SAN ANGELO, Texas — Nearly 300 women and children from a polygamous sect are now being detained at a historical military post here, but authorities have yet to hold a hearing to discuss any findings of the still ongoing investigation.
And the sheer number of people now in state care may soon strain state resources.
Debra Brown, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Tom Green County, said that in a year her agency typically works with 271 children from a 10-county area. The advocacy center, which employs 10 full-time staff and 40 volunteers, provides guardian adlitems for children in state custody.
“This is a first for us,” she said.
Brown said her staff is reviewing books “related to their religion” so they can better understand the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She did not specify what those books are, but just two books by ex-members of the faith are publicly available. Best-selling author Jon Krakauer also wrote about the sect in his book on fundamentalist Mormonism.
Brown said Child Protection Services plans to do one-on-one interviews with the children so that 51st District Judge Barbara Walther can make decisions about what to do with them. No petitions have yet been filed in court, Brown said, though a CPS spokeswoman said the judge has ordered that
18 girls be taken into legal state custody.
Although authorities initially said a hearing would take place on Monday, none is scheduled. Investigators have 14 days to complete their interviews before a hearing must be held under Texas law.
If the judge decides the children need to remain out of their homes, it could present a challenge for social service providers.
There are a limited number of foster homes in the San Angelo area and they are full, Brown said. “I think it would be a very difficult task to place a large number of children.”
She said many community members are calling offering help, but other CPS has said it all needs covered.
Brown agreed that the experience of being removed from home is traumatic for children, but “I think it is in their best interest.
“When children live in a pretty secluded environment it is difficult to get them to open up,” she said. “If you give them a little space you are more likely to get them to open up to you.”
She described the FLDS children the same way other state emloyees have: Very quiet, respectful, well behaved.