Confusion on FLDS kids' status ongoing

Published: Monday, April 28 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Attorneys here continued to express frustration Sunday at the lack of information they are receiving about Fundamentalist LDS Church children placed into foster care facilities.
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents 48 FLDS mothers, has received reports of at least three children who are hospitalized, but say they've been unable to confirm the information and report back to worried parents at the YFZ Ranch.
One report is of a 2-year-old boy who is in a San Angelo hospital. The child's mother told TRLA the boy had lost a "severe amount of weight" while staying at the makeshift shelter at the coliseum, said communications director Cynthia Martinez.
"We've been trying to get information about what the condition of this child is and whether or not the mother will be allowed to visit," Martinez told the Deseret News.
"The last information we have (from two days ago) is that the child went into shock and was lethargic," she said.
The mother told attorneys that when Child Protective Services workers separated him from his mother, the boy was literally clinging to her leg.
As of Friday, all 462 children taken from the ranch of the Fundamentalist LDS Church were bused away to foster care facilities. Martinez says many parents don't know where their children were sent and they need to know how their children are coping.
"These women love their children and their number one priority is to keep their families together," she said. "It's difficult if they don't know where the kids are and how they are doing."
A second child, who is 2, is currently hospitalized and on antibiotics, according to a report received by TRLA. But when the child's guardian ad litem called the hospital, she was told there was no one there with that child's name. The foster care facility had told the ad litem the child was in the intensive care unit.
"Our attorneys have made who knows how many phone calls to how many people to find out how these children are doing and what's going on," Martinez said Sunday. "We just aren't getting the response or the cooperation that we would like."
To make matters worse, the mother of the 2-year-old was separated from another child she had been nursing, Martinez said. Now the mother is struggling to decide where she most needs to be — the hospital or the facility where her nursing infant is — yet she doesn't know either location.
Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said some of the children have minor medical issues, as would any group of 462 children.
"But there aren't any children with any serious illnesses that I'm aware of,' he said Sunday.
Preparations are under way to allow parents to visit the children at each facility, but it's unknown when such visitation can begin, said DFPS spokesman Chris Van Deusen. Judge Barbara Walther will likely have to first sign visitation orders.
Martinez said Walther indicated she would allow mothers to visit their sick children and indicated mothers of infants older than 12 months may be allowed to stay near their children and provide breast milk. Nursing mothers of children under 12 months were allowed to stay with their children in the foster facilities.
But just when that (visits) may be allowed is unknown. Van Deusen said Saturday that may be part of the visitation orders.
"We're hoping the state of Texas will think about what is in the best interest of these children," Martinez said. "These mothers should be allowed to be by their bedsides."
There was still no word Sunday about two unaccounted-for boys. Martinez said a mother contacted TRLA wanting to know about her 11-year-old and 16-month-old sons. The attorney was unable to locate the boys' names on a master list of placements and couldn't get any additional information to help calm the client.
But Crimmins reiterated Sunday that DFPS can account for all the children.
"There are no unaccounted for children. Our list reconciles," he said.

E-mail: bwest@desnews.com

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