Court hearings in Texas on whether to place eight children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch in foster care are now slated to begin later this month.

Clerks in a San Angelo court said Friday the hearings were rescheduled for Aug. 18 and could last the entire week. They were previously scheduled for Sept. 25.

"We will present evidence that we believe will justify the non-emergency removal of the children, and the attorneys and parents will be represented and can plead their case to the court," said Texas Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner. "The judge ultimately decides if CPS gets temporary custody again."

CPS filed court papers earlier this week seeking to place the six girls and two boys, ages 5 to 17, in foster care, claiming their mothers refused to limit the children's contact with men involved in underage marriages. Included in their evidence were documents detailing child bride marriages, including a pair of 12-year-old girls sealed to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

An FLDS spokesman has said that CPS still hasn't proven the eight children are in any immediate danger.

Hundreds of children from the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch were removed in an April raid when child welfare workers and law enforcement responded to the polygamous sect's compound on a report of a pregnant 16-year-old girl in an abusive marriage to an older man. The call is believed to be a hoax, but authorities said they found other signs of abuse.

Approximately 440 children were returned to their parents after two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly. CPS recently dropped 32 cases involving children in the nation's biggest child-custody case.

Child welfare and criminal investigations continue, including a grand jury that indicted six FLDS men on charges ranging from sexual assault and bigamy to failure to report child abuse. The grand jury is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 21, at the same time these custody hearings are expected to be under way.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com