All FLDS children returned to parents

Published: Thursday, June 5 2008 12:07 a.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The last of the hundreds of children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch have now been reunited with their parents.

"All of the 440 children have been successfully returned to a parent or guardian," Texas Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said Wednesday.

Texas child welfare authorities also officially declared 26 young women — whom they believed to be minors — as legal adults. The state had initially claimed as many as 31 were underage mothers.

That leaves five underage girls the state claims are pregnant or who have had children. But attorney Andrea Sloan said the number is actually four. She represents a 14-year-old girl on the list whom she insists is neither pregnant nor married.

"They are finally admitting what we all have known," said Laura Shockley, a Dallas attorney who represented several of the so-called disputed minors. "I think they've made a huge mistake. I think they violated those young women's constitutional rights, and they should prepare themselves for the possibility of attorneys addressing that."

Shockley told the Deseret News she is considering a lawsuit against Texas CPS on behalf of her clients, alleging civil rights violations.

"This is egregious, what they have done. If there are violations at the ranch, CPS had a right to investigate them. The procedures they used are gross, overreaching and gross negligence in their part," she said.

The children were reunited with their parents after Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Texas acted improperly in removing them from the YFZ Ranch. The return of the children does not end the CPS investigation into allegations of abuse on the FLDS property.

"Our investigation continues," Meisner said, declining to reveal any specifics.

A 16-year-old girl exempted from the massive order that returned the children will now be going home. A judge here on Tuesday signed a special order allowing the girl to go home to her mother — but she will have no contact with her father, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs is currently incarcerated in an Arizona jail where he is facing trial on charges related to underage marriages. He was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice, for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

"Respondent is ordered to take all measures necessary to prevent the child from having any contact, in any form, with Warren Steed Jeffs," Judge Barbara Walther wrote in the order reuniting the girl with her mother. "It is ordered that the respondent shall prevent the child from being within 1,000 feet of the location known as 'YFZ Ranch' in Eldorado, Texas."

On the day that Walther signed an order to reunite hundreds of children with their parents, the girl's attorney filed an emergency motion on behalf of her client. "This child is an identified victim of sexual abuse," Natalie Malonis wrote in court papers.

Malonis sought the motion so she could work out an agreement with an attorney for the girl's mother and Texas child welfare authorities. The order returns the girl to her mother, who is expected to take parenting classes and cooperate with an ongoing CPS investigation. The family is restricted to living in the San Antonio area.

A man named Raymond Jessop is also prohibited from having any contact with her. The order does not say what the relationship he has with the girl.

"Respondent is ordered to notify law enforcement immediately if Respondent discovers that the person Raymond Jessop comes within 1,000 feet of the child's person or the child's residence, school or day-care facility," Walther wrote.

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