ELDORADO, Texas Three mothers of 10 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch by Texas authorities told the Deseret Morning News Thursday that child welfare authorities will not allow them to see or talk to their children.
"I am their biological mother. They will not let me in to see my children," said Monica, a 34-year-old woman with five children ranging in age from 3 to 12 years old.
"They have my children and I don't know why. I have asked to see them and have been told no. I am not going to sit here and let them have my children. I don't know what, but I am going to do something. I am going to see my children."
Monica is one of three women who spoke with the News in separate telephone interviews. All three women, who said they live at the YFZ ranch, which was raided last week by Texas officials, were emotional in sharing their personal details but did not want their full names published. .
All three women said they happened to be gone from the polygamist sect's ranch on the day the raid began. They returned as soon as they heard of the state's actions.
The children of the women are among the 416 FLDS children taken into Texas state custody. Officials say the raid on the ranch in Eldorado was prompted by a phone call to a family shelter by a girl who said she was 16, lived at the ranch and had been forced into a "spiritual marriage" with an older man who beats her.
The girl reportedly asked for help to leave the ranch. Officials say they still don't know if that girl is among those in state custody.
In San Angelo, Texas, where the children are being held in shelters, welfare officials confirmed they are not allowing other family members contact with the children.
"When we removed the children from the ranch there were women there who elected to come at their own free will," Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said Thursday. In fact, 139 women are currently in the makeshift shelters.
Meisner said they are trying to identify any other mothers who are not currently with the children, but it isn't easy to do.
"It is difficult to determine who these mothers are, the ones who are here and ones who may not be," she said. "We are not going to permit any alleged mothers in."
"I came back as soon as I could and my home was raided, my children were gone," said Monica, who added she heard from others that her youngest child may have been taken to the hospital. "I just heard that, but I need to know more. The caretaker that they are with has a cell phone, but they won't let the children call me and they will not let me see my children."
Asked specifically about cell phone contact, Meisner said, "For now, these children are here and until a judge decides otherwise ... they are in our care."
Meisner also said she didn't believe there were any children currently in the hospital.
About a dozen children have "what appears to be chicken pox, which they contracted prior to coming into state custody," according to a news brief from the department.
These children and their families were relocated to another building to separate them from the other children. Officials said they believe the children in the shelters have not been immunized, but some may have natural immunity from having contracted chicken-pox in the past.
Mrs. Johnson, a 30-year-old mother of three children ages 7 and younger, also expressed frustration Thursday at not being allowed to see or talk to her children.
"My children were kidnapped for no reason. They are being held hostage," she said. "I didn't know where they were taken and when I finally found out, (the department of family and protective services) won't let me see them. They won't let them talk to me or let me see them."
Mrs. Johnson said she fears her children are getting sick and are frightened at what has occurred. "They need their mother," she said. "I am a good mother and I want to be with my children."
A third woman, 40-year-old Mrs. Barlow, said she also hasn't been able to see or speak to her children, who are 13 and 9 years old.
"My 9-year-old has allergies and he has to be very careful with what he eats and the level of his activities. His throat can swell up," she said.
"I can't believe this is happening. We tried to get some clothes together for our children, but they won't let us see them. We need to get in there and take care of our children. We just don't know what is going on.
"It's outrageous this is happening in America."Four doctors, 10 nurses and 25 mental health professionals are on hand at the makeshift shelters and 14 more doctors and medical assistant were expected, the department said.