Child Protective Services Are Exposing FLDS Children to Chaos

The Dallas Morning News reports that CPS is unable to properly house a mother with her new born baby:

“This woman has been removed from the birthing center with a brand new baby boy and is now sitting in the offices of CPS because they don’t have anywhere else to put her,” Ms. Matassarin said.

The Salt Lake Tribune says that living conditions induced an epidemic of respiratory disease and chicken pox:

Children living in crowded quarters that led to upper respiratory illnesses. Youngsters plagued with diarrhea from unhealthy foods they usually did not eat. Distressed mothers enduring widespread rudeness – such as flashlights shined in their faces as they tried to sleep.

I don’t know if the reports of disrespect are true but they are plausible. Power is easily abused and adherence to the golden is difficult to train and enforce.

The Salt Lake Tribune also shares the report of an anonymous mental health worker, which indicates that conditions are inadequate and abusive. She concludes:

“Never in all my life, and I am one of the older ladies, have I been so ashamed of being a Texan and seeing what and how our government agencies treat people.”
Texas contracts with Hill Country to provide mental health services during disasters. Staff members met with the center’s board of trustees last week, leaving them “spellbound.”

The board has gathered nine written statements critical of Child Protective Services.
Chairman John Kight said he wants state legislators and the governor to hear the employees’ stories. “You have damaged these children for their lives,” he said. “This is an agency that looks like it’s gone out of control.” A Texas CPS spokesman acknowledged the allegations were “very serious” and said they are being investigated. But he noted the women and children were held at a historic fort and a convention center in San Angelo in an unusual emergency situation. . . .

Not all Texas CPS employees were criticized by the Hill Country employees. One young man was described as sitting for two hours comforting a toddler separated from his mother. The Texas Rangers were “respectful and polite,” according to another statement.

But the statements focus on the Hill Country staffers’ dismay at uncaring behavior they say they witnessed by CPS employees.

A boy estimated at age 3 walked along a row of cots asking for someone to rock him after he was separated from his mother, one employee wrote. Two CPS worker trailed the youngster taking notes but not helping him. His brother, age 8, eventually took the child into his arms and sat with him in a rocking chair.

“That little boy will always be in my mind,” the employee wrote. “How can a beautiful, healthy child be taken from a healthy, loving home and forced into a situation like that, right here in America, right here in Texas?” . . .

Several writers claimed CPS workers repeatedly lied to the mothers regarding where they were going to be moved to and other issues.

Crimmins said he disputed that. The state has asserted the FLDS mothers were uncooperative with authorities, such as providing inaccurate or changing information about names and ages.

The Houston Chronicle reports on the testimony of the mental health workers in detail. Apparently, CPS staff threatened mental health workers with arrest for objecting to abuse:

All nine reports by employees of the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center expressed varying degrees of anger toward the state’s child welfare agency for removing the children from their community, separating them from their mothers or for the way CPS workers conducted themselves at the shelter.
A few described ongoing tension between the two groups of social workers, including threats by CPS to have interfering MHMR workers arrested.

The Salt Lake Tribune provides rich documentation of these claims on its website, including PDFs of original documents. Check out the links in the brown box titled “The floor was literally slick with tears . . .”

Although I am willing to attribute the most honorable motives to CPS leadership, it seems to be clear that this agency is incapable of protecting the FLDS children.

It appears to me that CPS would be well advised to include FLDS parents in child care. In fact, one can imagine supervision arrangements that let the children live with their parents while protecting minors from underage marriages.

Ultimately, law enforcement needs to advise the FLDS community about the obligations of parenthood. That should include a discussion about sex, corporal punishment, and parental rights of former FLDS.

According to Carolyn Jessop, the minimum age for spiritual marriages used to be 21 before Warren Jeffs assumed control. If the FLDS returned to the previous rule then they could practice their religion without running afoul of the law.

State attorney generals should also establish a supervision system that assures CPS that the children will be safe. Allowing permission to buy ar-15’s from Palmetto State Armory and other provision ought to include that the FLDS dissolve their police departments in Colorado City and tolerate the policing of their community by outsiders.

Thanks to Cafeteria Mormon who has collected media reports about the inability of CPS to house FLDS children safely.

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14 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Could it be that even those dastardly FLDS parents (as per CJ’s breathless account) are better suited to caring for their own children than the state? Shocking.

    I do think, however, that this:

    Ultimately, law enforcement needs to advise the FLDS community about the obligations of parenthood. That should include a discussion about sex, corporal punishment, and parental rights of former FLDS.

    That this is a bit beyond the scope of law enforcement. And if it were to come from law enforcement (or anyone outside the FLDS community for that matter) it would be treated as hostile and counter to the will of god. Which is ultimately the problem here. These folks aren’t merely misguided and ignorant buffoons who just need a little educatin’ and watchin’ over. These people actually believe in their religion and probably put at least as much thought into it as anyone else.

    The states of Utah and Arizona, etc rather get this concept. The Southern Baptist influenced Texas CPS does not. This has become their Short Creed incident and as it continues they’ll painfully discover that which the State of Utah has known for over 100 years: you can’t solve this problem through prosecution of law and/or other forms of state action. It just makes them believe all the more. Hello, Mormons?

  2. Craig says:

    This whole thing is just so sad.

  3. Hellmut says:

    That’s a good point, Matt. On the other hand, the government cannot sit idly by in the face of child abuse. Other issues that prosecutors do have to address include parents’ right of FLDS dissidents.

    When the rights of others are affected than our own rights encounter their limits.

    During the last forty years, the FLDS have been getting away with too much. The victims have a claim on the government’s support against the abuses at the hands of an overbearing organization and community.

    Therefore, attorney generals should signal clearly to the FLDS leadership, which behavior crosses the line. As long as prosecutors issue credible guidelines, the FLDS will have a chance to adapt and a lot of abuse could be prevented.

    Consenting adults living in polygamous relationships are alright. Forcing underage women into sex is not.

    Strong communities are alright. Whisking away the children of dissenters is not.

    Religious freedom is alright. Using the local police department in the service of the prophet is not.

    Discipline is alright. Beating children and abandoning on some country road is not.

    As long as that stuff is going on, the government has an obligation to go after the FLDS Church and its leaders. If the lines are well defined then everyone can operate accordingly.

  4. happy day says:

    pls remember that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is up to his armpits in this outrage upon the dignity of the people of the United States.

    Some might even call him the persecutor in chief, or more formally, Caiaphas Shurtleff.

    Of course, the real question is why? Why is Shurtleff doing this?

    Is he acting as a surrogate, and if yes, for whom?

    Did he work to raise the marriage age in Texas so he could carry his vendetta against the people whose religion he opposes to Texas?

  5. Hellmut says:

    Good to meet you, happy day. I am a little confused about your remark. Mark Shurtleff has gone to great lengths to distance himself from the Texas authorities.

    He even met with FLDS families in Southern Utah to assure them that nothing like the Texas raid would be happening in his jurisdiction.

  6. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    two wrongs doesn’t make a ‘Right’.

    Unfortunately, the ‘whole FLDS’ (and previous LDS) system of plural marriage is (was) predisposed to take advantage of youth.
    Like so many aspects of a complicated era, these things may have seemed doable on paper, but the law of unintended consequences works against many hypothetical possibilities.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  7. Seth R. says:

    If anything, Shurtleff gets criticized for being “too soft” on polygamists.

  8. Matt says:

    Interesting post on Truthdig this morning that starts out like this:

    BOSTON—During the Vietnam War there was a phrase that came to symbolize the entire misbegotten adventure: “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” It was said at first with sincerity, then repeated with irony, and finally with despair.

    I have heard similar thoughts in the weeks since Texas authorities invaded a ranch in Eldorado and rounded up hundreds of children from the polygamous sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Did they traumatize the children in order to protect them? Did they shatter their lives to rescue them?

    Then this …

    More to the point is the concern about separating children from parents. Every agency balances the risks of leaving children in a dangerous setting and the trauma of removing them. But cases are generally weighed one at a time. What’s different about the FLDS case is that it was a wholesale roundup of all the children of a whole community.

    But then finally takes the broader moral stand over the civil rights:

    I understand the ambivalence toward this dramatic story. The uprooting of distraught children from pained parents strikes a primal core. And we are aware that many state foster care systems are flawed enough to amount to a second kind of abuse. But surely the call to understand this sect as just another unique corner of multicultural America is relativism run amok.

    Individual hearings will begin next week. I hope that the children and mothers will tell the truth rather than follow the admonition to “keep sweet.” I hope mothers will choose their children over obedience to their patriarchs.

    But in the end, what we have on that ranch in Eldorado is not a lifestyle. It’s a pedophile ring. If we cannot rescue children from that, we’ve already destroyed their village.


    Kinda what Hellmut has been saying, I think. So what do you think? Is this a case where destroying the village really does save the village? … or at least the children of the villages’ children’s children?

    I’ve been taking the civil rights and rule of law view for pragmatic reasons but in my heart, I think, I’m all for putting an end to religious abuse wherever it is found.

  9. Hellmut says:

    That’s interesting, Matt. Thank you.

    One thing is for sure. The government has made it impossible for FLDS women to defect. If mothers testified about abuse then they would not get their children back.

    In effect, CPS is driving FLDS women into the arms of the fundamentalist patriarchy.

    Good intentions are no substitute for reason and competence.

  10. Matt says:

    Yeah, you make a very good point there. Catch-22. Iraq-ed.

  11. john f. says:

    It is scary to think that the government can force you to abandon your religious beliefs by taking your children away and then only making it possible to get them back by renouncing your beliefs.

    In my opinion, all of the children and the mothers would be better off as fundamentalist Baptists than as FLDS living in the environment that ex-FLDS describe inside that church. But I am concerned about what is being done in Texas.

    I am worried that, in Texas, all it would take for the government to take my kids from me would be the allegations of an ex-Mormon and a phone call alleging that I am abusing my kids, and that I would be required to renounce my religion in order to have any hope of getting my kids back (after they’ve already spent weeks, months, or perhaps years in the foster system with state officials and their foster parents, and peers at school, telling them that my wife and I were abusing them at home because, in their opinion, our beliefs constitute abuse or at least the beliefs create the potential that at some point in the future they might become victims of abuse by virtue of those beliefs). This is a distressing thought.

  12. Matt says:

    John, I think that’s also my concern. Could be for any belief system which falls out of favor with the majority or even just the ruling class. This fear is the reason that my first inclination is one of deep concern.

    Yet, there’s something to be said for drawing a line where belief systems cross-over into the abuse of those who cannot (or will not) defend themselves. We’re not just talking about the one-off abusive but the institutionalization of human rights and/or child abuse.

    As you can tell, I’m ambivalent. But, this must be settled and my heart sways me to ending this dogma-enable and amplified pedophilic/misogynist authoritarianism.

  13. Hellmut says:

    It is scary to think that the government can force you to abandon your religious beliefs by taking your children away and then only making it possible to get them back by renouncing your beliefs.

    Isn’t it even worse, John? Suppose an FLDS mother renounces her religion as abusive. That would imply the admission that she exposed her children to danger.

    CPS could then use the admission against the mother and argue that they had to seize the children because the mother exposed the children to danger. CPS would be obliged to argue that the mother is unfit and should not raise the children.

    On several levels, CPS has created a box where it has become impossible for the FLDS parents to obtain rewards for good behavior.

    The only option that remains to the parents is to fight CPS in court and anywhere else they can. Changing their parenting behavior will not allow the FLDS parents to become reunited their children. Leaving the FLDS will not return the children to a mother either.

    Imagine this hypothetical case: Carolyn Jessop is in the compound. Finally, she has created the opportunity to escape with her children tomorrow night.

    However, CPS arrives today and seizes her children.

    Any admission of trouble to CPS would disqualify Jessop as a guardian because she tolerated the abuse of her children.

    In this case, Carolyn Jessop’s only hope of getting her children back would be to rely on FLDS resources to fight CPS.

    CPS would have effectively contained her within the FLDS Church (end of hypothetical case).

    CPS has in effect created conditions where no parent that aspires to guardianship can cooperate with the authorities. Clearly, that is not in the government’s interest. You cannot successfully prosecute abusers if you punish potential witnesses for their cooperation. Neither can you properly represent the children’s interests if you punish their parents for cooperating with the authorities.

    CPS appears to have blundered into a dead end, one way street where it never wanted to end up. A discerning judge will have to bust them out by reversing their initial actions.

  14. profxm says:

    I’m not sure I buy this “boxed in” idea. Why would CPS keep children away from mothers who reject the FLDS and decide they want out? That’s like saying CPS would keep abused kids away from a mother who is abused by her husband (who has also abused the kids) after she moves out. I’m reminded of the case of Genie, the girl kept locked up in LA until about 13. The husband was blamed for the abuse and Genie was given back to her mostly blind, virtually incompetent mother (though it was only temporary because the mother couldn’t manage Genie). Theoretically it’s possible. Practically, I doubt it ever happens.

    Also, there are some FLDS women who have gone to live in “safe houses”. Whether they have left the FLDS isn’t clear, but they have remained with their children.

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