkers involved in this massive custody case would be able to interview everyone in time.

"We're doing our very best to try to meet with the parents and the families," she said.

Martinez said the FLDS mothers who have received service plans have mixed reactions.

"It varies between our clients as to what each mother is willing to do and how receptive each mother is to the plans being proposed," she said. "All of our attorneys are working with our clients to review the plan and advocate on behalf of what each mother wants."

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Postby Frustrated » Fri May 16, 2008 11:43 am

"The adults generally demonstrate basic parenting skills," it says. "The adults express a desire to be good parents. They have strong religious beliefs."

---------------
CPS Service Plan involves:

For parents, tasks include participating in parenting classes, psychiatric evaluations and following the recommendations of counselors.
----------------------

Talk about contradictions!!!
Then there is this: a THREAT:

"If the judge is not satisfied that you can provide a safe place for your child where they are free from abuse, the judge may decide to limit or even permanently take away all of your rights as a parent of a child," it said. "The child then could be placed in permanent foster care or be adopted."
------------------
A THREAT, making Parents take the Family Service Plan and make them JUMP THRU HOOPS UNTIL April 2009! At that time, the children will be held for one year in Foster Incarination. WITHOUT PROOF of ABUSE! Where's the proof? No proof and this service plan gets drawn up?????????????

It makes no absolute sense to me. But you and everyone and me included KNOWS what B.S. CPS puts in the Family Service Plans.
Did you read what CPS says in this family service Plan, it sounds like they are making up more allegations/abuses than originally thought.

"Interviews with underage girls at the ranch revealed a pattern of underage girls being 'spiritually united' with adult men and having children with these men," it says. "The department's investigation has found an apparent practice of training young girls to submit to this behavior and training young boys that when they become adults it is appropriate for them to become perpetrators, which conduct constitutes sexual and mental and emotional abuse."

Surprise eh? more allegations "made up's", they stated the department has found an apparent practice.............Apparent means obvious or maybes? it does not provide a statement that they have FOUND EVIDENCE, just has found an "apparent practice", sounding like it is about their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS?

Surprise, suprise...nothing new. THIS is what CPS does to all of us...without burden of proof/evidence and they do force you to take the family service plan "or else!". Threats of parental rights termination just because the FLDS don't believe the allegations are not true? That it was ALL based on false allegations? It is very interesting that they put the obvious threats in the service plan for the World to see. :lol: I am glad the truth is coming out on what sleuthing and lying cheats CPS are. A con aritist. The worse we have seen in US. History.
It is easy to steal from poor people. But don't do it. And don't take advantage of those poor people in court. The Lord is on their side. He supports them and he will take things away from any person that takes from them.~ Proverbs 22:22

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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 6:57 pm

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http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chr ... 84368.html

May 15, 2008, 11:01PM

Sect mom allowed to stay with all her children


By LISA SANDBERG
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau



AUSTIN — A woman from a West Texas polygamist sect will be allowed to remain with all three of her children, not just her nursing infant, Child Protective Services said Thursday — the first sign the agency may be softening its approach in the massive custody case.

Agency attorney Michael Shulman said temporary housing will be sought so Louisa Bradshaw Jessop can remain with her three young children. Until now, only mothers and their nursing infants have been kept together, leaving the vast majority of the sect's 465 children scattered across the state.

"I just knew that the Heavenly Father would see us through," a relieved Jessop, who gave birth in Austin earlier this week to a boy, said by telephone Thursday.

The Jessop children will not be released from state protective custody while investigators seek to determine whether underage girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, which is outside Eldorado and is run by followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were married to older men and sexually abused.

But in yet another concession, Shulman said his agency was now convinced that Jessop was not in fact a minor, but age 22. He said agency workers, facing "a wall of deception," were presented with the first concrete evidence of Jessop's age, a Utah birth certificate, only last week.

"We were constrained in getting accurate information," Shulman said Thursday at a hearing in Austin on the Jessop custody issue.

It was the second admission this week by an agency official acknowledging that a pregnant female once considered in a "disputed age" category was now deemed to be an adult.

While pleased by CPS' decision that allows her to remain with her kids, Louisa Jessop had hoped for more. Her husband, Daniel Jessop, went to court in Travis County on Thursday seeking emergency relief for his children from last month's order, signed by state District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo, which placed all the sect's children in the state's care.

But Travis County Judge Darlene Byrne lashed out at Jessop's attorney, Patricia Matassarin, for bringing the case to the wrong court.

With limited exceptions, if attorneys had complaints with the initial order, they needed to take them to the original judge, or to an appeals court, but not to another trial judge outside the jurisdiction of the court with jurisdiction, Byrne said.

"If you think (Judge Walther) is biased, file a motion to recuse her. If you don't like the order, tell her to fix it. Don't ask another trial judge to fix it. I am not going to retry this case."

Addressing Daniel Jessop, who sat beside his attorney, Byrne added that she sympathized with his plight. "I know you don't think I do, but I do," she said.

Individual status hearings for all 465 children will begin next week in San Angelo.

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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 6:59 pm

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http://www.woai.com/news/local/story.as ... c66&rss=68

CPS Drafts Goals for Polygamist Parents

Last Update: 5/15 9:08 pm



Child Protective Services has drafted a list of goals for polygamist parents to follow in order to get their kids back.

According to the Dallas morning news, CPS is asking polygamist parents to provide a home free of abusive people, let CPS know the names of everyone in the home and allow for unannounced CPS visits.

Some argue these goals could force mothers to distance themselves from part of their religion.

...

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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 7:09 pm

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080517/ap_ ... _retreat_4

Texas checking how many sect 'girls' are women

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 31 minutes ago



SAN ANTONIO, Texas - When Texas child welfare authorities released statistics showing nearly 60 percent of the teen girls taken from a polygamist sect's ranch were pregnant or had children, they seemed to prove what was alleged all along: The sect commonly pushed girls into marriage and sex.

But in the past week, the state has twice been forced to admit "girls" who gave birth while in state custody are actually adults. One was 22 and claims she showed state officials a Utah birth certificate shortly after she and more than 400 minors were seized from the west Texas ranch in an April raid.

The state has in custody two dozen other young mothers and others whose ages are in dispute. If most of them also turn out to be adults, it would be a severe blow to the state's claim of widespread sexual abuse.

If it turns out the other 24 disputed minors are adults, the number of actual 14- to 17-year-old girls with children could drop to as low as five or six. That would amount to about one-fifth of the girls that age found at the ranch — substantially higher than the average rate of teen pregnancies in Texas but a far cry from 60 percent.

"It's not widespread, and you've got to look at every family individually to determine whether there's a problem in a family," said Rod Parker, a spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the renegade Mormon sect that runs the ranch.

"There's no reluctance on our part to go ahead and take appropriate action if and when we can determine these are adults," said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for Child Protective Services. "We are working as quickly as possible to sort this out and realize the urgency."

All 463 of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day children removed from the Yearning For Zion Ranch have been in state custody for six weeks and are scattered in foster care facilities around the state.

Crimmins said he's not sure how long it will take to resolve the disputed-minor cases. CPS has complained that sect members refused to cooperate with their investigation, constantly changing answers or refusing answers to questions about age and parentage.

Parker claims the state ignored evidence the young mothers presented, including birth certificates and Social Security cards. He said that with their long braided hair, makeup-free faces and pioneer dresses, the women look very young.

"They're deliberately ignoring official records that show these mothers are not minors," he said, citing the Utah birth certificate showing Louisa Bradshaw Jessop was born in 1986.

Patricia Matassarin, Jessop's attorney, questioned how a person proves her age if officials won't believe a birth certificate or driver's license, which Jessop also gave the state.

"The issue is how does anyone prove the date of their birth? We don't get a date stamp when we're born," Matassarin said.

A birth certificate combined with testimony from Jessop's mother were presented, and state officials conceded in Austin on Thursday that Jessop is an adult.

Crimmins said many of the sect members whose ages are in dispute don't have documents typically used to establish age, like birth certificates, driver's licenses or public school records. FLDS children were home-schooled.

"We've been trying, sometimes with very little success, to get as much information as possible on the children," he said. "What we've said is consistent. We think there was some abuse — some physical abuse and some sexual abuse — at the ranch. This ranch was considered as a very large household."

The children are being treated the same as siblings of abused children in smaller households, where removal is common, Crimmins said.

The FLDS case is one of the most complicated custody cases in U.S. history, but all the children from the ranch were sent to foster care after state District Judge Barbara Walther found they were being abused or were at risk for abuse because adults were pushing underage girls into sex and marriage with older men.

In Texas, girls who are younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with adult men.

No one has been arrested or charged in the case.

All the children are scheduled to have hearings in the next three weeks to determine what steps their parents will need to take to regain custody.

Meanwhile Friday, attorneys for the state and Pamela Jeffs Jessop, the 18-year-old mother of two of the children, reached an agreement that gives the state temporary custody of her 3-year-old and her newborn while allowing her to stay with them as custody hearings continue, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported in its online editions.

The state had acknowedged Tuesday that Jessop was not a minor.

"The important thing is, there's an agreement not to separate her from her children," Jessop's attorney, Natalie Malonis, said.

The FLDS, which teaches polygamy brings glorification in heaven, broke away from the mainline Mormon church, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

Sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is revered as a prophet, has been sentenced to prison in Utah for being an accomplice to rape in arranging a marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He is awaiting trial in Arizona, where he is charged as an accomplice with four counts each of incest and sexual conduct.

Jeffs' lawyers want the incest counts dropped, arguing that prosecutors in Mohave County cannot pursue those charges along with the sexual conduct counts. A judge is considering the request.

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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 7:24 pm

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http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent ... 8.html?npc

Polygamist sect member's effort to free children from foster care fails

11:24 PM CDT on Thursday, May 15, 2008
By ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

AUSTIN — A polygamist sect member who says the state has wrongly swept his three children into foster care lost an attempt Thursday to free them.

Dan Jessop said he won a partial victory, though, when lawyers for Child Protective Services told a judge that CPS workers would try by Thursday evening to place his wife, their newborn son and two other very young children together in a foster home, possibly in San Antonio.

A joint living arrangement for a nursing mother from the sect with all of her children would be a first in the tangled aftermath of Texas’ removal of more than 450 youngsters from an Eldorado ranch last month, the largest child protection raid in U.S. history.

On orders from state District Judge Barbara Walther of San Angelo, CPS has kept 18 sect mothers who have children younger than 12 months together with those infants, but children who are older have been moved into foster care, away from their mothers.

However, as CPS successfully fended off Mr. Jessop’s bid for an order to free his children in an Austin courtroom Thursday, state lawyers said their goal was to keep his wife and their children together.

Mr. Jessop, 24, said he was relieved.

“They’ll remember me,” he said of the children, because his wife will be with them. “She’ll teach them as we always teach them.”

Early indications were that the move could anger the 18 other nursing mothers from the sect who were placed at a San Antonio shelter, apart from older children, and who now may demand similar treatment. A CPS spokesman declined to comment.

On Thursday, state lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Jessop’s wife, Louisa, is 22 and should never have been taken into state custody with the ranch’s children.

“We’re not psychic,” said CPS lawyer Michael Shulman. “We can’t just look at people and say, ‘You’re of age, you can go.’.”

While CPS has said sect members have given state workers confusing information, sect spokesman Willie Jessop said the state wouldn’t release 27 sect females whose ages were in dispute because it feared losing jurisdiction over the newborns.

Pat Matassarin of Canyon Lake, Mr. Jessop’s lawyer, said the state’s underestimation of sect mothers’ ages has implied they had sex as young girls.

“This kind of presentation just is devastating to families,” she said.

District Judge Darlene Byrne of Travis County said she would not even consider granting Mr. Jessop’s request for an order freeing his children from protective custody.

“You all can fight it over there,” Judge Byrne said, referring to the San Angelo court that has given CPS temporary custody of the sect youngsters.

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Postby Marina » Fri May 16, 2008 7:43 pm

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http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,700226667,00.html

FLDS mother wins victory in court

By Ben Winslow
Deseret News
Published: Friday, May 16, 2008 7:03 p.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Pamela Jeffs Jessop's eyes sparkled and she smiled as she walked out of the courthouse Friday.
"I love to be with my children," she said meekly.

The 18-year-old has secured a few more rights over her newborn baby than other members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church have over their children, her attorneys said Friday.

Jessop was in court for a hearing over the custody of her baby boy, born April 29. It was to be an adversarial hearing, where Texas child welfare officials entered evidence of abuse and sought to retain sole custody of her baby.

"We have reached an agreement," said Eric Tai, a lawyer for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. He announced in court. "The department will be a temporary conservator of baby boy Jeffs. Since the mom is under 21, she will be placed with both of her children in a place to be determined."

Jessop was also named a possessor and a conservator over her child, said her attorney, Natalie Malonis.

"It's a rather large victory," Malonis said Friday. "A possessor and a conservator under the family code has certain rights that, as far as I know, none of the other parents are enjoying right now. She has rights to information, and rights to participate in the child's life — and those are enforceable rights."


But Jessop's battle to win custody of her two children is just beginning. As she sat in court, she was served with papers by a constable, notifying her of the upcoming status hearings for her children.
Texas Child Protective Services workers were expected to file family service plans in court late Friday, outlining what parents must do to be reunited with their children.

"The judges will be looking at the plans of service. There will be discussion regarding what the agency and parents are trying to do together in an attempt to have the children safely returned to the parents' care at some point," said Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the government agency.

The hearings, which will involve five judges and nearly all of the time for Tom Green County Courthouse's employees, are scheduled to begin Monday. Texas child welfare authorities have 464 children in state custody from the raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch. The children currently are being housed in foster care facilities scattered across the state.

The raid began April 3 when someone claiming to be a 16-year-old girl called a family crisis shelter hotline here, saying she was pregnant and in an abusive polygamous marriage to a 49-year-old man. When authorities responded, they said they found evidence of other abuse, although the person who made the call was not identified.

That led a judge to order the removal of all of the children from the ranch. Authorities are still investigating if the original call was a hoax.

page 2

In family service plans obtained by the Deseret News, Texas CPS officials allege there is a culture on the YFZ Ranch where girls grow up to become child brides, and boys grow up to become sexual perpetrators.
Friday, Judge Barbara Walther presented a new concern for attorneys to wrangle over as they prepare for the hearings. She worried about lawyers representing children — even those no longer deemed to be children — and adults within the FLDS community at the same time, which could potentially raise conflict of interest issues.

"If you have one, you can't have the other," the judge said, citing Texas court rulings about attorney conflicts.

With such deeply intertwined families coming from a communal-style living environment, the attorneys realized the potential problems as the custody case moves forward. One attorney told the judge it could pose a significant problem for the entire case.

Mary Golder, appointed to represent five FLDS children in state custody, said she has worked hard to build relationships with her clients.

"These people do not trust us on a good day and to have to find somebody else ... ," she told the judge. "I'm the evil gentile. I'm used to being called that."


Story continues below
At the same time she presented the problem, Judge Walther seemed to have found the solution. She left the bench while attorneys huddled over the proposed solution.
"The guardian ad litems are willing to waive a conflict with the understanding that if problems arise, they will be addressed," said Debra Brown, the court-appointed Special Advocate in the case. "We will ask attorneys not to represent mothers and their children or adults and their sister-wives in one family unit."

Hundreds of lawyers have volunteered their time to represent the FLDS mothers and children.

"Ideally in any case, you want a different lawyer for everybody," said Golder. "This is just such a unique case all the way around."

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Postby Marina » Sat May 17, 2008 6:20 pm

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http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_9295315?source=rss


Hearings begin Monday
Attorneys want FLDS children treated as individuals in court
Texas officials claim sect supports systemic abuse

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 05/17/2008 04:50:07 PM MDT


The Jessop family in 2007. Left to right, Ziana, Joseph Sr., Joseph Edson, Lori, and Joseph Jr. The state of Texas has conceded Lori Jessop is an adult, and is allowing her to stay with her children, who are in the custody of Texas child welfare officials. PRNewsFoto (PRNewsFoto)Posted: 3:49 PM- Cases for seven children from one family, five from another and at least two fathered by polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs are among those set for court Monday as the next phase begins in the largest child welfare action in United States history.
In all, attorneys for at least 35 children or their parents will converge on the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo, Texas, for the first day of mandatory status hearings that continue through June 4.
Judge Barbara Walther, who in mid-April ordered the state to take custody of some 463 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has enlisted four other judges to help handle what are supposed to be routine updates.
However, attorneys frustrated by Walther's decision to treat the children as a group in April and later refusal to hear individual motions for their clients say they will make those arguments now at the status hearings.
"If individual children were wrongfully swept up in this raid because they have been neither abused nor neglected, the ongoing injustice to them is an unnecessary and indescribable tragedy," said Polly R. O'Toole, a Dallas attorney who represents one child.

"Systemic abuse."
Some attorneys are outraged by identical family service plans crafted by
Texas Child Protective Services for each child.
"They are still relying on the 'one household' theory," objects Laura Shockley, a Dallas attorney who represents a minor of disputed age and several other children.
The plans describe physical, sexual and emotional abuse the state says children taken from the sect's YFZ Ranch experienced.
That evidence: a "large number" of girls ages 14 to 17 who have children or are pregnant; "several" instances of broken bones that are suspicious for physical abuse or neglect; "possible" sexual abuse of young boys; apparent exclusion of older boys from the ranch; a "pattern of deception" in disclosing family relationships; and concerns about the children's homeschooling.
The department has said that 31 of 53 girls ages 14 to 17 are pregnant or mothers but has not released specifics. The group includes five teenagers and 26 women whose ages are in dispute -- two of whom the state now agrees are adults.
Pamela Jessop, who gave birth April 29 to her second child, was listed as "15 or 16" in a May filing related to taking custody of her newborn. A different document, filed in April, had said she was 18, as officials now acknowledge.
They also agree Louisa Jessop, who gave birth last Monday to her third child, is 22 years old.
Both women are in monogamous marriages and their attorneys say none of the state's allegations fit their situations.
But the state, as laid out in the service plans, maintains that the couples and other FLDS parents "have chosen to be members of a community that appears to support systemic abuse of children." And CPS workers have the backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who praised them last week for handling the complex case "professionally and compassionately."

Fighting for individual treatment.
The plans lay out a year-long process for being reunited with their children, identifying dozens of issues the parents must address. The plans warn that failure to cooperate could result in their children being placed in permanent state custody or put up for adoption.
Rene Haas, a Corpus Christi attorney and former district judge, said nothing in the en masse hearing before Walther or in the allegations laid out in the service plans pertains to her clients, Joseph and Lori Jessop, ages 27 and 25. They are the monogamous parents of three children ages 1 to 4.
"In this situation we don't have any immediate harm to the little children but they were taken anyway," Haas said, criticizing the mass removal of children.
"There were ways to effect change in this organization that did not include harming these children," Haas said.
Haas is among the attorneys who have had success getting some concessions from judges outside of Tom Green County. She was able, for example, to get daily visits for the couple with their children and to bar the state from separating Lori from her youngest son, who turned 1 on Thursday and is still nursing.
Walther had ordered that mothers could stay with nursing children only if they were younger than 12 months.

No quick homecoming.
While some attorneys plan to mount challenges during the status hearings, they concede chances any children now in group homes and shelters across Texas will be returned to their parents is unlikely.
"Anybody that has that hope is dreaming a good dream," Shockley said.
She said some disputed minors have been questioned during the past week by CPS and Texas Rangers without approval of their attorneys. The questions appeared aimed at building criminal cases and centered on ages and relationships among household members, she said.
"It is an absolute constitutional atrocity," she said.
She also believes the questioning is perhaps as a prelude to classifying more of the girls as adults or "aged out" foster care placements.

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Postby Marina » Sun May 18, 2008 2:16 pm

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080518/ap_ ... _retreat_1

Polygamist sect cases begin individual hearings

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
Sun May 18, 1:26 PM ET



SAN ANTONIO - The more than 400 children, from newborns to teens, forced from a polygamist sect's sprawling ranch during a raid six weeks ago and into foster care have been treated as a single group of abused and at-risk kids.



Starting Monday, judges will filter the unruly, chaotic custody dispute into hundreds of individual cases to determine what the parents must do to get their children back or whether their parental rights will be permanently severed.

This is standard operating procedure for family court, but these are hardly standard cases.

First, these families are comprised of at least 168 mothers and 69 fathers, reflecting the polygamy in the renegade Mormon sect.

And even as the hearings begin, the state hasn't matched more than 100 of the children with mothers. The first of court-ordered DNA test results won't be back for two to four weeks.

Two dozen of the children may actually be adults; authorities are still trying to sort out whether nearly half the teen girls they've had in foster care facilities are actually adults. Last week, they conceded two women who gave birth since the raid are actually 18 and 22.

While the hearings are intended to individualize the massive case, a spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, complained that the state has done just the opposite.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said the Child Protective Services plans for what the parents must do to get their children returned are identical except for the case number.

"CPS is still trying to treat them as a group," Parker said. "They really aren't focused on the individual needs."

CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said the state is using a "template" for the plans but insists they'll be individualized in coming weeks.

"The issues in these plans are very similar which is why we were able to use a template as a starting point," she said.

In a sample provided to The Associated Press, the plan does not outline a specific allegation of abuse involving a particular child and only repeats broad accusations made previously of the entire sect.

The template calls for parents to do things like "establish safe living arrangements" and "follow the recommendations of professionals who will be working with you to develop the skills necessary to work with your child."

The template plan does not require them to renounce polygamy or to offer guarantees that their children will not be pushed into underage or polygamous marriages or teen pregnancies.

Meisner said that with so many cases, "it certainly requires a great deal of juggling." But she said the agency is committed to seeing every child treated individually.

It won't be easy. All five of the courtrooms in the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo will be used for two hearings a day over three weeks.

State District Judge Barbara Walther, who ruled last month that FLDS children should be placed in foster care, will hear cases with the help of four other judges.

In all, the state has 463 children in its custody, including 10 who are believed to be those of the sect's jailed leader and prophet Warren Jeffs. Jeffs was convicted in Utah of being an accomplice to rape in the marriage of a 14-year-old to a 19-year-old.

The FLDS children were removed from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado during a raid that began April 3 after someone called a domestic abuse hotline claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old abused by a middle-aged husband. The girl has never been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

Child welfare authorities seized the children, arguing there was widespread abuse by FLDS parents who forced underage girls into marriage and sex and trained boys to become future perpetrators. FLDS members deny any abuse.

The first custody hearing was a legal circus as hundreds of lawyers crammed into a courtroom and nearby auditorium linked by video to represent the individual children and parents. The hearing spawned an avalanche of constitutional claims from parents.

Walther said she'd do everything she could to avoid another mass proceeding, but lawyers for the parents say it's unlikely the upcoming hearings will give any real opportunity for the return of children.

"There's no opportunity for the mothers to battle against the idea that the kids should have been taken away in the first place," said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid lawyers who represent 48 mothers in the case.

Any chance at reversal of the initial custody decision most likely comes from one of a number of appeals and claims pending in other courts.

Two claims pending before an appellate court in Austin ask it to force individual consideration of the removals and to examine whether the state fulfilled its obligation to make removal from the home a last resort.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Mon May 19, 2008 4:12 pm

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http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2008/ma ... in-yfz-be/

LIVE FROM THE COURTHOUSE:
Coverage of polygamist sect 60-day hearings
STAFF REPORT

Originally published 10:00 a.m., May 19, 2008
Updated 06:46 p.m., May 19, 2008



The sect custody cases have adjourned for the day. As further information becomes available Tuesday, gosanangelo.com will update this story with live coverage at the Tom Green County Courthouse.

Courtroom D - Jennifer Rios

"They're not the forest," DeLong said about the Jessops. "They're one tree in the forest."


Courtroom A - Jayna Boyle

Two FLDS members were reclassified today as adults - before the beginning of the 60-day hearings, Child Protective Services was including them in a group of underage girls with children.

The service plans developed by CPS for both women were not signed today by Judge Ben Woodward because he agreed to allow the women to meet with their attorneys and discuss any possible problems. Both women were at a shelter in Austin with their infant children and were participating in the hearings via phone.

CPS said the women, Sarah Cathleen Jessop and Merilyn Barrow, are 18 and considered adults.

Jessop's hearing was rescheduled for May 27 because her attorney, Amy Wells, was prepared to represent her as a minor and requested time to prepare to work with her as an adult.

Barrow's hearing proceeded because her service plan had already been filed, but her plan was not approved by the judge in an effort to allow her to meet with her attorney, Kelly Fitzgerald. The next hearing will be May 27, but if all parties agree to the service plan, an additional hearing won't be necessary.

To its knowledge, CPS does not have DNA samples collected from the fathers in both these cases.

Jessop identified Luke Jeffs Neilsen as the father of her son, while Barrow has not named the father of her son. However, CPS attorney Gary Banks said during the hearing that CPS has reason to believe the father is Allan Keate, although the man couldn't be found.

Part of the plan calls for Barrow to identify her son's father, undergo a psychological assessment and take parenting classes about Texas' laws of child abuse and neglect.

Lindsay Lanham, a CPS case worker, said CPS also encourages Barrow to further her education to help her take care of her family. CPS estimates she has an eighth- or ninth-grade education.

John T. Quinn, the attorney appointed to Barrow's son, said that because her son is 1- 1/2, that indicates that Barrow was underage when he was born and may lead to criminal charges once the father is identified, depending on the father's age at the time.

Fitzgerald said she was concerned that the service plan is geared toward perpetrators and not toward victims because of the wording, so she requested time to discuss it with Barrow.

Courtroom B - Matt Phinney

Another service plan was approved in Courtroom B today, and one case was delayed to gather more information on the child.

Kathleen Steed signed a family service plan regarding her daughter. The plan also will go into effect for her other 11 children whose cases were scheduled to be held this week. Judge Tom Gossett of the 391st District Court ruled that the service plan will encompass all the children so Steed will not have to come back to court.

Attorneys for Steed said her children are scattered statewide and wanted them to be put at one location, a notion that Gossett agreed with much like he did in this morning's case.

And just like he did this morning, Gossett said the ultimate goal is to reunite families, but he said custody could be restricted or terminated if the family does not work to meet the goals in the service plan.

He also said the father, identified as Leroy Steed, needs to work on the plan. A CPS worker testifying this afternoon said she is not the main case worker for Kathleen Steed and said that person was in court for another case today.

The witness said she has been told that Leroy Steed cannot be reached to serve notice to appear in court.

However, every reasonable avenue has been made to reach him, she said.

Attorneys for Kathleen Steed were granted a break to talk with CPS workers about amendments she wanted added to the service plan for consideration. After a 30-minute break, Gossett said Kathleen Steed would sign the service plan, but that she doesn't "agree with allegations in the service plan."

She also wrote her "hopes and dreams" for the children, which was added to the service plan.

Gossett asked whether Kathleen Steed read the service plan and she said yes. Then he asked whether she understood the service plan.

"Yes," she said softly, "but it's very broad."

"I just asked if you understood it," he said.

He also said her progress under the plan will be reviewed.

The children must continue to be educated, Gossett said, and the children need to be put together, but said it could take time to move children from various shelters.

Gossett said the service plan was appropriate, and the case was adjourned.

Courtroom A - Jayna Boyle

State 119th District Judge Woodward overruled motions by attorney Jerri Lynn Ward, representing one of the YFZ Ranch children, to abate and dismiss the case.

The CPS attorney called a CPS supervisor to testify. The supervisor said the child and Sarah Jessop's other children are ages 7, 9, 5, 4 and 18 months, and that they are spread across four locations around the state.

She said the goal in this case is reunification of the family, and 10 goals have been laid out in the service plan.

One of the crucial goals is to provide a safe environment for the children and be able to support them, she said.

Parents will be given a psychiatric evaluation, and children will be given school assessments.

The supervisor said CPS intends to allow the children to continue with home-schooling. CPS workers will observe how parents interact with the children.

"I did not discover until last night that a service plan had not yet been created," she said.

She said she wrote the service plan Sunday night, citing department oversight as the reason the plan had not been outlined sooner and sent to all involved attorneys.

When asked by attorneys whether the children could be moved to the same facility, she said that would be difficult to manage given the limited available spaces at any one facility.

Ward then called Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, as a witness. He discussed his communications with CPS in the past and said he has been informed that home-schooling does not put children at risk and is not a factor in removing children from homes.

After a five-minute break, Judge Woodward approved the service plan and ordered that the children not be moved to public schools.

"The key is going to be providing a safe environment for the children," Woodward said before adjourning the court for the morning.

Courtroom E - Rick Smith

One of Warren Jeffs' "wives" agreed to sign a plan developed by the state's Child Protective Services agency that could eventually reunite her with two of her children, while another of Jeffs' wives said she would follow the plan but would not sign it.

Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was mentioned several times in three hearings this morning conducted by retired District Judge Marilyn Aboussie.

Two hearings involved the sons of Brenda Jessop, who agreed to sign the plan.

The other hearing was for the daughter of Shannon Johnson, who agreed to follow the CPS plan that could reunite her with her daughter but said she would not sign the document. She said she believes the tasks outlined in the document are "unreasonably vague," said her lawyer, Jacques DeLaMota.

"You certainly have the right" not to sign, Aboussie said.

Another issue raised during the morninglong series of hearings was about the version of the Book of Mormon that has been distributed to children from the YFZ Ranch who are in state custody.

Children are accustomed to a pre-1978 version, but are being given newer editions, Aboussie was told.

"Work it out," Aboussie told lawyers and CPS staff members. "They need to have their religious texts."

Courtroom D - Jennifer Rios

8:30 a.m. - Judge Jay Weatherby waited for people to trickle into the courthouse before addressing the case of Sarah Keate Steed, who was served Friday with a service plan from Child Protective Services, and her husband David Jessop, who was not in court. In court, Steed presented CPS with a marriage certificate, and with birth certificates for her children.

Her attorney, D'Ann Johnson, moved that the case be dismissed, but Weatherby eventually signed the service plan.

The six children involved in the case, ranging in age from 7 months to 10 years, are in four shelters across Texas. Alison Albrecht, the primary Child Protective Services caseworker, was the only witness called to testify on behalf of the children, whose case she took two weeks ago.

Attorneys Mark Ticer, Jennifer Hancock and Jennifer Goldman asked for a more specific plan from CPS, which is using the same plan for all the YFZ Ranch cases.

Albrecht said CPS is not waiting for parenting classes to finish, or DNA results to decide to move the children closer together. She said the department continues work this week on the children's cases. After Johnson told the court that Steed was unable to contact two of her children on their birthdays this past week, Albrecht said she would arrange for phone calls on children's birthdays,

Goldman asked Albrecht whether she knew that her 3-year-old son was sick, had been ill several times since he was taken from his mother and cries himself to sleep. The caseworker said she was aware that the child had a cold. Albrecht said she knew the child had a "slight fever."

After an objection was made that Albrecht was being coached by a woman in the courtroom, Weatherby ordered that no nods or signals be exchanged. Ticer asked Albrecht to identify the woman, her supervisor, Patricia Magdaleno.

While Judge Weatherby agreed that the goal is to reunite the family in a safe environment, he responded to the attorneys' comments by saying that in his courtroom, there are few exceptions "where they don't want to go home."

Albrecht stepped down at 9:35 a.m.

A CASA guardian reported that she had not met the children's father, David Steed, and said she was worried about the children in Waxahachie listening to tapes of convicted felon Warren Jeffs. The judge asked her to listen to the tapes and, "We'll review them."

The judge signed the plan with the understanding that changes will be made to the service plan as the investigation continues.

Courtroom B - Matt Phinney

9:40 a.m. - Gossett ruled that the plan is reasonable and approved the service plan.

9:31 - Jeffs said she has read the family plan and understands it. Gossett said revisions to the plans are likely to make it meet the needs of individual families to provide a safe environment for the children. He wants Jeffs and the case worker to meet as soon as possible to work on more details about the plan.

The goal is reunification, he said.

He said he has some concerns with wording in the plan, such as the meaning of the word "inappropriate" in one specific sentence, but thinks that will get ironed out as more cases go before judges. He also expressed concern that Jeffs apparently agreed to follow the plans as long as it does not interfere with her religious beliefs. Gossett said the hearings are not about her religious beliefs but about the safety of the children, and state law will take precedence.

9:17 a.m. - Rod Parker, who has worked as spokesman for the families, entered the courtroom and sat at the back of the room.

The CPS worker said the family plan is a further step for family reuniting. Part of the family plan is to identify missteps in the family.

9:02 a.m. - Wylie cross-examines the witness. The CPS worker agrees amendments can be made to the service plan, but proposal for such a change would have to go up the chain of command. She can't make promises, she said, but she can promise to make sure Jeffs' concerns are heard. The CPS worker said she wants to meet with Jeffs as soon as possible to discuss concerns with the plan.

8:43 a.m. - The first and only witness this morning in courtroom B was called to the stand. A CPS worker said it has come to her attention that Jeffs' eight children have been placed in different sites, and the agency is working to get the family back together. Some had childhood illnesses, especially her one-and-a-half-year-old son. None of the illnesses was serious or required long-term care, the witness said.

The CPS worker said she sent the service plan to Wylie but has not met face to face with Jeffs because the mother of eight has been busy traveling across the state to see her children. No one has spoken to Allan Keate, the man identified as the children's father.

Wylie has sent a letter stating her concerns about the family service plan, the witness said. The CPS worker also said the Texas Education Agency is working on a placement exam to determine where the children are in terms of their education. Jeffs has twins, and reuniting them is a priority, the case worker said.

There is no timetable for family reunion, she said.

8:40 a.m. - The judge to Jeffs: "Mrs. Jeffs, I can imagine your level of anxiety is high. This is an important case, but a simple procedure."

The judge said the court is reviewing the service plan, a document designed to reunite the families.

8:32 a.m. - All rose as Judge Tom Gossett of the 391st District Court walked into the courtroom. Attorney Lexie Wylie and the woman from the ranch, later identified as Nora Jeffs, took their seats at a table closer to the bench. Marleigh Meisner, CPS spokeswoman, entered the courtroom and sat in the audience.

All parties agreed to hear the case of all of Nora Jeffs' eight children in one procedure.

8:20 a.m. - Attorneys walked around courtroom B during the first morning of the hearings. A CPS worker and an attorney talked to a woman from the YFZ Ranch who was wearing a light blue dress, who nodded but said nothing to the other two women.

* * *

Courtroom A - JAYNA BOYLE

Attorney Vera Bennett made a motion to continue the case and give her a few days to continue her search for the child, but the judge said he is bound by law to sign paperwork putting the case on hold.

9:17 a.m. - The judge begins hearing a case involving parents James Jerry Jessop, 32, and Sarah J. Jessop, 32. In a passionate speech, the couple's attorney made a motion to abate and dismiss the case, which would have the effect of returning their children to the parents.

She said the couple's children are not in imminent danger, and James Jerry Jessop was not served court documents until this morning.

"I appreciate your passion," Woodward said, but he indicated that he would not revisit some of her concerns with matters already ruled on at the 14-day, hearing which took place a month ago.

9:11 a.m. - Revisiting a case that the court quickly reviewed at the start of the morning, Judge Ben Woodward signed paperwork to put a case on hold involving a child called "Baby Girl Jessop."

Child Protective Services reported this morning that its workers do not believe the child exists. The child's mother, listed as Sarah Jessop or Sarah Barlow, could not be identified. The initial CPS raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranch near Eldorado began as a result of a phone call from a girl who identified herself as 16-year-old Sarah Jessop.

* * *

9 a.m., Courtroom C - Paul A. Anthony

51st District Judge Barbara Walther spent nearly as long waiting for attorneys to come in from other courtrooms as she did hearing the case of Samuel Jeffs.

Walther ultimately approved a service plan for Jeffs, the roughly 6-year-old son of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, as an attorney for the boy's mother, Sharon Barlow, criticized the plan as overlay vague.

"This plan is so vague and so broad that my client basically has no idea what to do now," Donna Guion said.

Child Protective Services case worker Joni Manske told the court the agency is working on creating more specificity once psychological testing on parents begins June 2.

The hearing began at 9 a.m., 30 minutes later than scheduled as attorneys handling cases in other courtrooms trickled in.

9 a.m. The massive child custody hearings in the polygamist sect's YFZ Ranch case began this morning as state Child Protective Services representatives told a judge that they believe one of the children scheduled for hearing this morning does not exist, and that the child's mother of record, Sarah Jessop, could not be located.

Sarah Jessop is the name given by the person who telephoned a San Angelo domestic violence shelter in March, filing the original complaint that triggered an April raid and the removal of more than 460 children from the 1,700-acre Schleicher County compound.

State 119th District Judge Ben Woodward was told at the opening of proceedings in Courtroom A that the child listed as "Baby Jessop," whose parents were shown as Sarah Jessop and Dale Evans Barlow, is not a real person.

Barlow was the only person in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints case for whom an arrest warrant was issued, and authorities, although they have spoken to Barlow and know his whereabouts, have not moved to arrest him.

The FLDS is a splinter Mormon sect whose religious beliefs include the practice of men taking multiple spiritual wives.

The person who told the domestic violence shelter that she was 16-year-old Sarah Jessop claimed that she was Barlow's seventh "wife," and that he was abusing her, triggering the search of the compound and the removal of the children there.

That was the surprising start of the round of 60-day hearings expected to tie up the entire Tom Green County courthouse for at least two weeks. The 60-day hearings are statutory requirements at which the state reports to a judge on the status of the child in custody. The hearings must be wrapped up by June 5.

The YFZ Ranch cases began April 3 when a small army of law enforcement and child protective services personnel started raiding the compound near Eldorado, and in a period of several days, took away all the children on the grounds that they were at risk of child abuse.

The fascination with polygamy, an unorthodox religious sect, potential child abuse and the law has again made San Angelo the focus of national - and in some case, world attention.

Satellite trucks surrounded the courthouse this morning as lawyers, witnesses, spectators and reporters lined up to enter the building, where five judges in five courtrooms were preparing to decide the next stages of the lives of hundreds of children involved in the child custody.

The children are in state custody and living in group foster care facilities around Texas.

As further information becomes available, gosanangelo.com will update this story with live coverage at the Tom Green County Courthouse.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Mon May 19, 2008 4:17 pm

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http://www.star-telegram.com/190/story/650196.html

Posted on Mon, May. 19, 2008print email Digg it del.icio.us AIM

Official: Polygamist leader's son was OK at ranch

By MICHELLE ROBERTSAssociated Press Writer
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File


SAN ANGELO, Texas -- A 6-year-old son of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs did not suffer physical or sexual abuse while living with his mother at the group's Texas ranch, a child welfare case worker testified Monday.

Child Protective Services case worker Joni Manske testified during one of several hearings in which more than 400 individual cases are being considered.

The massive custody cases got under way Monday in all five Tom Green County courtrooms, with parents learning what they must do to regain custody of the children. The hearings are expected to last three weeks.

Texas authorities have 463 children in foster care, taken because of allegations that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were forcing underage girls into marriage and sex at the sect's compound.

Members of the renegade Mormon sect, which teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven, have denied any abuse and said they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

The attorney for the boy's mother, Sharon Barlow, objected to the state plan for her to get the boy back, saying it wasn't clear enough. Barlow, 34, must take parenting classes, find a safe living environment and undergo a psychological evaluation, according to the plan.

"This plan is so vague and so broad that my client has no idea what she can do now," attorney Donna Guion said.

State District Judge Barbara Walther agreed the plan should be more specific and asked Guion to provide ideas on how that might be done.

Walther asked Barlow if she understood if her parental rights were subject to termination if she did not comply with the plan. Barlow softly replied "yes" but did not testify otherwise.

The boy is one of 10 in state custody believed to be the children of Jeffs, the sect's jailed leader and prophet. Jeffs was convicted in Utah of being an accomplice to rape in the marriage of a 14-year-old to a 19-year-old.

Authorities have not identified the mothers of more than 100 children. Officials have been trying to group siblings together with their mothers as the custody case moves forward. So far, 168 mothers and 69 fathers have been identified in court documents, though DNA test results are two to four weeks away.

Child welfare officials have complained that women and children have given different names and lied about ages. The agency has also struggled with identification of children and women because many have similar names, and some of the young women, who don't wear makeup and braid their hair, look much younger than their actual age.

As many as two dozen of the girls held in custody may be adults; authorities are still trying determine their actual ages.

...

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:05 pm

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http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/05/19/pol ... cnn_latest

updated 3:51 p.m. EDT, Mon May 19, 2008

Children of FLDS 'prophet' kept in foster homes

From Tracy Sabo
CNN


SAN ANGELO, Texas (CNN) -- Two children of jailed "prophet" Warren Steed Jeffs are among the hundreds of children removed from a polygamist ranch by child welfare authorities, court officials said Monday.

...

Many of the lawyers say their clients don't know where their children have been placed.

Some of that frustration was evident Monday in court.


One example was Nora Jeffs, who was in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Gossett. (She is not the mother of "prophet" Warren Jeffs' two children.)

Her eight children have been placed in eight locations, forcing her to travel throughout the state to visit them. Jeffs was hoping that child welfare officials could place the children together.

She was presented with a family service plan that requires parenting training, family counseling and psychological testing of the parents. The plan was created by attorneys and state welfare workers, but those who created the plan had not met with Nora Jeffs.

Because the travel to visit her children is taking so much of her time, Jeffs said she could not meet with officials to help make the plan. Still, she said, she will try to comply if it would return her children to her.

...

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:08 pm

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http://www.kvii.com/news/news_story.aspx?id=136310

Local attorney gives an update

By Sarah Davidson
Posted: Monday, May 19, 2008 at 7:08 p.m.

AMARILLO -- Although custody hearings got underway Monday, for the children removed from the West Texas polygamous sect, one Amarillo attorney is still awaiting his day in court.

Vince Nowak, who represents five boys from the Eldorado commune, said he would appreciate more communication from CPS (Child Protective Services) and the court system dealing with their cases. He said he was supposed to be in court Monday morning with one of his young clients, but that did not happen. He said he had to call and find out about his upcoming hearings.

"When I was appointed back in April to be this boy's Guardian ad litem, the judge's order clearly entitled to a notice of hearings, copies of pleadings and orders. I haven't received a notice of hearings, no pleadings, no orders. I learned through the media that the kids aren't able to testify in court," Nowak said. "I can't walk across the street to the courthouse in San Angelo once a day to see what's been filed. I just can't do that, which is why I've given the clerk's office, judge's office, CPS, my mailing address, email and all phone numbers. They can get a hold of me! So is it my obligation to get notice? No! It's my obligation to act upon it, once I get it."

Nowak has even written a letter to the judge, requesting better communication.

"I'm not getting anything the way attorneys typically get their information and that's from the court. Is it frustrating? It's infuriating. This child is entitled to effective representation. When the lawyer doesn't get notification and the child is excluded from being there, that's a sham! Neither CPS nor the court has yet to get their arms around this huge mess and when I hear the excuse 'we have 465 kids to look over,' that's not the kid's making. They didn't put themselves in this situation, the state of Texas did."

Nowak also mentioned that he talks to his five young clients on a regular basis and they are adjusting to their environment (to an extent).

"They're fishing, riding horses, playing games, saying their daily prayers, eating well, but they want to go home. They're getting more and more frustrated. It's not like they're at summer camp. They've been removed from their home and their mothers," Nowak said. "One of the boys calls me everyday and it's frustrating and heart-wrenching. I want to be able to tell him something, but I can't tell him what's going to happen next, especially when the court doesn't even tell me 'Hey, we have a hearing set for your boy.' I can't even tell them why they can't go home because I haven't even been given a reason why."

Nowak said Monday's court-date has not been re-scheduled. The cases for the other four boys are set for next few weeks.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:18 pm

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http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/ ... 6.html?npc

FLDS lawyers pan custody rules

Web Posted: 05/20/2008 12:50 AM CDT

By Terri Langford and Lisa Sandberg
Express-News

SAN ANGELO — Attorneys for parents belonging to a polygamist sect criticized Texas Child Protective Services on Monday for trying to broker reconciliation plans that were short on specifics and long on requirements that could be impossible to complete.



“This plan is so vague and so broad my client has no idea what she's to do now,” said Donna Guion, attorney for Sharon Barlow, one of the many wives of imprisoned Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prophet Warren Jeffs.

Barlow, who has a 6-year-old son with Jeffs, was the first of hundreds of parents scheduled to appear at three weeks of hearings before five judges at the Tom Green County Courthouse designed to inform the judicial system about the progress made in each child's case.

Barlow's child is one of 463 initially taken from the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch on April 4 and 5 after CPS determined that some underage girls were forced to have sex with older men through “spiritual marriages” and that all the children were either abused or at risk of abuse.

Barlow's son is one of 10 children in CPS custody belonging to Jeffs, who was convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry a 19-year-old.


Since last week, CPS officials have begun publicly stressing that reuniting the children with their parents is the ultimate goal in this case, just as it is in every abuse case.

“The goal is reunification, and we're going to do what we can to make sure this happens,” said Patrick Crimmins, CPS spokesman.

But attorneys for parents and children insist that CPS' “family service plans” are unworkable, as they are not tailored for specific families, had little input from parents and, in some cases, drafted hours before Monday's hearings.

“I believe this plan was made by someone in Austin who doesn't know these children and has never met these children,” said Thomas H. Morris, attorney for Richard Jessop, father of six children in CPS custody.

The agency defended what FLDS spokesman Rod Parker called “cookie-cutter” service plans, insisting the plans are merely a starting point for both sides.

Like the chaotic initial mass hearing of all 463 cases last month, these status hearings in which parents are supposed to say whether they are willing to comply with requirements from the state — submitting to psychological evaluations, a willingness to move into a home outside the ranch and attend parenting classes — were bogged down by challenges from attorneys.

Since the initial raid, two more children have been born and several “disputed minor” girls have now been ruled adults, bringing the ever-changing total of children in care to 465.

Several parents refused to sign the plan.

Other requirements, like forcing Barlow to undergo an educational evaluation to find out how much schooling she had — not her child — was viewed by Guion as extraordinary and not necessary.

Eventually, both sides agreed to meet to hammer out a better, more specific plan.

In state District Judge Ben Woodward's courtroom, the questions came fast and furious at CPS supervisor Karrie Emerson from several attorneys representing the six children belonging to parents Sarah and James Jessop.

The Jessops' case highlighted how sibling groups are so spread out they make compliance to service plans that will require interacting with their children nearly impossible.

Emerson seemed unfazed when confronted with the fact that the Jessops' six children were spread out among foster homes in four different parts of Texas: Waco, Houston, Liverpool and Amarillo.

“Most of the children we deal with are oftentimes split up because of the problems with foster care placements,” Emerson said.

Crimmins said the agency tries its best to put all siblings together when possible, but emphasized that from early on, the information from both parents and children about whom they belong to has made the job difficult. State workers have reported that both have given incorrect names and relationships from one another. Sect members say that simply is not true, that they only tried to correct CPS when the agency had incorrect names.

Also, attorneys for the parents zeroed in on the fact that CPS officials listed concerns over the children's home-schooling — not child abuse — as the reason for the agency's involvement.

Attorneys asked Emerson why home-schooling, something perfectly legal in the state, would be listed as a reason for CPS involvement. Emerson did not have an answer.

The caseworkers who took the stand were not the investigators, who could provide real insight as to why each child was taken into custody. CPS has said all of the children were either abused or “at risk” but has provided little in the way of real information about individual children and what makes their case the state's problem.

Instead, the agency called upon supervising caseworkers or those “conservatorship” workers who managed the child's paperwork.

While supervisors' lack of informative details frustrated attorneys and could leave the average spectator with an image of a bungling bureaucracy, it gave the agency an extra shield of deniability and may have been a shrewd legal move to keep details about the individual cases from surfacing before the abuse investigation is finished.

One mysterious note: The case of the 16-year-old known as “Sarah” whose teary call to a San Angelo women's shelter claiming she was sexually and physically abused by husband and sect member Dale Barlow, prompted the YFZ Ranch raid.

The state has all but declared the call a hoax after the phone number was traced to a Colorado woman with a history of pretending to be an abused child. The Texas Department of Public Safety even withdrew its arrest warrant for Barlow.

But CPS has said nothing about whether they think “Sarah” is real or not, saying that the call didn't force them to remove the children, and that what they found, which has yet to be truly revealed, did.

Early Monday, CPS attorney Gary Banks asked that the case of “Baby Jessop,” naming Sarah as the mother and Barlow as the father, be dismissed.

“We're not saying that the child doesn't exist, but at this time we don't believe she's in our custody,” Banks said.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:26 pm

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http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chr ... 92428.html

May 20, 2008, 3:28PM

Sect children not to hear leader's name, Texas CPS says


By LISA SANDBERG and TERRI LANGFORD
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News



SAN ANGELO — Texas child welfare officials acknowledged today that the agency has isolated the children it removed from a polygamist community from any mention of the group's spiritual leader, who was convicted as an accomplice to rape last year for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl.

The name of Warren Jeffs cannot be uttered, even by family members visiting their children in foster care at facilities around the state, a Child Protective Services attorney confirmed.

And Jeffs' picture cannot be circulated, even in religious literature, a CPS caseworker confirmed in court today during the first week of custody hearings for children taken from a Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints' ranch in West Texas.

There now are 460 children who remain in temporary state custody as CPS investigates its concerns about child abuse at the 1,700-acre ranch. Evidence of underage marriages, pregnancy and motherhood there led CPS to allege all the children were at risk.

At this week's hearings, parents are seeking to regain custody.

CPS caseworker Daniel Medrano confirmed that children in his care at the Cal Farley Ranch in Amarillo could have access to the Book of Mormon "as long as it doesn't have Warren Jeffs' picture or his signature."

"I'm just following the rules of the department," he told the court in a case involving Janet Jeffs Nielson, a mother of five.

At a custody case involving a younger brother of Jeffs named Seth Jeffs, a CPS attorney confirmed that family members were barred from mentioning the religious leader in visits with their children.

"He's the children's uncle, so they're saying you can't even tell stories about growing up," said Nancy DeLong, an attorney for one of Seth Jeffs' five wives.

DeLong noted that the agency's family service plan makes no mention of such restrictions.

"I think they'd be very careful having any abridgement of religious freedom in writing," she said.

Leaving the courtroom, Seth Jeffs, who has 18 children, called the restrictions "not very pleasing," but said "we'll do whatever it takes to get the children back."

...

Warren Jeffs is "a family member and a priest in our church," said Carl Kolb, an attorney for Seth Jeffs.

Marleigh Meisner, a CPS spokeswoman, clarified later that members of the Jeffs family can discuss Warren Jeffs with their own children. But the agency will not allow Jeffs to be discussed with any of the other children, despite the fact that he is still the church's recognized leader.

"He is a convicted sex offender and we have an issue with Mr. Jeffs," Meisner said.

No resident of the Yearning for Zion Ranch has been charged with a sex-related crime. The compound was built at Warren Jeffs' direction, starting in 2004, and was raided April 3 in response to an anonymous sexual abuse complaint that now is believed to have been a hoax.

In two custody hearings, attorneys complained that copies of the Book of Mormon were taken from the children while they were in foster care.

Meisner said that's not true.

The state conceded this morning that two more mothers whom CPS had considered minors were actually adults, making five such acknowledgements in all. That resulted in 460 children now in custody, down from a high of 465.

An attorney for CPS said the agency now considers Janet Jeffs to be "18 or older." But in a conference call to the court, Janet Jeffs, now 19, revealed that she was a month shy of her 17th birthday when her daughter, Ziona Beth, was born on Aug. 19, 2005. Jeffs said she was born on Sept. 16, 1988.

She also told the judge that she had not seen her husband in about a year and did not know his whereabouts.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:32 pm

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/us/20raid.html

Far-Flung Placement of Children in Texas Raid Is Criticized

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: May 20, 2008

SAN ANGELO, Tex. — Texas policy holds that when children are taken from their parents for investigation of possible abuse, geographic distances should be kept to a minimum to allow supervised visitation.

That has not, by a wide Texas mile, been the experience of Nora Jeffs, who was among the dozens of women attending court hearings here on Monday. Since her eight children were taken in the raid at a polygamist compound last month, Ms. Jeffs has been transformed into more or less an itinerant traveler, trying to visit her children, who are 18 months old to 14 years old, according to a state case worker.

Ms. Jeffs has two children in foster care in Amarillo, up in the Panhandle; one in Gonzales in south-central Texas; two in San Antonio, in Central Texas; and three in Waco, halfway between Dallas and Austin, a lawyer for Ms. Jeffs said. The closest are about 150 miles from her home in Eldorado, and the farthest are more than nine hours apart by car.

The children themselves, who are not allowed to travel while in state custody, are being encouraged to use conference telephone calls to stay in touch and to send drawings and letters.

“Her children are scattered to all corners of Texas,” said the case worker, Irene Schwaninger, in a hearing before Judge Thomas Gossett. “It’s something I’m working to rectify to the best of my ability.”

The hearings, technically meant as a 60-day check-up of the state’s plan in handling the children and families of the raid, have exposed the clanking machinery of the Texas child welfare apparatus, which has strained at the seams and spent millions of dollars to handle one of the biggest and most complex child welfare cases in the nation’s history.

Altogether, 465 children are now in state custody, after being taken from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F.L.D.S., in a raid that began on April 3 after someone called an abuse hot line and said that she was a 16-year-old child bride being abused by her older husband in the church’s compound in Eldorado, about 45 miles south of here. The caller has still not been found.

The hearings, which are expected to go on for several weeks — one at a time before five judges at the Tom Green County Courthouse here — are the beginning step of differentiating all those families and children into individuals with their own stories.

In a first round of hearings last month, lawyers represented groups of families and children. And even on Monday, there were moments of confusion. Some children, for example, still have names and ages rendered different ways in state records.

Many of the families are also related and share last names like Jeffs, which is also the name of the F.L.D.S. leader, Warren S. Jeffs, who was convicted last year on a rape charge for imposing marriage between an under-age girl and older man in Utah. (Whether Ms. Jeffs is related to Warren Jeffs could not be determined on Monday.)

In one case on Monday afternoon, a lawyer for a mother of four named Carlene Jessop argued that the state was lumping all the families together and not acknowledging that some of them lived apart from the communal experience that the state said exposed the children to the under-age marriage practices.

“This family is not part of a commune,” said the lawyer, Nancy B. DeLong, referring to Ms. Jessop and her husband, William S. Jessop, who have said they have four children together, from 8 years old to almost 2, now in state custody. “They need to be separated out.”

Ms. DeLong argued that the Jessop case should be separated out from the larger mass of F.L.D.S. custody cases because the family’s pattern is so different. Judge Jay Weatherby denied the motion but said he would be willing to revisit it later.

In Ms. Jeffs’s case, which was the first of the day in Judge Gossett’s court, and took just over an hour, moments of cool if jargon-filled bureaucracy were interspersed with periods of seemingly heartfelt emotion.

Judge Gossett, in approving the state’s interim plan for the family — that the children remain in state custody — but reserving the right to amend it later, had stern words for Ms. Jeffs, who said in a written statement supplied by her lawyer that she would do anything to get her children back and ensure their welfare as long as it did not violate the precepts of her religious belief.

“That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence,” Judge Gossett said, staring down from the bench at Ms. Jeffs, who was dressed in a pale-blue prairie dress. “Your right to your religious belief ends when it violates the law.”

...

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:40 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/20 ... olygamist/

LIVE FROM THE COURTHOUSE: Day 2 of the polygamist sect's 60-day hearings

Staff report

Originally published 10:44 a.m., May 20, 2008
Updated 03:46 p.m., May 20, 2008



The stream of status hearings in the state's custody action toward the more than 450 children removed from the polygamist sect's YFZ Ranch continues today in the Tom Green County Courthouse, with five courtrooms allocated to the unprecedented cases. Standard-Times reporters will file from all five courtrooms throughout the day.

Courtroom A and D - Jayna Boyle

The count of children continues to fall - at least five non-suits were filed this afternoon in two courtrooms as CPS acknowledged that cases they thought involved minors actually involved adult women.

Courtroom A - Jayna Boyle

Child Protective Services attorney Gary Banks said this morning that CPS is working with authorities in Arizona to obtain a DNA sample from Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned prophet/leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Two hearings in Courtroom A in the Tom Green County Courthouse today focused on alleged children of Warren Steve Jeffs.

CPS presented service plans that were much the same as other plans developed for FLDS families - they outline goals that parents can strive for to get their children back. The plans included psychiatric assessments, educational assessments of children and the need to get a steady income to support the children.

One of Jeffs' "wives," Shannon Johnson, had three children mentioned in her hearing. Her situation was unique because her mother, Janet Johnson, left the polygamist sect in 1983 and now lives near San Antonio.

Janet Johnson, who was present for the hearing, said she would like to take custody of her three grandchildren. Attorneys for the children said they want to pursue that arrangement, and Banks said CPS would look into it.

Janet Johnson was not available for comment after the hearing.

Courtroom D - Jennifer Rios

An excommunicated member of the FLDS living in Utah apart from his family said he would move to Texas if that's what it would take to get his children back.

Arthur L. Barlow testified today in 340th District Judge Jay Weatherby's courtroom on behalf of himself and his children's mother, Esther Jessop Barlow.

Weatherby signed the service plan after allowing Arthur Barlow to participate in the hearing with the understanding he was waiving his right to object to jurisdiction. Barlow asked the court to appoint an attorney for him.

He said he had not seen Esther Barlow or his children in years, and he has never been to the YFZ Ranch.

"I don't know what road to take," he said.

Child Protective Services caseworker Ashley Kennedy said the union "could have been a spiritual marriage," and that Esther was relocated to the ranch.

Barlow said he prefers to stay in southern Utah but is willing to move to Texas to get the children back.

"I can honestly say there's not a better mother for these children than Esther," Barlow said. "She's a perfectly balanced mother."

CPS attorney Charla Edwards suggested that parental absence could be a form of abuse or neglect, and Barlow answered for his actions.

He said he has seen custody cases "where children are pawns," and, "There's kidnapping back and forth" between parents. His decision to leave was to avoid that, he said.

In another case before Weatherby, a child was reclassified as an adult. Natalia Jessop attended the hearing by telephone, verified she is an adult and was granted a motion of non-suit. Jessop then requested to have an attorney appointed to represent her as a mother rather than as one of the children in the case.

Courtroom E - Sun Cha

Daniel Medrano, a caseworker for the 15-year-old son of Janet Jeffs Nielson and Wendell Loy Nielson, said he hadn't known the child suffers from Hirschsprung's Disease, a digestive disorder requiring a special diet.

In Courtroom E this morning, Janet Nielson and her attorney, Tamara Duncan, brought the condition of the child to the attention of Medrano, who serves as the caseworker for two of Janet Nielson's five children removed from the YFZ Ranch in the April raid there.

Both children are at Cal Farley's Boys Ranch near Amarillo, where Medrano said there is adequate medical staff to serve Joshua's needs.

Duncan said her client had some concerns about the service plan and asked whether the court received the written attachment she had filed with the service plan. Judge Marilyn Aboussie confirmed the court did receive the document, whose details were not revealed.

Nielson also announced her desire to have all of her five children moved to Cal Farley's so they may be together.

Medrano said there is no room at the ranch, and Aboussie agreed, saying, " Placements are scarce everywhere, not just there."

When asked whether the children at Cal Farley's can attend church, Medrano said, "Yes."

Duncan asked Medrano whether Joshua could have access to religious materials.

"The department would like to provide books as long as it doesn't have Warren Jeffs' picture or signature on it," Medrano said.

"Why?" said Duncan.

"Just following the rules of the department at this time," Medrano said.

Aboussie said that Jeffs - the spiritual leader of the FLDS - is a felon convicted on sex-related charges.

Under questioning by the judge, Janet Nielson said the children's father, Wendell Loy Nielson, could not be located and had not been given a copy of the service plan. She said he travels frequently.

Duncan asked the judge about the written objection she filed to the service plan. Aboussie replied that Janet Nielson has signed the service plan, denoting agreement.

Duncan said her client signed the service plan with the intent to cooperate. Aboussie overruled the objection.

Courtoom C - Matt Phinney

Warren Jeffs' younger brother said today he is ready to work with Child Protective Services to get his children back while attorneys for his family hammered away at the family service plan.

Seth Steed Jeffs and his wife, Kathyrn Jeffs, this morning were in Courtroom C, where 51st District Judge Barbara Walther is presiding. Attorneys for the family blasted the service plan as too vague and said it does not specify what the family needs to do to get the children back.

Seven children were listed on the court documents pertaining to the couple.

Warren Jeffs was the spiritual leader of the polygamist sect, and he is serving prison time on two convictions of being an accessory to rape for forcing a 14-year-old to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

Carl Kolb, a lawyer from San Antonio, represented Seth Jeffs in court today, and Nancy DeLong from Corpus Christi represented Kathyrn Jeffs.

The service plans were approved, but not without arguments from the parents' attorneys.

Both argued there is no indication any of the children have been physically, mentally or sexually abused. Kolb said the only connection between the Jeffses and other families where abuse is suspected is their religious beliefs, drawing a connection to religious persecution.

"They took my clients' kids away," Kolb said. "What's the common denominator?"

Kolb also said CPS keeps his clients from mentioning Warren Jeffs when they see their children, even though he is a family member and religious leader.

"What's the state's argument, that to mention him by name, who's locked away in prison, is equivalent of child abuse?" he said after the hearing. "That's a pretty big stretch."

After the hearing, Seth Jeffs spoke briefly to several reporters.

Tall and thin, wearing a blue shirt, blue tie and blue pants, Seth Jeffs spoke softly and evenly.

He said his family is doing "pretty well."

"It's not very pleasing," he said about not being able to speak about his brother. "But we are ready to work with CPS. We're ready to do what it takes to get our children back."

Courtroom B - Rick Smith

Service plans were approved for two young siblings by 391st District Judge Tom Gossett this morning. A 3-year-old boy and his 1-year-old sister are living in a child-care facility in San Antonio.

The children's parents, Josephine Johnson and Joseph Johnson, were at today's hearing.

Juan Martinez, a child protection specialist with the state Child Protective Services, testified that the children are together. He said the children suffered from stomach viruses earlier, but "both are doing fine right now."

In approving the service plans for the children, Gossett said the documents are "works in progress" that will be fine-tuned over time as parents and CPS workers get to know one another better.

"It's not set in stone," Gossett said of the service plan. "We will work to individualize the plans."

In answer to a lawyer's question, Gossett said the court will respect the parents' wishes on home-schooling.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 6:55 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/20 ... e-forward/

State eases sect case forward

By Paul A. Anthony (Contact)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Judges and attorneys grappled with a sprawling, contentious first day of YFZ Ranch status hearings that included nonexistent children, children with identical birthdates, and numerous delays.

Both inside the Tom Green County Courthouse and out, attorneys for women and children removed from the Schleicher County compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continued their verbal battles with the state's Child Protective Services agency - issuing dozens of objections to the broad nature of the service plans issued to parents by the state.

"It's illegal to take 462 children on allegations that cannot be confirmed," said local attorney Gonzalo Rios, whose client, Cynthia Joy Jessop, refused to sign her service plan. "Here we are 60 days later, and they're still treating everyone like a bunch of abusers."

The CPS case took some blows - state attorneys acknowledged they still cannot find the 16-year-old girl Sarah and do not believe her baby exists, two key elements of the initial phone call that led to the weeklong raid on the compound begun April 3 but that is now widely believed to have been a hoax.

Additionally, CPS filed a notice of non-suit on Marilyn Barlow, acknowledging the teenage mother is actually an adult, and the agency is likely to file another such acknowledgement within days, said CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner. That would bring the number of children involved in the case to 462.

The five state district judges hearing the cases uniformly approved and signed the more than 40 proposed service plans, which set goals for parents that include psychiatric testing, parental training and counseling, overruling objections that the documents are essentially vaguely worded boilerplate that do not address each family's specific situation.

That left FLDS representatives infuriated after the hearings. Spokesman Rod Parker lashed out with his strongest denunciation yet of CPS' actions in the case.

"These CPS people are not humane," Parker told a media scrum outside the courthouse, arguing that the plans were kept purposely vague to court failure from the parents. "This is about winning at all costs for them. This is out of control."

Meisner rejected that characterization, acknowledging the plans' breadth but saying that was to allow for more flexibility for parents to negotiate with CPS case workers in coming weeks.

Throughout the hearings Monday, case workers told attorneys they aim to discuss the plans further with FLDS parents, particularly after psychological evaluations begin June 2. All the plans have family reunification by April 2009 as their stated goal.

"One of the most important goals we have is to help every one of these mothers be successful," Meisner said. "We believe reunification is very possible for these mothers and children."

The judges also seemed skeptical of claims that the service plans are too broad.

Confronted with an objection by Thomas H. Miller III, an attorney for FLDS father Richard Jessop, that the plan for his client was too vague, 51st District Judge Barbara Walther walked point by point through the plan and asked Miller to describe what specifics he wanted to add.

"I don't want to waste the court's time," Miller replied, "but I don't want to drop my client into the fire."

The hearings moved at a jerky pace, proceeding quickly once begun but often held in limbo for 30 minutes or more as attorneys involved in multiple cases - and some representing as many as 11 clients - rushed from one courtroom to another.

Attorneys and FLDS members often milled in the halls, some talking at length for the first time. During one interlude, a trio of sect women in traditional full-length dresses pored over stacks of legal documents with their attorneys on benches in one hallway of the courthouse.

The confusion that has reigned over much of the case, now considered the largest child-custody proceeding in U.S. history, manifested itself throughout the day as some attorneys arrived in court with files for identically named children with different birthdates, while others requested delays because they had not yet seen copies of the service plans.

In many cases, family groups of six to eight children each are scattered across the state, including one family with children in Amarillo, Abilene and Corpus Christi - making visitation, one of the requirements of the service plans, all but impossible.

Case workers said they would try to ease visitation concerns and rearrange children to bring siblings closer together.

"These people are not cattle and should not be treated like cattle," said Jerri Lynn Ward, an attorney for FLDS father James Jerry Jessop.

Ultimately, attorneys' reactions to the plans varied widely. While some, such as Rios, objected strongly to the broad allegations of abuse contained in them and instructed their clients not to sign the documents, others took a more measured approach.

In one case, FLDS mother Nora Jeffs told 391st District Judge Tom Gossett she would sign the plan only if it did not conflict with her religious beliefs.

Gossett said he could make no such promises if her religion breaks the law.

"I need to assume you will not allow the children to be abused," he said.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 7:07 pm

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http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,5143,700227609,00.html

Four more FLDS 'disputed minors' declared adults

By Ben Winslow
Deseret News
Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 4:44 p.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Four FLDS women whom Texas officials believed were minors have now been declared adults.
While holding hearings to determine plans that could eventually reunite many of the more than 450 children with their parents, judges here have also been wading into the cases of 26 young women called "disputed minors." The state believes they are underage, but Fundamentalist LDS Church members have insisted they are adults.

Judge Jay Weatherby has been overseeing a full docket involving the young women. On Tuesday morning, Natalia Jessop, 18, was declared an adult.

"Ms. Jessop, is that your belief as well? That you are an adult?" the judge asked her.

"Yes," she replied over the phone from a shelter where she has been staying.

The judge postponed a decision on Mildred "Millie" Jessop until Thursday, when a hearing will be held for her children.

After reviewing testimony, Weatherby declared three other "disputed minors" adults Tuesday afternoon: Evelyn Allred, Rebecca Allred and Monica Jessop.

"Do I have the right to act like an adult?" Evelyn Allred asked the judge by telephone during her hearing.

Weatherby assured her that new accommodations would be made for her "adult status," including increased access to a telephone. She will remain in a foster facility because she has an infant son and he remains in state custody.



Texas Child Protective Services has allowed mothers of children 12 months and younger to remain with them, largely because the mothers have wanted to breastfeed their children.
In another courtroom, Dan and Louisa Jessop's lawyers tried to get Judge Barbara Walther to recuse herself from the massive child custody case. It was Walther who gave the order placing all of the children in state custody. In this case, she was asked to step away from the Jessop's case because of an order she issued putting Louisa Jessop's baby in state custody. The motion was denied.

"That was a very uphill battle, but it did expose some issues with the way the hearings have been handled," said Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS people.

Jessop, 22, was recently declared an adult just after she gave birth to a baby. She did not appear in court on Tuesday for a hearing involving her children.

"She's with her baby in San Antonio," her husband said.

Five judges are simultaneously hearing case after case in a schedule that's set to last three weeks. Parents are being pushed to sign family service plans that include allegations about child abuse within the polygamous sect and what mothers and fathers must do to ensure their children are safe and can be reunited with them.

During today's hearings, there was more confusion over names, birthdates and identities of children.


Page: 2

Attorney Deborah Keenun appeared in court for a hearing involving a baby — alongside the parents and attorneys for three other children with the same name. It happened again in another courtroom.
"I had parents who drove in from San Antonio," she said.

There was more confusion here as well about a case involving people that many believe do not even exist.

Texas Child Protective Services attorneys have now dismissed the custody action involving a child alleged to belong to Sarah Jessop and Dale Evans Barlow.

"To our knowledge, we don't have that baby in custody," said Texas CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

"Sarah" is the name of the girl who called in to a family crisis shelter here, claiming she was 16, pregnant and in an abusive, polygamous marriage to a man named Dale Evans Barlow. That call prompted the raid on the YFZ Ranch and the removal of all of the Fundamentalist LDS children.

Authorities continue to investigate if the call was a hoax; a Colorado woman has been named as a "person of interest" in the investigation and was arrested on similar charges. A warrant for Barlow, who lives in Arizona, has been dropped.

A custody action involving "Sarah" herself has yet to hit court, but it will likely result in a dismissal.



"To our knowledge, we can't identify that we have her," Meisner said Tuesday.
Interestingly enough, ex-FLDS members have appeared in court to offer custody solutions. Arthur L. Barlow appeared in court alongside his estranged wife, Esther, to plead for the children to be returned.

Barlow said he was excommunicated from the FLDS Church four years ago, but his wives remained. He learned that his children were in Texas custody when a brother-in-law called him, asking if he could help.

He hasn't seen Esther, or the five children he had with her, since then. He recently visited his 6-year-old daughter, whom he said didn't recognize him at first.

"I chose to stay away and let them have a life," he said Tuesday.

Barlow said he adamantly disagreed with the allegations of abuse on the YFZ Ranch, even though he has never been there himself.

"How does this involve me?" he asked CPS caseworker Ashley Kennedy.

"Your children were on the ranch. We found reason to believe there was a pervasive pattern of sex abuse. Your children were at risk," she replied.

"You have no proof I'm guilty of those. If I'm not guilty, why can't I have my children?"

Barlow said he wants his children to be returned to their mother, but offered to take them himself as a "plan B." CPS workers conceded that Esther Barlow was on the "fast track" for reunification. She had already completed a psychological evaluation and had signed a lease on a three-bedroom home.


Page: 3

Arthur Barlow was not the only father who is here to offer support for reunification. Frank Johnson traveled from his home in Utah to offer support. He said that he left the FLDS faith.
"Texas is mixed up," he said of the custody situation.

Texas child welfare authorities maintain that children on the ranch were abused or at risk of abuse. During one hearing for a 1-year-old boy, it was revealed that the child's mother is 17, and theoretically, it makes her 15 when her son was conceived.

The child's father did not show up in court. The hearing was continued because the mother is eight months pregnant now.

"We've always known that there are one or two or three examples of that out there," Parker told the Deseret News. "What I've always been denying is there are 26 or 31 examples, which is what CPS has claimed."

The hearings in the largest custody case in U.S. history are the first step for FLDS parents to be reunited with their children seized in the raid on the YFZ Ranch — or see their parental rights taken away.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 7:24 pm

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http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,5143,700227301,00.html

Attorneys agitated about FLDS family plans; judge questions why Books of Mormon were removed

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue and Ben Winslow
Deseret News
Published: Monday, May 19, 2008 9:43 p.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Hearings to discuss custody of FLDS children resumed this afternoon with attorneys for parents and children becoming increasingly agitated about the lack of personalization and specifics in the family service plans.
Nancy Delong, who represents Carlene Jessop, a mother of four children in state custody, attacked the plan in court, saying it is not specific to her client.

"The plan that has been filed is not specific to Ms. Jessop," she said.

"It is specific to Ms. Jessop," Joni Manske, a Texas Child Protective Services worker replied.

"It's specific to Ms. Jessop, just like it is for 400 other children?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Delong also criticized the many requirements necessary for her client to be reunited with her children, which include open-ended suggestions such as parenting, psychological and vocational classes. Those requirements are in addition to Jessop's weekly visits with her children, who are scattered in facilities a day's travel apart.

"What are you going to do to help her?" Delong asked the CPS worker.

"I don't know the answer to that," Manske replied.

Jessop's husband, William Sunderland Jessop, sat near her in court. His attorney accused CPS of preparing a plan involving him and his children without ever talking to him.



Manske replied that the plans could be amended.
Another attorney in a separate courtroom pleaded with Judge Barbara Walther to instruct CPS workers to be more responsive.

"I'd like a little respect here," said Billy Britt Jarvis. He said he's made repeated phone calls to the agency on behalf of his client, a little boy, and has had very little response.

Criticism over the plans also focused on the lack of attorneys having a chance to review them. In some cases, even the parents have not seen the plans.

"I'd like some respect, too, like that other attorney said. This plan wasn't even presented to my client until Saturday," said Thomas H. Morris III. He represents Samuel Jessop, who with his wife Cynthia Joy, has several children in state custody throughout the state of Texas.

• A young son of FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was among the first children discussed in a custody hearing this morning in what will be weeks of court proceedings to determine the fate of hundreds of children taken from the YFZ Ranch.

Walther approved a family service plan for reuniting 6-year-old Samuel with his mother Sharon Barlow, 35, who appeared in the courtroom. The boy is in state custody in Amarillo.

The goal is reunification by April 13, 2009.

Jeffs, currently incarcerated in an Arizona jail, was mailed a notice of Monday's hearing. Samuel is Barlow's only child.


Page: 2

Barlow's attorney, Donna Guion, listed a number of objections to the service plan.
"It is so vague and so broad my client has no idea of what she needs to know" to comply, she said.

As part of the plan, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services wants to assess not only the educational ability of the boy but that of his mother as well. It wants Barlow to submit to a variety of tests to determine her vocational interests.

The department also wants her to undergo psychological testing which will inevitably decide what types of parenting classes she may need to take.

Barlow is willing to do whatever the state requires if it means getting her son back, Guion said. Barlow has been able to see Samuel once a week but would like additional visitation, she said.

The mother also wants to be more involved in her son's education and recently dropped off a packet of school materials for him.

The service plan also addresses the need for Samuel to undergo physical therapy because he has a prosthetic leg. Walther asked how the boy lost his leg. It was indicated in court that it resulted from a birth defect.

Clerks at the Tom Green County Courthouse have cleared the docket for the next three weeks as five judges wade through hundreds of status hearings for each child taken from the church's YFZ Ranch. The cases are grouped together by mother.



• Lawyers for one mother said in court that copies of the Book of Mormon have been taken from the boys being housed at the Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Amarillo. That irritated the judge.
"I'd like to know why that was removed," said Judge Marilyn Aboussie. "I'd like to hear if there's a good reason. I can't think of one myself. There needs to be an excellent reason."

The court-appointed special advocate for the children did request that any sermons or writings of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs be removed from the children because he is a convicted felon in a child sex-abuse case. But the advocate said she did not object to the Book of Mormon.

The owner of the ranch has not returned phone calls from the Deseret News.

• A number of other children fathered by Jeffs also had their cases heard Monday. One of the children's mothers, Shannon Johnson, refused to sign a family service plan on the advice of her attorney but said she was willing to work with Child Protective Services.

CPS workers testified they would be open to the idea of out-of-state placements for some of the children. Johnson's mother, who is not an FLDS member, appeared in court and said she would be willing to take her 3-year-old granddaughter.

"Is the ultimate goal of this plan the return of the children to their parents?" asked CPS lawyer Eric Tai.


Page: 3

"Yes," said Esther Cox, a case worker.
• Another mother, Brenda Jessop, signed a service plan Monday agreeing to work with child welfare workers.

Throughout the hearings, the judges reminded attorneys they were not there to relitigate the initial findings that removed the 464 children and placed them into state custody. That didn't stop attorneys from trying, though.

The initial hearings got off to a rough start this morning with attorneys being required to be in multiple courtrooms at once. Long security lines also made it difficult for FLDS members and their lawyers to make it to court on time.

• An attorney for another FLDS family in court today criticized the family service plan, saying it would be nearly impossible for the parents to comply with it.

Jerri Lynn Ward, representing James and Sarah Jessop — a couple who have a number of children in state custody — said their children are scattered in foster care facilities in Texas from Amarillo to Liverpool and simply arranging visitation has proven nightmarish.

"It's creating a hardship to even effectuate the parenting plan you have put into place," Ward said.



On the stand, a CPS worker acknowledged the difficulty in keeping siblings together despite earlier claims by the agency that it would try not to split up brothers and sisters.
The unidentified worker said the agency had inadvertently separated a set of twins "that we didn't realize."

The worker went on to say, "It is difficult keeping track of all the sibling groups."

Ward also questioned the worker on how the agency can help facilitate communication among siblings, especially given their young ages. The worker didn't have any answers.

Ward also raised objections over the wording in one section of the plan dealing with home schooling. She referred to a 2005 memo signed by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Carey Cockerell that stressed home schooling alone is not an element of concern that would prompt a CPS investigation.

But in the template for each child's service plan, CPS noted that an assessment should be done to determine the children's educational needs because of their home schooling.

Timothy Mark Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Association, testified CPS has had a pattern of investigating families who home school their children. It was his concern three years ago that resulted in Cockerell's assurance that home schooling alone should not be an issue. Lambert said it's impossible to take a cookie cutter approach to measuring the academic performance of home-schooled children because they don't use the same curriculum that public schools do.

Some parents choose home schooling because it allows them to combine basic education with religious tenets, Lambert said, adding that in contrast, public education adopts a secular world view.


Page: 4

If CPS is to rely strictly on the recommendations of a "educational professional," Lambert said that would give FLDS parents few options to direct their children's education. "It seems to leave no leeway for parents except to acquiesce to the recommendations of the educational professionals," he said.

...

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Tue May 20, 2008 7:31 pm

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http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/654929.html

Posted on Tue, May. 20, 2008

State starts digging for money needed for costs of FLDS raid

By APRIL CASTRO Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN -- State lawmakers started adding up Tuesday the "extraordinary" costs related to the raid on a polygamist sect's ranch last month and began trying to figure out where to find the expected $30 million the case will eventually cost over the next year.

"We basically need to pay what it's going to cost to do the job right and we need to know, to the best of your ability, what that cost is so we can factor that in when we're making decisions about other worthwhile costs and needs in this state," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden told Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins during a hearing Thursday.

Hawkins said it would cost about $1.7 million a month for the state to care for more than 460 children who were removed from the ranch last month and are now scattered in foster-care facilities around the state. Authorities believe members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who run the ranch, pushed underage girls into marriage and sex.

One lawmaker questioned whether the state could make the adults left behind on the 1,700-acre ranch - valued at $20.5 million - foot the state's bill.

"I would encourage you to aggressively pursue any of those assets to fund this," said Republican Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville. State health and human services officials said they were still trying to figure out which ranch residents are the children's biological parents.

The initial raid cost an estimated $5.3 million, mostly in travel to the isolated Schleicher County ranch and employee overtime during the weeklong raid and search of the Yearning For Zion ranch last month. The state also paid for buses, building and equipment rental and fuel.

At least $2.2 million will be needed to help the local courts handle legal proceedings for each child.

Ben Woodward, a state district judge in Tom Green County, said the local courts in his county and Schleicher County, where the ranch is located, are ill-equipped to handle the unprecedented undertaking.

"It is a pretty desperate situation and a red flag for the judiciary," Woodward said. "We are funded on this case pretty much by the counties and they simply don't have it."

Woodward said the legal costs would exceed $2.2 million. Schleicher County's total budget was $3.9 million, he said.

Because the state did not anticipate the raid when they wrote the current budget last year, it will be tricky to find the money and make it available before the Legislature's next scheduled session in January.

There are mechanisms within the state's $168 billion budget to address unexpected costs.

Money set aside for County Essential Services Grants can be used to help with legal costs at the discretion of Gov. Rick Perry.

"We believe that there is money in the state to cover this without sacrificing other services," said Perry spokeswoman Krista Piferrer. "We're going to work with the Legislature to make these agencies whole and make sure that they don't face a financial burden. We're in the beginning stages of the conversation of how best to achieve that."

State emergency funds also could be used, but only if Perry declares the situation an emergency. Piferrer said declaring an emergency is "not the primary issue on the table."

"I'm reasonably convinced that there's enough money in the state to do this if we want to," Ogden said.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Wed May 21, 2008 5:44 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/21 ... lassified/

Sect children reclassified
State concedes 5 more are actually adults

By Jayna Boyle (Contact)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008



As status hearings continue for child members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the number of children in state custody continues to drop.

Child Protective Services filed nonsuits in three cases Tuesday in Court D of the Tom Green County Courthouse, and two more in Court A. Once the judges signed off on the nonsuits, the cases were dismissed.

The nonsuits were filed because CPS determined that some of people taken as children from the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado in a weeklong April raid are actually adults by law - age 18 or older.

In a passionate speech, Andrea Sloan, an attorney for a mother, said authorities obtained her client's birth certificate in the raid, but continued classifying her as a minor even though she will be 28 in less than two weeks. The woman, Leona Allred, even had a copy of her birth certificate, but her status as a minor was not changed until Tuesday's hearing.

"I have objected all along that my client cannot be here in person," Sloan said.

The attorney said she was informed Monday night that the only way Allred could be in court Tuesday was if Sloan drove to a children's shelter in Fort Worth to pick her up.

As Sloan continued with her speech, CPS attorney Gary Banks passed nonsuit documents to Judge John Specia, a district judge from San Antonio filling in for Judge Ben Woodward, who was in Austin speaking to the Senate Finance Committee about the cost of the YFZ case.

Specia signed the documents to dismiss Allred's case as a minor. However, that created new problems because the facility where Allred is staying - and nursing her 15-month-old daughter - is not licensed to house women older than 22.

"I have no idea if 10 minutes from now Ms. Allred will be kicked out of the shelter without a ride," Sloan said.

Everyone said that finding a suitable alternative shelter for Allred, her daughter and her 7-year-old son would be a problem.

"Creativity is of the utmost importance in these cases," Specia said. "This is a little more difficult than some of the other cases."

Elsewhere in the courthouse, attorneys for the sect parents continued to hammer CPS' family service plans as vague, broad documents that don't offer clear guidelines parents should follow to get their children back. CPS case workers testified that the global plan is a work in progress and will be adjusted to fit individual families' needs.

A vast majority of the plans were approved by judges as the status hearings continue to grind through the system.

The younger brother of Warren Jeffs, the sect's spiritual leader and a convicted sex offender serving time in Arizona, was in Courtroom C and said he would do everything he could do to get his children back. Seth Steed Jeffs and his wife, Kathyrn Jeffs, had seven children on the court list in Judge Barbara Walther's courtroom.

Carl Kolb, a lawyer from San Antonio representing Seth Jeffs, and Nancy DeLong, a lawyer from Corpus Christi representing Kathyrn Jeffs, both argued against the service plans. They contended there is no indication any of the children have been physically, mentally or sexually abused.

Kolb said the only connection between the Jeffs and other families where abuse is suspected is their religious beliefs, drawing a connection to religious persecution.

"They took my clients' kids away," Kolb said. "What's the common denominator?"

Attorneys for CPS said the hearings' purpose is securing the children's safety, not discussing religious beliefs.

Kolb argued that the service plan should not interfere with the group's religion beliefs. He also said he didn't know all the specifics about the FLDS religion, but said abusing or neglecting children is not a part of the group.

"There is no conflict then," Walther said. "Everyone agrees sexual, emotional and physical abuse is inappropriate."

Kolb also said CPS keeps his clients from mentioning Warren Jeffs when they see their children, even though he is a family member and religious leader.

"What's the state's argument, that to mention him by name, who's locked away in prison, is equivalent of child abuse?" he said after the hearing. "That's a pretty big stretch."

If Warren Jeffs, who is a convicted sex offender, is used as an example of how men should be, then discussing him could be harmful, an attorney for the CPS said.

After the hearing, Seth Jeffs spoke briefly to several reporters.

Tall and thin, wearing a blue shirt, blue tie and blue pants, Seth Jeffs spoke softly and evenly.

He said his family is doing "pretty well."

"It's not very pleasing," he said about not being able to speak about his brother. "But we are ready to work with CPS. We're ready to do what it takes to get our children back."

A CPS worker testified under DeLong's questioning that there is not recorded evidence that the Jeffs children were abused or neglected. Two of the children have been hospitalized since they were taken from the ranch.

Kathyrn Jeffs spends much of her time traveling to various shelters to see her children, according to court testimony, said DeLong, who filed objections to the service plan.

"My client wants her children back," DeLong said. "She wants to know what she can do to get her children back."

Walther approved the service plan.

Walther also withstood a legal challenge against her suitability to continue hearing cases.

Sect member Daniel Jessop filed a motion asking for Walther's removal. Jessop and his wife, Louisa, have three children, all in the state's care.

A Midland judge, conducting the hearing via phone, dismissed the motion. District Judge John Hyde said he found no evidence of bias, judicial impropriety or "deep-seated antagonism toward Mr. Jessop" on the part of Walther.

The hearings continue today.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Wed May 21, 2008 5:46 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/21 ... -hearings/

RICK SMITH:
Court etiquette for the FLDS hearings
By Rick Smith (Contact)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Anyone can attend the latest round of polygamist sect child custody hearings at the Tom Green County Courthouse.

...

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Wed May 21, 2008 5:52 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/21 ... 60-day-in/

LIVE FROM THE COURTHOUSE:
Day 3 of the polygamist sect's 60-day child custody hearings
Staff reports

Originally published 10:30 a.m., May 21, 2008
Updated 12:16 p.m., May 21, 2008




Live reports from the Tom Green County Courthouse on the third day of 60-day status hearings in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints child custody case:

Courtroom B - Matt Phinney

Arguments in Courtoom B this morning followed a similar pattern as Day Three of CPS status hearings continued at the Tom Green County Courthouse.

Louanna Jessop appeared before 391st District Judge Tom Gossett, but the children's father, Leroy Steed, was not there, and CPS workers have not been able to contact him.

Like dozens of lawyers before him, the attorney representing Louanna Jessop said the service plan was too vague and didn't try to fit Jessop's family specifically.

The couple has seven children, and Gossett approved the service plan.

The plan's purpose is to get to know Jessop, said CPS worker Juan Martinez.

"Then it will be more individualized," he said.

Under the plan, parents have to undergo parenting classes to help them recognize and protect their children from physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Jessop also must undergo psychological evaluations to determine her personality and whether she "needs more help."

The attorney for the mother asked Martinez what dangers the CPS is trying to protect children from. Martinez said abuse and neglect.

The attorney asked whether there were signs of abuse or neglect, and Martinez said there was no indication of abuse from CPS workers observing the mother and children together.

Gossett then put a stop to the line of questioning.

"Were you at the temporary hearing?" he said to the attorney. "Judge Walther already made her finding."

During a break in court proceedings, FLDS member Willie Jessop said the YFZ Ranch has ordered between 500 and 600 voter registration cards to "put people in office with integrity."

Jessop didn't expand on what, if any, offices the group would seek. He simply said the state is trying to destroy the YFZ Ranch.

Courtroom C - Paul A. Anthony

The attorney for a "wife" of Warren Jeffs said she is willing to reject life on the YFZ Ranch and her jailed husband's alleged tenet of "marrying" girls whenever they're physically ready to produce children.

Local attorney Tim Edwards said Annette Jeffs has submitted in writing a pledge to 51st District Judge Barbara Walther that she will not allow any of her young girls to marry before they turn 18.

She also has found a place to live in San Antonio and will not return to the ranch, Edwards said.

The state's Child Protective Services agency filed a notice of non-suit on a seventh woman, acknowledging that she is an adult, and state attorneys said they plan to file another notice on a boy who turned 18 last month.

Courtroom A - Jennifer Rios

Child Protective Services case worker Ashlee Kennedy testified for more than an hour this morning about the cases of the three children of Adeline Barlow Jeffs and Leroy Steed. Jeffs signed the service plan, adding her written objections to it.

San Antonio State District Judge John Specia, who was filling in for 119th District Judge Ben Woodward, reminded attorneys for the children to move their questions along because he has other cases to hear. He ultimately approved the service plan.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Wed May 21, 2008 5:56 pm

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http://gosanangelo.com/news/2008/may/21 ... -on-sects/

CPS seeks access to polygamist ranch to search for more children

By Paul A. Anthony (Contact)
Originally published 01:15 p.m., May 21, 2008
Updated 02:16 p.m., May 21, 2008


ELDORADO - The state's Child Protective Services agency returned this morning to Schleicher County, responding to reports that additional children still live on the YFZ Ranch.

A spokesman for parents in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which owns the ranch, said a ranch guard turned CPS employees away from the gate after they couldn't produce a search warrant.

"We have received information about children who may be living at the YFZ Ranch," CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said, declining any comment beyond a short statement. "This morning, accompanied by law enforcement, we went to the ranch and made initial inquiries. We are conferring with law enforcement."

Rod Parker, spokesman for some parents of the roughly 450 children removed from the ranch, said a car with two CPS workers showed up today at the ranch, and the workers said they had heard children were at the ranch.

Officials at the ranch asked whether the CPS workers had a search warrant, Parker told reporters outside the gate.

The CPS officials left, he said, but ranch officials think there is a good chance they will return.

"As far as I know, there are no children," Parker said, "but I haven't searched" the ranch.

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said his office accompanied CPS to the ranch to "serve some type of process." He said he could not comment because it's a CPS case, adding that it's normal for marked units to accompany agency employees.

"It had nothing to do with our office," Doran said.

Most people who lived on the ranch are visiting their children, who are in foster care facilities elsewhere in the state, or are in San Angelo, where the third day of status hearings is under way, Parker said.

...

Guy Jessop, a sect member, said he was at the gate when CPS arrived between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. today.

Jessop said that, to his knowledge, this is the first time CPS has come back since the weeklong raid that began April 3.

CPS said they wanted to know who is in charge, and Jessop said he is.

A reporter at the ranch gate asked Jessop how many people are on the ranch. Jessop answered: "You are looking at it."

Jessop and three young FLDS men were there with Parker.

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