SAN ANGELO, Texas Child Protective Services has revised the number of children it took into state protective custody following the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch.
Texas CPS now believes it had 439 children in state custody, not 440 as the agency has reported for months.
"There isn't a simple explanation for that number changing by one child," Texas CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins told the Deseret News on Friday. "It's been a very complicated case, it remains a complex case, and we think that number is 439 instead of 440."
The number of children from the Utah-based polygamous sect still involved in the nation's largest child custody case will continue to change rapidly as boxes filled with nonsuit filings continue to stack up in the court clerk's office here. As of Friday, CPS said it has filed to nonsuit 268 individuals, including the 26 "disputed minors" whom the agency initially believed to be children but were really adults. Approximately 197 children remain the subject of pending lawsuits.
A nonsuit ends court jurisdiction over the child, and the family is no longer bound by court orders such as requirements to stay in Texas, availability for CPS investigators or parenting classes.
However, CPS could still be involved with the family, Crimmins said. Many FLDS parents signed family service plans outlining the steps they will take to ensure their child is protected from abuse.
"There can be a safety plan that is not a court order," he said Friday. "There can be a safety plan that requires CPS access."
Hundreds of children were taken in the April raid, after CPS and law enforcement responded to the YFZ Ranch on a phone call alleging abuse and neglect. Once on site, authorities claim to have seen other signs of abuse prompting a judge to order the removal of all the children.
The 439 children were returned to their families two months later when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly.
Only one girl, a 14-year-old alleged to have been married at age 12 to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, has been placed back in foster care after a judge ruled her mother was unable to protect her from abuse. A hearing has been scheduled here on Sept. 25, where the judge will be given an update on the child. A family service plan, which includes conditions for the child to be returned to her parents, will be considered.
The child welfare investigation and a criminal probe into abuse allegations surrounding the FLDS Church are ongoing. During a court hearing here on Thursday, CPS investigator Angie Voss testified that their investigation revealed "48 percent of the men at the ranch were involved in underage marriage practices."
Crimmins said he could not elaborate on that claim, citing the ongoing child welfare investigation.Six people, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted by a grand jury in nearby Eldorado on charges ranging from bigamy to sexual assault to failure to report child abuse. Raymond Merril Jessop, 36; Allan Eugene Keate, 56; Michael George Emack, 57, and Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, are scheduled to appear in an Eldorado courtroom on Monday.
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