Texas drops half of cases in polygamist sect raid
AN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — Child by child, Texas authorities are acknowledging that many of the children seized during a raid on a polygamist sect’s ranch can safely live with their parents or guardians.
Since the April 3 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, 235 children’s custody cases have been dropped, meaning fewer than half of the 440 children seized remain bound by a court order to stay in Texas, attend parenting classes or be available for unannounced visits by Child Protective Services.
CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said more cases are likely to be dropped but he was unsure how many.
He said the dismissals do not mean that abuse never occurred, only that many of the children can safely live with a parent or other relative — something that sect members and lawyers argued early on in the chaotic custody case.
“It most certainly goes back to the idea that the proper way to have conducted this process was to get evidence as to what children, if any, were at risk,” said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represented dozens of mothers in the case. “They went through this ordeal, and in the end, CPS found they were a good parent.”
Only one child — a girl allegedly married to jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs when she was 12 — has been returned to foster care.
Crimmins said the agency never intended to take the FLDS children from their parents permanently.
“We never brought the kids into care to keep them in care. We brought them into care to do an efficient and effective investigation,” he said.
Jessica Dixon, a law professor who oversees the child advocacy clinic at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said CPS cases do sometimes result in children quickly being dropped from court supervision, even after initial foster placement. But it doesn’t happen often.