Fort Concho: Tight quarters, fear taking toll on moms, children; exclusive phone interview
SAN ANGELO, Texas Kathleen has been on "night watch" in a makeshift shelter here with 170 children and women for the past six nights.
"Many people came in here healthy and strong," the woman said from a cell phone inside the temporary shelter at the "Cattle Arena" annex of the San Angelo coliseum.
"I've been walking around and comforting crying, sick children," she said, adding that she also been helping overwhelmed mothers struggle to care for their children in their new environments.
Five women spoke with the Deseret News Saturday from inside the two shelters. They are the first of more than 100 women inside the shelters to speak publicly since being taken from the YFZ Ranch along with hundreds of children as part of a raid by Texas authorities a week ago.
The women, who only provided their first names, called and spoke to reporters at the Yearning For Zion Ranch, about 50 miles away, via cell phone.
Dorothy described the anxiety many of the children feel being away from home, especially at night.
She said 25 young girls have mothers who are staying in another shelter, yet Child Protective Services workers have refused to even let them pass notes to each other. That means she has had to comfort many of them.
She said the children have told her, "Please come and sleep on my bed so they won't take me. I say, 'No, I will sleep by the door so I can watch all of you.'"
Dorothy said workers at the shelter will walk through the crowded room among the children at night, which makes it even more difficult for them to sleep. The cots, cribs and playpens are side by side.
"There's no separation," Paula, another mother, said. "When we're trying to bed down the children and a child is crying, we can't settle them down. It's hard to know how to help each child. It takes a good one-and-a-half hours to settle everyone down."
Texas officials removed all 416 children from the ranch belonging to the Fundamentalist LDS Church as part of an investigation of sexual and physical abuse. Authorities allowed 139 mothers to accompany the children to the temporary shelters until a judge decides the fate of each child. A hearing is schedule for Thursday.
Mothers who didn't first accompany their children have not been allowed inside. The mothers at the shelters are free to leave, but if they do so, they will not be allowed to return.
One small girl, whose mother was not at the ranch during the raid and has not been allowed to join her children in the shelter, cries out for her mother daily.
"It's quite traumatic to her. She just cries and cries, missing her mother," Barbara said.
"When a child is crying, it affects the whole room. There's nowhere else to go."
Barbara said one child she's been caring for got sick and had to go to the hospital. Her mother had been away from the ranch when the raid took place and didn't accompany her daughter to the shelter.
After the little girl returned to the shelter after being hospitalized, a caseworker quizzed Barbara, "Where was her (the little girl's) mother? Why was she gone from the ranch (during the raid)? Where did she go?"
Barbara said she told the caseworker that the child's mother was outside the shelter waiting to see her daughter, to which the worker responded, "Well, she's with us now so that's how it is."
Children could be heard crying in the background during each of the phone interviews from the shelters.
"I've got approximately two hours of sleep every 24 hours for the past six days," Dorothy said Saturday.
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