Monday, May 19, 2008

The FLDS Tragedy

I've been hesitant to get into this issue, as I'm married to a social worker and have a tendency to believe CPS workers usually get the worst of media publicity. However, after extensive reading, including this article from San Antonio's website, I'm becoming convinced that what is happening in Texas is a travesty, doing far more harm to most of the children than would have been done by leaving them in their homes. The article tells how the mental health workers who were sent in to help the children in their emergency shelters have reported serious abuses by CPS workers, and how when they complained, the entire mental health staff was fired by CPS.

The Headmistress at The Common Room is blogging regularly on this issue, keeping track of much of what is happening - which is quite questionable, even according to CPS records. It's difficult to determine exactly how many children are involved (300? 400? more?). It's hard to know how many mothers are still with their children and how many have been removed. It's almost impossible to determine where the children are, and in many cases the parents have not even been told how to visit their children and have not seen them in the more than a month since they were removed. The families have been told not to return to the compound if they want their children back, and then the legal notifications have been posted in the paper there near the compound. And the majority of these children were not in immediate danger (many of them were still little children, who were apparently at no risk of sexual abuse or underage marriage). In fact, only two of the women were pregnant at the time of the raid, and both of them, CPS has since admitted, were adults.

There is much, much more. Obviously some of it is overwrought, but there's enough evidence here that it's pretty clear CPS has overstepped its bounds. Please join me in prayer for these families, whose rights have been violated, apparently primarily because CPS disagreed with their religious beliefs. If this is allowed to remain unchallenged, all of us are at risk; homeschooling families, after all, are somewhat "eccentric" according to our culture's standards.

10 comments:

Shawna said...

I don't know... I have read much and watched much lately on things like this and I feel for those children. I do believe that bad things were going on and that the women as well as the children are the victims here: no say in their own marriages (as in to whom) and being required to marry so young, before they are even done physically developing, being uneducated as their educations stop around the 6th grade level.

When there is a need to block out all of society I have to question why? Even the Amish who keep themselves separate from the "English," as we are called, still do not block themselves off from society--they just keep to themselves and their beliefs without all of the secrecy and lock down. They even send their 16 year olds out into the "English world" to choose for themselves their religion. They keep to themselves, but are still visible and open to the outside... and yes, I do know that abuse has been report even in their communities.

As for homeschoolers, as long as we are open and have nothing to hide I do not believe we have anything to fear. We are not trying to keep people out, in fact we often share our experiences--blog about them, talk about them, write and publish about them, go out in public and handle questions and looks and misunderstandings.

Again, the secrecy and the lock down of these compounds or ranches is reason to question when there are allegations of abuse, when there are know patterns of abuse, when there is a known and documented history of abuse.

Another interesting, sad and disturbing really, case is the Ricky Rodriguez story and The Children of God.

Melinda S. said...

I agree with you in being profoundly uncomfortable with this situation. However, I don't think it's just because CPS "was uncomfortable" with their religious beliefs.

There have been a lot of serious allegations made over the years by those who used to be in the group, and they did have a very hot phone call.

I think they really didn't know what to do about what they believed was systemic abuse. Once they got into it, they were in way over their heads, but were in some ways stuck with it.

Trying to sort out the whole mess has been a nightmare, and it does appear some of the cases have been difficult.

I think CPS is used to people being upset with them, and defends its own turf.

But I think they may have started out with good intent, based on information they [thought they] had.

Shawna said...

I do not, however, like the fact that siblings have been separated and that the court has ordered these women to get vocational training and banned the Book of Mormons--Mormonism is an established religion; only polygamy has been outlawed. In these regards I do think the State has overstepped their bounds.

Melinda S. said...

Shawna, they didn't ban the Book of Mormon. They did take out some pictures and writings of Warren Jeffs, however, stating that he was a criminal and not a religious leader. I dislike Jeffs, but I think telling someone who can be their religious leader goes too far.

I think forcing the women to get jobs is also wrong. (Although, if they are on social security rolls, making them abide by such regulations does make some sense. I just dislike the implication that if you don't have a job, you are a lousy mom.)

Marcy Muser said...

Shawna,

I don't know if you are following the discussions over at The Common Room that I linked to in this post. I agree with you, I am suspicious of "locked down" situations like this one. However, even if there is a lot of secrecy, they do have legal rights - and as far as I can tell, their rights have been seriously violated.

For one thing, CPS is never allowed to come in and take away children who are not in imminent danger - and the vast majority of these children weren't. Preschoolers, for example, were not in danger of abuse from this cult, and neither were elementary school students. Boys were also not in danger - and there's no legal provision for taking away boys because they are being taught something we disagree with. That means that instead of the state having to deal with some 460 kids (and CPS still doesn't seem to be able to figure out exactly how many kids they have!), there would be a much smaller number of adolescent girls only.

Not only that, CPS is not allowed to hold anyone without proving that they are a child and that they would be in danger of abuse if they were sent home. But they have now admitted to having held 20or more young women who WERE of age, who could PROVE they were of age with birth certificates and/or state ID cards, not only for a couple of days but for weeks. In at least two cases, they held pregnant adult women until after those women had delivered their babies, and then took custody of those babies. I'm sorry, but this is WRONG!!! Those women should have been released - in truth, they should never have been taken in the first place - and they should still have custody of their babies.

The state is required to attempt to place children first with family members; however, when non-FLDS family members came to request to have children placed with them, they were ignored. The state is required to allow parents to have counsel whenever they talk with CPS workers; this was ignored and was one of the abuses cited by the county mental health workers. The state is required to attempt to place brothers and sisters together when possible; instead, almost every family is split up, and when foster homes have several FLDS children, they are often not siblings. As a result, some parents have multiple children, each close to a day's journey apart from the others - meanwhile their treatment plan requires them to visit each child every week AND somehow hold down a job.

I'm not saying abuse didn't happen here. I'm not saying there weren't some girls who were married too young (though few appear to have been younger than 16, and Texas law allows marriage at 16 with parental consent). I AM saying that because they disagree with this sect's beliefs, Texas CPS and this judge are "after" them, and are trying to get their children so that those kids don't get "indoctrinated." I AM saying that Texas CPS and this judge are badly abusing their authority here. And apparently the appeals court felt the same way. Last week, they found "abuse of discretion" on the part of the judge and ordered her to immediately vacate her judgement and return the children of 41 FLDS women to them (neither of which has happened even now, almost a week later).

Marcy Muser said...

Melinda,

I agree, I think CPS got in over their heads. However, they knew the law - they can only take children who are in "imminent danger," and in this case from the very beginning they took children who were not - little kids, toddlers, and boys. And when they DID figure out that this was true, they didn't backtrack or change what they were doing at ALL; in fact, they continued to harass the families and make it as difficult as possible for them to get their kids back. Not only that, they kept pregnant women even after they KNEW they were of age - until they delivered their babies, so they could take custody of those babies.

As for the phone call, they traced it immediately - and with a very tiny bit of research, they could have easily discovered (in fact, they may have already known) that this woman was on record with the Colorado police for repeated instances of false reporting of exactly the types of charges she was making against the FLDS.

As for the Book of Mormon, you are partly right. They didn't exactly "ban" it. However, they did take a copy of the Book of Mormon away from one of Warren Jeffs' children because it had pictures of Jeffs in it. But there are two problems here: a) Having pictures of a convicted felon is not illegal (even if he's a s-x offender); and b) Jeffs was the child's FATHER, for Pete's sake! Can't the kid even have a picture of his dad? (It's not even as if Jeffs had been accused of abusing boys - his crime was conducting a "marriage" between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy.)

I just find this whole situation rather upsetting. It seems like CPS is abusing their authority and "lording it over" these people, just because they don't like what the people teach.

Shawna said...

Yes, I agree with the outrageousness of it all on the state of the State, but I have to wonder at how moral and ethical it is to sit back and respect rights when there is abuse. I know that is a sticky statement... it is just one that I contemplate.

And yes, I have been following it... not on the site you have linked, but on many new sources both electronic and in print. And the FLDS were one of the groups we studied in college that I found fascinating --along with 7 other groups that stood out in our American society.

Marcy Muser said...

Shawna,

Yes, I agree - it's difficult to sit back and respect rights when abuse is going on. But if we don't make our government themselves to do that, difficult as it may be, we could find ourselves the next victims of their overzealousness. My hubby is a social worker; he has co-workers who are absolutely convinced homeschooling is abusive in itself. Thankfully, that doesn't give them the right to walk into my house and take my kids. They must not do that, even if they believe "abuse" (in the form of homeschooling) is going on, because in America the government cannot act in opposition to the rights of individuals.

For the same reason, Texas CPS had no right to take those kids, even if they believed they were being abused, unless they had definitive proof, proof that would hold up in court. This is especially true in the case of the little kids - babies, toddlers, and preschoolers - for whom there was apparently no evidence of abuse (apart from the possibility that someday the girls might grow up to be married under age), and for whom there is documented evidence that removal from their caregivers at such an early age often has long-term effects. I believe part of being a social worker is learning to seriously weigh the immediate risk of leaving the child in their home against the known risk of removing them.

And I agree, the FLDS is an intriguing group. I absolutely do not agree with their polygamy; I also don't believe their girls should be allowed to marry underage (however, Texas law does allow girls 16 and 17 to be married with parental consent, and I believe that law should be followed or it should be changed legally). If there was clear evidence of abuse, I believe those children in immediate danger (and in a community that big, there may well have been a few) should have been removed. But I don't see Texas CPS succeeding at establishing that they had reason to believe all 460 children they removed were in imminent danger (the standard for removal).

Out of curiosity, what other groups did you study in college?

Shawna said...

It was 8 extraordinary groups. Here are the groups I can remember... since it was so long ago LOL Amish--a couple groups of them, Gypsies, Shakers, and I want to say Quakers but I am not sure on that one. I'll try to remember the rest... there was a great book to that title, but I cannot seem to locate it one line. And I cannot even remember which class it was that I studied these groups for... was university really that long ago?

Marcy Muser said...

Shawna,

I know what you mean about how long ago college was - I was doing my latest post today on homeschoolers adjusting to college, and was amazed to think how long ago it was!

If you ever remember the name of that book, please do let me know - it sounds really interesting.