253 FLDS children now dropped from YFZ custody battle
In what is now becoming a daily occurrence as the nation’s biggest child-custody case moves forward, Texas child welfare authorities have filed to “nonsuit” more children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church’s YFZ Ranch.
Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins confirmed 56 more children from the Utah-based polygamous sect were nonsuited in a San Angelo court on Thursday.
“The total number of individuals nonsuited is 253 (including the 26 disputed minors),” Crimmins told the Deseret News.
The decision to nonsuit ends court jurisdiction over the children, but it does not necessarily end CPS oversight. The reasons to nonsuit have ranged from no evidence of abuse to their parents taking adequate steps to protect them. Children also have turned 18 and are aging out of the system.
Texas agency tightens procedures for abuse cases
AUSTIN, Texas—Because of a federal appeals court ruling, child welfare workers will be required to obtain court orders in most cases before removing allegedly abused children from their homes, officials said.
The ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will also bar welfare officials from automatically removing all children from the home if one child is alleged to be abused. While unrelated, the ruling came amid scrutiny of the state’s removal of hundreds of children this spring from a polygamous sect.
“The decision will require us to make some extremely difficult decisions,” Carey Cockerell, commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said in an “urgent legal advisory.”
Generally, CPS removes a child if there’s a threat of immediate danger or sexual abuse and then heads to the court to seek a removal order from a judge.
In the future, the memo states, the state will have to obtain parental consent or a court order first, “unless life or limb is in immediate jeopardy or sexual abuse is about to occur.”
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit against the state of Texas filed by a Fort Bend County couple, Gary and Melissa Gates. Their 13 children had been removed from the home during a child abuse investigation in 2000. A judge returned the children to them several days later.
The standard practice of removing all children in a household when abuse was suspected on any single child was the basis for removing more than 400 children from a West Texas polygamist group in April. The children were returned to their parents in June, though one girl—an alleged child bride—was put back in foster care earlier this month.
The appeals court ruling applies to the three states covered by the appeals court’s jurisdiction—Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Aug. 29, 2008 News Summary