Quantcast

One phase of FLDS work is complete

Published: Tuesday, April 29 2008 12:36 a.m. MDT

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The last of the extra Texas state troopers, child welfare investigators and others involved in the massive effort of caring for Fundamentalist LDS Church children in custody have rolled out of town.
"The demobilization of resources in San Angelo was completed only (Monday)," said Gov. Rick Perry's spokeswoman Krista Piferrer. "It was a large scale effort with a tremendous law enforcement presence, nonprofit presence and (Child Protective Services) workers from all around the state. We basically transformed a coliseum into a shelter.
"The demobilization is picking up all the sleeping bags and picking up all the toys," Piferrer said. "We have to try to return the local facilities to their proper nature — put them back in the hands of local officials."
The exodus allows San Angelo to return to some semblance of normalcy. But the efforts continue to help settle the children into more than a dozen foster care facilities throughout Texas, as well as help their parents know what is going on.
Boys located
Attorneys identified Monday the location of an 11-year-old boy whose name had not been included in a master list of the children and the foster care facilities where they were taken.
"We're not exactly sure about what happened. His name was just removed from the list for some reason," said Cynthia Martinez, communications director for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. The group represents the boy's mother and nearly 50 other FLDS mothers. The mother called looking for information about the boy and his 16-month-old brother but their names weren't listed and no one could provide her answers.
The toddler is believed to be at one of the facilities, but authorities still aren't sure where. There are three children in custody with the same or similar names.
CPS workers insist the two boys have always been safe, but because of confusion with many of the children's names and birth dates, it's been difficult to properly identify all of them. Many of the mothers and children provided false or different information at various times, they say.
"The placement list we have might not agree with the mothers, but that's the information we were given by them," said CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins. "It's certainly understandable and probably frustrating, but I don't think you can consider those children were ever unaccounted for or missing."
Six in hospital
Martinez said the legal aid group was also able Monday to broker an arrangement with CPS to allow three mothers they represent to visit their children who are hospitalized.
Crimmins said as of Monday afternoon, six FLDS children removed from the YFZ Ranch were in hospitals. None has serious health issues. One child has an ear infection, another has respiratory issues. Crimmins said he did not know specifics about the other four.
"In all of these cases but one, the mother is either with the child or is being kept up to date on the child's condition," he said. "I don't know about visitation of the children but that will be arranged if we can do it."
Pregnant teens
The official count of the children removed from the FLDS Church ranch is now 463, one more than previously reported. All 250 girls and 213 boys were ordered to be placed into state custody because of abuse allegations, including "a pattern of grooming girls from a young age to accept becoming married to middle-aged men."
New statistics released Monday indicate that 53 of the girls are between the ages of 14 and 17. "We believe that 31 of them either have children or are pregnant," Crimmins said. "In most cases, that's what the girls have told us."
Of those 53, Crimmins said 26 claim to be 18 or older. "But we don't think they are," he said.
Financial toll
While the tempest may be over for the town of San Angelo, the financial reverberations of what is said to be the nation's largest ever child custody case are just now beginning.
R.J. DeSilva, spokesman for Susan Combs, the Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts, said the agency is prepared to disperse money to reimburse city and county agencies that shouldered the costs in the weeks after the raid.
The comptroller in Texas acts as the state's tax collector, chief revenue estimator, state treasurer and is the "steward" of the state's finances, according to her Web site.
DeSilva said the state's Health and Human Services Commission is filtering through requests to cover costs from the raid's aftermath. When those costs are determined, if Perry's office and the state's Legislative Budget Board grant approvals, Comb's office can cut the checks.
What remains unknown is the price tag incurred so far.
"We don't have a comprehensive number yet," Piferrer said, although one Texas lawmaker early on said San Angelo's costs a day were running at $60,000.
"This was an unprecedented situation, but we anticipate we will have the resources to meet any of these unanticipated costs," she said.
Indeed a recent report on states' fiscal health put out by the National Council on State Legislatures gave high marks to Texas and Oklahoma, noting that the pair are weathering the national economic slowdown much better than most states.
Texas' budgetary structure, Piferrer added, gives money managers some flexibility in dealing with the monumental child custody case.
Texas is a biennial budget state that convenes its legislature every other year.
When lawmakers meet in January, they will be crafting a spending plan for 2010-11. This year's biennial budget is $153 billion. The 2009-10 money, while allocated, has not yet been spent.
Budget options
It could be that budget adjustments are made next year to cover what has already been spent by agencies as a result of the raid and to cover projected costs down the road, Piferrer said.
"There are a couple different options that Texas has available," she said.
The governor can also call a special session if necessary to deal with budget issues.
Whatever the case, Piferrer said the state has pledged its full financial support to help entities affected by the FLDS situation.
"At the end of the day, when this is complete, we will do everything in our power to make sure those communities will not feel a crippling financial burden."


E-mail: bwest@desnews.com; amyjoi@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company