Three FLDS children were reunited with their parents Friday and nine more will be as soon as tomorrow.

Texas child welfare authorities have agreed to reunite 12 children from three families with their parents, pending the Texas Supreme Court ruling on their custody case.

Teresa Kelly, a spokeswoman for the parents' lawyer, says Texas Child Protective Services agreed Friday afternoon to allow the parents, including Joseph Steed Jessop, Sr., and his wife Lori, to live with their children in the San Antonio area under state supervision. She did not have more specific details about the living arrangements.

The agreements were reached prior to a scheduled hearing in San Antonio District Court regarding the separation of 1-year-old Joseph Jessop Steed, Jr., from his mother. Lori Jessop had obtained a temporary restraining order May 13 allowing the boy to stay with her until he turned 1 year old, which happened May 15.

Attorneys for FLDS members met for several hours with CPS officials and representatives of the Texas Attorney General's Office to work out the agreement, Kelly said.

Welfare workers later released the Steeds' 4-year-old daughter, Ziana Glo Jessop, and 2 1/2-year-old son, Joseph Edson Jessop, along with the 1-year-old boy.

Reunification of the nine other children from two families is apparently imminent.

"The children are spread out across Texas, but we believe those children will be returned to their families within 24 hours, perhaps sooner," FLDS member Willie Jessop said Friday from the courthouse. "The details are being worked out now. CPS has told us it could take a few hours, but no more than 24 hours to reunite the children with their mothers."

The children will be with their families until at least June 9 when another hearing is scheduled, said Cynthia Martinez, spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents dozens of FLDS mothers.

Jessop called the decision to reunite some of the children with their families "huge."

"We've been waiting for this day for weeks and weeks, but I can't relax until I start seeing little kids in the arms of their mothers," he said, adding his motivation has always been focused on "getting the mothers and children back together."

The remaining mothers are also taking steps to be reunited with their children.

"(Texas RioGrande Legal Aid) remains committed to supporting these women and representing their legal battles to bring these families back together," said attorney Kevin Dietz. "We are going to put up a fight at every step of this process."

An appeals court ruled Thursday that CPS was wrong to seize more than 450 children from a ranch run by the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The state appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court on Friday.

CPS said it took the children into foster care because the polygamous sect pushes girls into underage marriage and sex and raises the boys to be perpetrators.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid filed an response to the CPS appeal Friday afternoon reiterating its argument that the children should never have been removed from their families.


Contributing: Nancy Perkins

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com