CPS Advisory Committee Member Said Service Plans Abuse Parents

State of Texas 49, King George 28

49. An Advisory Committee Memory appointed by Governor Perry to advise the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the approach outlined in the service plans represents an abuse of the FLDS parents.

KXAN reported that advisory committee member Tim Lambert said:

They say, “OK, we’ve got the kids for a year. Now, you gotta do what we tell you to do. We don’t know what that is, and that might change as we go along.” Now, I would submit to you that is abuse. That is parental abuse by CPS.

I’ve previously docmented instances in which CPS actions caused FLDS children to suffer (FLDS child dehydrated and manourished; FLDS kids ate poorly and slept poorly; FLDS kid with 104 degree fever not allowed to be with mom; FLDS kid cyring himself to sleep). Now we can observe that CPS actions also unnecessarily caused suffering of the FLDS parents. CPS being let loose on the FLDS community is looking more and more akin to a bull being let loose in a china shop.

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FLDS Child Dehydrated and Malnourished while in State Care

State of Texas 48, King George 28

48. A two-year old FLDS girl became dehydrated and malnourished while in state custody.

As reported by the New York Times, Ruth Fischer faced a distressing sight when she visited her daughter in a hospital:

Hannah looked like a little orphan sitting on the couch. Her hair was stringy and she was in a diaper, a pair of dirty socks and a hospital gown.

Similar to what happened in the case of two other children (see previous post), in addition to suffering physical health problems, her daughter also became withdrawn.

It seems that CPS was quite efficient at abusing the FLDS children in the short length of time that they had custody of the children…

Service Plans Capable of Breaking up FLDS Church

State of Texas 47, King George 28

47. The service plans for the FLDS families were capable of breaking apart the FLDS Church in Texas.

The service plans allege that (link to example plan):

The adults have chosen to be members of a community that appears to support systemic [sic] abuse of children…. Sexual abuse has been confirmed for some children which poses risk of abuse to all children.

And the cover letter states:

If the judge is not satisfied that you can provide a safe place for your child where they are free from abuse, the judge may decide to … permanently take away all of your rights as a parent of the child.

It doesn’t require an excessive amount of reading between the lines to draw the conclusion that if FLDS parents want to keep their children they should leave Eldorado. The service plan even helps this conclusion along by assigning DFPS (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) the task to:

Assist the parent with finding community and other resources to sustain independent living arrangements.

The service plan praises the FLDS community’s system of mutual financial support:

They have a community financial support structure within the YFZ ranch. They are resourceful by gardening, making clothing and utilizing home-making skills and strong construction skills. The mothers have support from other adult women and adolescent girls who assist with child care responsibilities. The family refrains from drug and alcohol abuse.

However, the plan makes it pretty clear that the parents are expected to remove themselves from that financially supportive environment. One of the tasks assigned to the parents in the service plan is to:

Participate in educational/vocational testing for yourself, and work on educational or vocational training as needed to be able to financially support your child.

Another task assigned to the parents involved budgeting skills. The service plan appears to be saying, “You have a nice financial support structure in your community: now please get out of it.”

A law professor and expert on juvenile law quoted by the Dallas Observer summed up the service plans well:

My understanding of the plans is that they may have to be willing to separate from the larger community and become more of a nuclear family, and maybe even be willing to live outside of the compound. As I understand it, one of the goals is not to punish the parents, but to liberate them from this community and conditions, in which other women have said it is very difficult to leave.

After reading through one of the service plans, the main thing I find myself asking is the following: why is there so much mention of budgeting, vocational training, and housing and no mention of not permitting children to marry before the age of consent. Wasn’t that supposed to be the problem the state was trying to address?

Young FLDS Kids Who Suffered in State Care

State of Texas 46, King George 28

46. CPS employees admitted in court that Rulon and Amber Jessop fared poorly while in state protective custody.

The Deseret News reported that – according to CPS workers – Amber Jessop (age 3) and her younger brother Rulon (age 2) slept poorly, ate poorly, and became withdrawn while in foster care.

Looking at the case of the Jessop children as well as cases I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (FLDS kid with 104 degree fever not allowed to be with mom; FLDS kid cyring himself to sleep), it appears that CPS did a poor job of risk-reward analysis in determining whether children would be at greater risk remaining in the FLDS community or being moved to foster care.

Virtual FLDS Petition (Part II)

Here are some additional links for the Virtual Petition I assembled in a previous post. None of the below was actually written as a petition (except for the petition of writ of habeus corpus), but all of the below authors expressed significant concerns about the manner in which the FLDS case was handled by Texas, even though some of the below also express distinct reservations about the FLDS.

Please let me know if you have found editorials from other states, to help round out this collection from across the country.

1. Texas Supreme Court Majority Opinion (required reading)
2. Petition for writ of habeus corpus (required reading)
3. Arizona – East Valley Tribune (Phoenix) – This editorial – coming from an editorial board that initially supported the raid – concludes that the raid “appears to have turned into an assault on religious beliefs unpopular with mainstream society.”
4. California – Los Angeles Times – Though not very sympathetic to the FLDS, this editorial still raises concerns about painting all FLDS with the same brush.
5. Colorado – The Gazette (Colorado Springs) – This editorial draws the unsettling conclusion that, in the child protective services universe, parents are guilty until proven innocent.
6. Delaware – The News Journal (Wilmington) – And this editorial concludes that “good intentions aren’t enough.”
7. Florida – St. Petersburg Times – This editorial opines that “a more measured response would have allowed the state to protect the girls who are in danger” and complains about the cruelty of removing all the children from their families.
8. Georgia – Augusta Times – Proclaiming that “This is still America. And the government’s power to … remove children from their homes must necessarily be strictly contained,” this editorial proceeds to a cleverly-stated conclusion.
9. Maine – Kennebec Journal – This editorial argues that “We live in a country of laws. And no matter how distasteful … the practices alleged to take place at the polygamist sect’s ranch in Texas may be, the law protects even the most despicable among us.”
10. New York – The Jewish Daily Forward – This editorial addresses the concern that the religion was being punished, stating, “In America, we punish conduct, not belief systems.”
11. Oregon – Statesman Journal (Mid-Willamette Valley) – This editorial asks, “What protections do we have when the state can enter our homes en masse and break up our families based upon false allegations of abuse by an imposter?”
12. Texas – Times Record News (Wichita Falls) – This editorial concludes that “much heartache and expense could have been avoided” if the state had exercised more caution from the start.
13. Utah – The Salt Lake Tribune – Another editorial with a great punchline at the end.
14. Washington – The Columbian (Vancouver) – An editorial with a harsh condemnation of the FLDS but which still weighs in on the side of investigating before intervening.
15. Washington, D.C. – Washington Post – In spite of significant concerns about the FLDS, this editorial concludes that officials initially overreacted.

It seems that you don’t have to be a fan of the FLDS to conclude that the FLDS were not treated lawfully.

Initial Service Plans Didn’t Follow CPS Procedure

State of Texas 45, King George 28

45. A CPS worker admitted that CPS procedure calls for service plans to be based on evidence, even though that procedure wasn’t followed in dealing with the FLDS.

Mark Ticer represented three of Sarah Steed’s chidren (I’ve mentioned Sarah in two previous entries – one which mentioned her three year-old son crying himself to sleep while he was in state protective custody and another which mentioned how far Sarah had to travel to visit her children while they were in state custody). The lawyer, Ticer, asked one of the CPS workers assigned to the Steed family if she had observed Sarah with her children. The CPS worker indicated in her response that none of the CPS workers assigned to the Steed family believed that Sarah had inadequate parenting skills. The CPS worker also said that there was no evidence that any of the children had been abused. Nonetheless, the Steeds initially received the same service plan that was distributed to all of the FLDS families. That service plan called for parents to receive psychological evaluations, child abuse counseling, and parenting classes.

According to a Dallas Observer article, the CPS worker also acknowledged that:

CPS protocol calls for gathering evidence first and then tailoring service plans to specific allegations of abuse and neglect.

Too bad CPS didn’t follow their own procedure…

Texas-Sized Double Standard in Dealing with FLDS

State of Texas 44, King George 28

44. The State of Texas just can’t make up its mind whether teenage sexual activity is right or wrong.

The Texas Supreme Court minority opinion cited a psychologist’s testimony indicating that:

The pregnancy of the underage children on the Ranch was the result of sexual abuse because children of the age of fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen are not sufficiently emotionally mature to enter a healthy consensual sexual relationship or a “marriage.”

I happen to agree that 14, 15, and 16 year-old children should not be engaging in sexual relationships, but it appears that a double-standard is being applied: the government classifies such activity as sexual abuse if it happens within the FLDS community, while the government feels the need to subsidize the activity if it happens in the mainstream community. According to statistics provided by the Texas Department of Health:

211,596 [Texas] teenagers aged 13-17 were in need of publicly supported contraceptive services” in 2001. [emphasis added]

By the state’s own logic – as cited in the Supreme Court’s minority opinion – that amounts to state-sponsored sexual abuse.

The Texas government could have found me supporting its actions relative to the FLDS, if the state had collected evidence legally and proceeded against specific individuals based on specific evidence. However, given the manner in which the State of Texas has proceeded and the credibility of the evidence the state has produced against the FLDS, I find myself more shocked by the State of Texas than by the FLDS.

After reaching a high of CPS claiming there were 31 underage FLDS mothers, the state now claims that there are five underage mothers. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article, these underage mothers consist of the following:

  • 3 girls who were 16 years old last year when they gave birth
  • 1 girl who was 17 years old when she gave birth
  • 1 pregnant girl who will be 17 years old in August

The link to state statistics that I provided above indicates there were “19,754 births to teens 17 and under in Texas in 2001.” It looks like the state of Texas would have made wiser use of its money by not allocating the millions of dollars it spent illegally taking all of the FLDS children into custody but instead trying to address the larger issue of reducing teen pregancy and teen sexual activity in the state as a whole. In a previous post, I cited an early estimate of $7.5 million for the state’s expenses for the FLDS raid. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently reviewed over 400 pages of state records and concluded that the tab has already hit 14 million dollars and that invoices for many other expenses remain to be submitted. Based on the above figures, the State of Texas has already accumulated expenses at a rate of $2.8 million for every alleged underage FLDS mother. If the state were to spend at the same rate for every underage mother in the state, the total tab would be $55.3 billion. Given that $82.5 billion of funds were projected to be available for all state expenses in the 2008-2009 year, that rate of spending would be unsustainable. Hence, by the manner in which Texas has chosen to spend its money, it has significantly limited the impact of its efforts in combating teenage pregnancy.

Not only does the state’s handling of the FLDS case pose significant constitutional problems, the state also seems to be operating on a basis of impaired common sense.