Texas child welfare authorities filed court papers today asking to put eight children from the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch into foster care.
They are seeking the action because their mothers have refused to limit their contact with men involved in underage marriages, the Texas Department of Child and Family Services said.
"We are concerned about the welfare of these eight children," said Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services. "In this particular case, we have determined that although we have tried to work with the families, we have found in these particular cases, these children do not have a protective parent who is willing to ensure their safety."
A judge in San Angelo, Texas, set a Sept. 25 court hearing to consider the requests to remove the children. Meisner said they would not move to take the children away immediately.
CPS claims that documents seized from the April raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado show a "pervasive pattern of spiritual marriages between older men and girls ages 12-17." The conclusions were also based on interviews with parents and children, Meisner said.
CPS asked parents to sign family service plans to protect their children from sexual abuse, including a requirement that the children be kept away from anyone who may be sexually abusing them. In this case, Meisner said, the mothers refused to sign the safety plans.
In April, Texas child welfare authorities and law enforcement raided the YFZ Ranch. They were acting on a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old girl in an abusive marriage to an older man.
Once on the ranch, authorities claim they saw other signs of abuse, prompting a judge to order the removal of all of the children. Child Protective Services claimed that the children were in danger of abuse, with girls raised to be child brides, and boys groomed to become sexual perpetrators.
Hundreds of children spent weeks in state protective custody, first at makeshift shelters in San Angelo, then eventually scattered in foster care facilities across the Lone Star state. The 440 children were reunited with their families when the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state acted improperly in removing all of the children, saying there was no imminent danger.
Meanwhile, CPS filed papers asking to "non-suit" 32 children where there was no evidence of any underage marriages or the families agreed to take the appropriate steps to protect their children.
"We moved to non-suit a case when we decide we no longer need the court oversight to ensure the child's safety," Meisner said.
She would not say if any other court actions are planned to either remove more children or end the court oversight."We are still in the midst of our investigation and we are trying to conduct this investigation as was recommended by the supreme court," Meisner said. "We're looking at these cases on an individual basis."