Polygamous sect’s kids in hospital, moms want answers

At least nine children taken from a polygamous sect’s ranch are or have been in the hospital and attorneys for most of the mothers say they have received little or no information about their conditions.

Attorneys for Texas Rio-Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) are working to identify the children and the hospitals, and to arrange for the mothers to visit the children.

“We can’t seem to get anyone on the phone with authority to make that happen and the mothers don’t even know the seriousness of the situation,” said Amanda Chisholm, a TRLA attorney.

The legal aid society, which represents 48 mothers, said one 2-year-old child lost a severe amount of weight while staying at the San Angelo Coliseum.

TRLA said the organization was told two days ago that the child was in shock and lethargic, but has received no new information since then about where the child is or regarding her current health situation.

The mother is not being allowed to be with this child or her other nursing children, Chisholm said.

“We don’t seem to be able to get in touch with anyone who can tell us,” she said.

Depending on the assigned caseworker, some FLDS mothers are being allowed to see their children and some are not, Chisholm said.

Texas Child Protective Services said Friday that one child had been hospitalized because of dehydration. A CPS spokesman Sunday said he had no information on the children.

Texas authorities removed the children from the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more than three weeks ago because of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of young girls.

The sect made another appeal to Texas Gov. Rick Perry this weekend for help.

In a letter to the governor, FLDS member Willie Jessop said many children “have been left in critical medical conditions, resulting in permanent damage through threats, intimidation and ultimately separating them from their parents.”

Jessop writes that even the state’s expert witness advised against separating the youngest children from their mothers. He asks for an emergency meeting with Perry.

So far, Perry has declined to meet with the FLDS and has praised Child Protective Services’ actions.

The agency moved 462 children out of the San Angelo Coliseum last week, sending them to group and foster homes across Texas.

Chisholm said a master list of placements is missing names of two children taken from the ranch and TRLA has so far been unable to determine their location.

She also said mothers who were nursing children older than 12 months were told their toddlers would be kept close by so they could continue to nurse or provide breast milk for them.

But some of those toddlers have been moved hundreds of miles away and Texas Child Protective Services has not yet given permission for the mothers to visit them.

“I’ve been scrambling for the past two days to find out the name of the person I need to call to get permission for my client to enter that facility to nurse her children,” said Chisholm, who represents four mothers. “All we’ve been told is to wait until Monday when they assign caseworkers to individual families.”

Some mothers have been unable to confirm where their children have gone and others have learned their children have been split up and sent to different locations. TRLA learned Sunday that a child thought to be in a group home was actually in a hospital.

Some mothers, Chisholm said, “are trying to, sadly, figure out which child needs them more, a child in the hospital or a nursing baby,” she said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 28, 2008.
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