Welfare officials want assurance girl in FLDS won’t be married again
A fight for the custody of the 14-year-old bride of jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs could be heating up, according to a document filed in West Texas over the holidays.
The girl is the only child still in foster care who was among the 439 children taken by CPS last spring from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranch in Eldorado.
And the teen could remain in foster care permanently, her parents’ rights severed, which could free her up for adoption, if her mother does not assure the agency that she can provide a safe home, one where the girl is not married to another man.
A Texas Child Protective Services progress report on the case, filed Dec. 22, reveals the agency’s frustrated attempts to persuade the teen’s mother, Barbara Jessop, to cooperate with them by assuring them her daughter would not be involved in other marriages.
The agency indicated it now wants permanent custody of the girl.
“Ms. Jessop has not been able to identify how she will be able to protect (her daughter) from future abuse,” the progress report, filed in San Angelo, reads.
Calls to attorneys for both Barbara Jessop and her daughter were not immediately returned to the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday.
In this latest report, CPS officials insist the agency continues to seek reunification of the family.
However, the immediate goal sought by the agency is “permanent managing conservatorship,” or permanent custody, a subtle, but important change in course for the agency.
In previous filings, CPS officials have presented records, including excerpts from Jeffs’ journals, that indicate the girl was married to Jeffs when she was 12 years old. Jeffs is the jailed leader of the FLDS, a breakaway Mormon sect that practices polygamy.
Those records indicated that the marriage ceremony was performed by the teen’s father, Frederick Merril Jessop, considered Jeffs’ second-in-command, and witnessed by the girl’s mother, the third of Jessop’s six wives.
A status hearing, allowing all parties to meet on the teen’s case, is scheduled for Thursday in San Angelo.