Texas child welfare authorities have begun drafting service plans for the children taken from the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch.
"It's the plan that has to address the permanency," said Mary Walker, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "Whether or not children will be unified with their parents or whether or not they will remain in foster care."
Children and parents are being interviewed this week, and Texas Child Protective Services will make recommendations. A judge would ultimately sign off on the plans. Court hearings addressing the children's status in foster care are scheduled to begin May 19 in San Angelo, Texas.
"Some of our moms are working on plans of their own that they can propose to CPS," said Cynthia Martinez with the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Society, which represents some of the FLDS mothers.
The April raid was prompted by a phone call from someone claiming to be a 16-year-old "Sarah," who was pregnant and in an abusive relationship. When Texas CPS and law enforcement responded to the YFZ Ranch, they claim they found evidence of other abuse, including teenage mothers. That prompted a judge to order the removal of all the children at the FLDS compound.
The children have since been placed in foster care facilities across Texas. In contrast to the massive hearing Judge Barbara Walther held that placed the children in state custody, individual hearings will determine what happens to the children now.
In a typical service plan, there are recommendations and requirements that may need to be completed before a parent is reunited with their child.
"If, for example, we have a parent who has some substance abuse issues, the plan may be that the parent go into rehab," Walker said. "If you've got issues with neglect, making sure the child is properly cared for, we'd look at parenting classes, homemaking classes. The plan has to address whatever changes are necessary to reduce the level of risk."
Walker said she did not know what the service plans would address or recommend with the FLDS children and their parents. Texas CPS workers have claimed that the polygamist sect has a culture that lends itself to abuse, with girls being raised to become child brides.
The Texas child welfare system gives authorities up to a year to work with a family. If necessary, a judge can grant an extension. With 464 children in state protective custody, authorities concede that this case is not typical.
CPS said it is working with the Texas Education Agency to deal with the educational needs of the FLDS children.
Educational assessments will be conducted on each child and sent to the school district where the children have been placed. Texas' educational authority will recommend the assessment be used on all FLDS children.
"It is anticipated that the children will continue their education on the campus of their foster placement," CPS said in a statement. "There are no plans at this time for the children to attend classes on any public school campus."
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has released new numbers on the children.
According to the May 2 census, there are 102 infants up to 2 years old. An estimated 99 children are ages 3 to 5; 131 children are 6 to 9 years old; 62 children are 10 to 13; and 42 are 14 to 17.
Texas authorities said there are 26 young women who the FLDS claim are adults, but the state believes are children. Two young men turned 18 while in foster care but have elected to stay with family members at a shelter, CPS said.
Some of the foster care facilities the FLDS children are staying in have racked up violations.
The Deseret News conducted an online check of the inspection records and reports for the facilities the judge ordered the children to stay in. They are publicly accessible on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' Web site.
"Foster children are being spanked with a belt as a form of discipline," said one 2007 report for the Presbyterian Children's Homes & Services in Waxahachie, Texas.
"Foster child was made to stand on one foot in a closed closet as a form of discipline," said another report on the facility.
For most of the facilities, most of the 2007 violations were for mundane issues such as record keeping. The Kidz Harbor Home in Liverpool, Texas, was written up in February for two residents having sex at the facility. The Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Amarillo was written up in February for not reporting a child's critical injury in a timely enough manner. It was also written up that same month for having a staff member becoming aware of a child's bruises, but failing to report it.
"You must report and document suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation to child abuse hotline and the designated employee/administrator as soon as you become aware of it," the report said.
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