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?