2008 Archives

'As fast as we can,' Texas agency drops sect custody cases, saying most kids safe with parents


The following is from the Sept. 4, 2008, edition of The Chicago Tribune. Jessica Dixon, a law professor who oversees SMU's child advocacy clinic, provided expertise for this story.

September 4, 2008

Associated Press Writer

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — Child by child, Texas authorities are acknowledging that many of the children seized during a raid on a polygamist sect's ranch can safely live with their parents or guardians.

Since the April 3 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, 235 children's custody cases have been dropped, meaning fewer than half of the 440 children seized remain bound by a court order to stay in Texas, attend parenting classes or be available for unannounced visits by Child Protective Services.

CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said more cases are likely to be dropped but he was unsure how many. . .

Jessica Dixon, a law professor who oversees the child advocacy clinic at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said CPS cases do sometimes result in children quickly being dropped from court supervision, even after initial foster placement. But it doesn't happen often.

To remove a child, "legally, you've got to be able to show risk," she said.

CPS now usually looks for a way children can remain with their parents safely, Dixon said, though she noted that cases of alleged sexual abuse will usually trigger swifter action.

"In most child welfare courts, they're going to be safe rather than sorry, and in some cases, that will result in removals that shouldn't have happened," she said.

Since the April raid and rancorous custody case, the FLDS, which believe polygamy brings glorification in heaven, has said it will not sanction marriages of underage girls. The sect is a breakaway of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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