Chairman says Texas CPS workers mistreated FLDS

Published: Wednesday, May 14 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

John Kight is determined to get the word out that Child Protective Services in Texas is out of control.

As chairman of an organization that provided mental health workers to assist FLDS children and mothers taken from the YFZ Ranch, he spoke with the Texas governor's office Tuesday and has already spoken with state legislators.

"We don't condone what they say went on out there (at the ranch), but we're just aghast at the methods they used to go out there and take the kids away from their mothers," Kight said. "We want him (Texas Gov. Rick Perry) to hear first hand what went on, ... how abusive CPS was and how they've trampled all over their rights."

Eleven employees of the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center recently provided written reports of their experiences at the request of the regional governing board. Each expressed frustration — and some anger — at how CPS treated the children.

After hearing about their experiences at the makeshift shelters last month in San Angelo, Kight said he and the board felt the need to do something.

"We can't just stand by and let this happen as Americans," he said. "Hopefully, (Gov. Perry) will take some sort of action to get these parents back with their kids."

Two workers reported witnessing some CPS workers being compassionate and friendly at the shelters. Most comments, however, described witnessing CPS workers mistreating the mothers and children, including lying to them, being rude, uncaring and abusing authority. Several said they were told by CPS workers that the mothers and children would be uncooperative and hostile, but instead found them to be friendly, pleasant and sincere.

"Some of these CPS workers were bent on humiliating and just being hateful," Kight said. "They get their minds made up that they have unlimited power to do what they want and it's not right."

When asked over the past few weeks about similar allegations, CPS officials have strongly denied such accusations. The FLDS women and children have been described as uncooperative and have purposefully provided misinformation to CPS employees. They say they tried to make the women and children as comfortable as possible in the shelters, but it was difficult to create an environment for so many people.

Texas officials say the new Hill Country Community MHMR accusations are serious, and CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner confirmed that an investigation into the allegations is being conducted.

Here are some of the observations from the nine unsigned letters written by the mental health professionals:

• "At least five mothers reported that at night CPS circled their beds, held flashlights in their faces and then would sit inches away from them as they tried to sleep. Mothers reported they were scared CPS would take their children during the night, thus leaving them and their children exhausted."

• "I have worked in domestic violence/sexual abuse programming for over 20 years and have never seen women and children treated this poorly, not to mention their civil rights being disregarded in this manner. It makes us all wonder how safe anyone is who has children."

• "At one point I headed toward the public restroom and was immediately grabbed by the arm by a CPS worker who told me to use the port-a-potties outside the rock wall 'because we don't know what kind of diseases these people might have and we don't want to catch anything from them.' I was later told it had been determined that STDs were rampant among the women because of their promiscuous lifestyle. I did not believe that information since I knew none of the women had submitted to examination."

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