ELDORADO, Texas Members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church say Texas child welfare authorities are plotting another raid on the YFZ Ranch to find what they claim are more children living there.
"They assume they do exist. If they bring in heavy law enforcement and raid us again, there's nothing I can do to stop it," said FLDS member Willie Jessop as he stood at the gates of the ranch.
About 5 p.m. Mountain time, two Child Protective Services workers and two Schleicher County sheriff's deputies returned to the gates outside the ranch and spoke with Jessop. One law enforcment officer was seen wagging her finger emphatically at Jessop, who looked visibly upset.
The workers and officers left about 20 minutes later. What was discussed is unknown.
Earlier today, Jessop said he met with CPS workers and sheriff's deputies in Eldorado earlier this afternoon. He said CPS workers claimed to have received another phone call about children and abuse on the ranch.
CPS claimed to be looking for five children, ages 14, 15 and younger.
Jessop said he believes law enforcement and CPS will return to the ranch. He said CPS scrubbed immediate plans to raid the ranch because news media were outside.
Every child was already taken from the ranch last month, Jessop maintained. To prove his point, he opened up the ranch to the Deseret News and a group of other reporters gathered outside the gates and led a brief tour of the property.
Only a handful of people were seen inside the 1,700-acre ranch. A schoolhouse was empty, a dairy was sparsely tended to. The once-pristine green lawn of the FLDS Church's first-ever temple is turning brown.
Two CPS workers and a sheriff's deputy first arrived at the gates of the Yearning For Zion Ranch late this morning and indicated they'd heard there were more children on the ranch, confirmed Salt Lake attorney Rod Parker, who is acting as a spokesman for the church.
The workers were asked if they had a warrant. When they said they did not, Parker said they were denied access to the property and they then left.
"If they get a warrant, we'll look at what it says and what it's about," Parker said.
"They were just looking for more children is all," explained FLDS member Guy Jessop, who was standing inside the gate. "I told them there was none here."
Forty-five miles away, Parker and a handful of FLDS men including Jessop bolted from the courthouse in San Angelo and headed to Eldorado after receiving word that law enforcement was at the ranch's gate. The men were in court for a series of status hearings to determine whether the more than 450 children taken from the ranch will eventually be returned to their parents.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran told the Deseret News his office was merely accompanying CPS workers.
"We just sent a marked unit to the gate," the sheriff explained, referring any additional questions to the Texas CPS.
Shari Pulliam, a CPS spokeswoman, confirmed the agency had responded to the ranch on reports that more children may be there.
"Child Protective Services received some information about children who may be living at the YFZ Ranch," Pulliam said. The agency had believed that all of the children had been removed from the ranch last month as authorized by a state district judge. She would not say how CPS received the information about additional children.
"We are conferring with law enforcement at this time," Pulliam said.
Earlier this morning at the San Angelo courthouse, a lawyer for a 14-year-old girl that is on a list of so-called "disputed minors" said she is not pregnant as Texas child welfare authorities have alleged.
"My client does not have children. (She) is not pregnant. She's the youngest on the list of disputed minors," said Andrea Sloan.
The judge hearing the case objected, saying that was not what the hearing was about. But Sloan pressed forward.
"The department is communicating to the public that there are 14-year olds who are pregnant," she said.
Texas Child Protective Services caseworker Ashley Kennedy said that investigations were still ongoing.
The bombshell was dropped during the hearing involving Adeline Barlow, 38, the mother of a 10-year-old and the 14-year-old.
During the hearing, Barlow's attorney was critical of the family service plan, noting that it was a blanket statement. The plans, which detail allegations of abuse and what it will take for parents to be reunited with their children, are essentially identical, outlining the same allegations and recommendations for each parent.
"Were you allowed to make any changes?" Barlow's lawyer Jennifer O'Dyer asked.
"I was allowed to make additions," Kennedy replied.
"You weren't allowed to make any changes?"
"I was not allowed to omit anything."
"Why is that?"
"The plan is a starting point," Kennedy said.
CPS authorities say the plans will become more individualized as the marathon custody cases move forward.
Meanwhile, Texas CPS officials have apparently created a task force to come up with service providers who are "culturally sensitive" to the unique beliefs, languages and issues surrounding the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
The task force is meeting this afternoon. Officials say it includes input from both current and former members of the polygamist sect.
In Barlow's case, she is securing housing and has obtained employment in San Antonio to be near her children.
Similar things happened for a number of FLDS members who have moved off the YFZ Ranch to be closer to their children in state foster care facilities.
Barlow's husband, Leroy Steed Jeffs, 55, did not appear in court today. When reached by phone in Hildale, he told a CPS worker that he had seen the family service plan and that, "at this time he was not interested" in participating, Kennedy said.Five judges are simultaneously holding hearings for the children who were taken from their homes at the YFZ Ranch early last month. The hearings are scheduled to last for three weeks.
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