Fallout from FLDS raid is intense
Texas authorities defend removal of 416 children
After the press conference, Meisner rejected some critics' comparison of the state's action to that of Nazis during wartime Germany.
"I respectfully disagree with that," she said. "I feel very good about the job we are doing in Texas. I understand there are going to be those who disagree with us."
Meisner, who started with the agency 16 years ago as a caseworker, said the agency's foremost mission is the protection of children.
"I believe very strongly in what our staff does every day to protect the children of Texas," she said, earlier pointing out that the case simply boiled down is about "these children whose cries have gone unheard."
The briefing also included some descriptions by Dr. Adolfo Valadez, assistant commissioner with the state Department of Health, who has been on-site with the children. He has overseen the delivery of medical care for the children, including implementing a "strict and stringent infection control policy."
The care, which includes mobile clinics and a variety of nursing staff, is not unlike care delivered during the height of Texas hurricane season. He said that two or three more cases of chicken pox have been detected among the children, bringing the total to 23 so far. At the outset of the raid, officials said that several children were ill with the common childhood disease.
On Tuesday, the doctor said there were no children in isolation, but he did not rule out the possibility of additional chicken pox cases because of its long incubation period.
He said 100 healthcare workers are on hand to tend to any medical needs, including administering routine physical exams and addressing any urgent care situations. His agency has not been involved in performing any medical examinations to assess the possibility of sexual abuse. That role, he said, would fall under the direction of child protection workers, with Meisner adding that "if we have evidence that warrants a sexual exam we will go forward."
Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said the situation has a multitude of state agencies scrambling to make sure that procedurally, everything goes as smoothly as possible. That includes the Governor's Office of Emergency Management as well as the state Office of Court Administration, which is working to make sure Thursday's shelter hearing to determine the custody status of the children goes well.
The Texas governor is keeping an eye on the situation, too.
Gov. Rick Perry's spokeswoman said he was likely briefed ahead of time that the children removed from the YFZ ranch would be separated from their mothers.
"This is very normal in terms of investigations where there is believed or alleged abuse, that the children are separated from their parents and they are separated from each other," Allison Castle said. "It's certainly typical."
She said Perry has been receiving daily updates on the situation. "The governor has been thoroughly briefed and is aware of all the decisions that are being made, and certainly big decisions like this," Castle said, citing the authorities' need to move the children to bigger quarters and "the need to separate them to ensure the accuracy of their investigation."
As of mid-morning Tuesday, Castle said the Texas governor had not received a letter that the mothers of the children removed from the ranch said they mailed Saturday. The mothers are seeking a meeting with the governor.
Duncan, at the press conference, said while Texas has written the textbook on coordinated community response because of its long experience with hurricanes, there is "no textbook or manual on how to deal with this."
He said it is every state's charge to prevent child abuse and in Texas, "it is a priority."
In other developments, a spokeswoman with the State Bar of Texas said that so far, 350 attorneys had stepped forward to render their services in the representation of children seized from the YFZ Ranch.
"I'm very pleased with the Texas response," said Kim Davey, bar spokeswoman. While the majority of the attorneys who have stepped forward have specialized training in family law, Davey said, others came from various unrelated disciplines. Those attorneys have received a quick tutorial to help them in their duties. "They understand what they need to know to serve as an attorney ad litem," Davey said.The attorneys are in a wait-and-watch mode until the outcome of a Thursday hearing, which Davey described as something that's going to be "phenomenal. ... Of course, each child constitutionally is entitled to have an attorney." She added that the unusual aspects of this case 416 children are in state custody represent a challenge for Texas lawyers, but one she thought they would be able to handle. The Texas Bar Association has 80,000 members.
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