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More of FLDS Case is Fake
April 24, 2008 permalink
A column by Bud Kennedy adds some new facts to the FLDS situation. The marriage age in Texas was fourteen before the settlement was built. The representative for Eldorado filed a bill to raise it to sixteen. Sounds like a custom law to bust FLDS. And there were only five pregnancies among the 437 children, a teen pregnancy rate lower than for other residents of surrounding Schleicher County.
So the original phone report of child abuse was a hoax, the girls were married at what was a legal age at the time, and there is not an epidemic of teen pregnancy within FLDS. We can expect more of the state's case to crumble in this unusual case in which the press is breaching confidentiality at every step. Don't expect child protectors to give up — they will come up with new reasons to keep the kids.
The number of children taken keeps increasing, owing to the reclassification of young mothers as children. Other news reports suggest that the children make their own clothes, are culturally isolated, do not watch television and do not know who Elvis was. Does that make them worse off? Or better off? On a video posted by FLDS (Flash), the mothers were shown no search warrant. The police served one master warrant on the leader of the settlement, then used that to search all homes. Will we soon have a warrant served on the mayor of Toronto justifying a search of every home in the city?
Posted on Wed, Apr. 23, 2008
Bud Kennedy: Did removal of sect's kids open a door that can't be shut?
By BUD KENNEDY, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
As he drove home late on a lonely West Texas highway, the director of Fort Worth's best-known children's agency wondered how much the state can really help 437 girls and boys from the YFZ Ranch.
Like the rest of us, Ted Blevins is not sure whether state officials did the right thing in investigating possible statutory rape and child abuse inside the compound.
But he has met the children.
And he says we are doing the right thing now.
"A door has been opened that cannot be closed," said Blevins, director of Lena Pope Home, a 78-year-old family counseling and foster care agency founded by a Fort Worth mother to rescue Depression-era orphans.
Ten Lena Pope counselors and child-care workers volunteered in San Angelo last week, pitching in with other agencies from around the state to help child welfare investigators care for the children.
"Once evidence was found of behavior that's against our laws, it would not have been appropriate to ignore it," Blevins said.
"But we have to realize that by removing these children, the state might not be able to guarantee any greater safety in the outside world. Our people had to wonder: Is what we're doing really going to protect them that much more?"
Investigators report finding evidence of five underage pregnancies.
If five of 437 children in the compound were pregnant or have babies, that is better than the underage pregnancy rate in the rest of Schleicher County, according to state statistics.
In other words, 14-year-old girls might be less likely to get pregnant inside the YFZ than in Eldorado.
Investigators originally said they found evidence of 20 abused children. No charges have been filed in any case.
"We understand why the children can't live where they were living," Blevins said. "But we know from local experience that even when you separate children from abusive parents or an abusive home, the separation itself does harm. There are always severe problems when a child is separated from the mother."
Another problem isn't inside the ranch.
It's out here.
"How will these children assimilate into our culture?" Blevins said. "They've never known traffic, noise, lights, the Internet -- they will be adjusting to a totally different life."
The Lena Pope Home workers helped care for children 12 hours a day, spelling other volunteers and state workers. The Fort Worth agency was called in for its long experience with child and foster care, Blevins said. For all the misgivings, he strongly supports the state investigation.
"If we had word of something like this going on inside a house in Fort Worth, the neighbors would not just sit by and let nothing be done," he said. "I don't think our state had any choice in this situation."
A 2005 law authored by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, overhauled child welfare in Texas and also raised the minimum age for marriage. The bill was originally filed by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, who represents Eldorado.
Testimony focused on the YFZ Ranch, with Hilderbran accusing residents of "underage marriage, alleged child abuse, incest and election fraud."
Nelson has said that the investigation spotlights Texas' shortage of foster homes. The 437 girls and boys from Eldorado join more than 17,000 children in state care.
"Clearly, the priority right now should be finding safe, supportive environments for these children in crisis," Nelson said in a statement. Her Senate committee will meet April 30 in Austin to hear public testimony about Eldorado.
Blevins said he's proud of the child welfare workers and volunteers.
"I saw every child treated with absolute dignity and respect," he said. "I think everybody in San Angelo was very careful about respecting the children and their families. I have never been so proud of Texas."
Even if it wasn't a perfect investigation.
Source: Ft Worth Star-Telegram