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Twelve Megabucks for One Kid
November 22, 2008 permalink
The cost of seizing 439 children during the raid on the FLDS in Eldorado Texas has topped $12 million, excluding court fees. 36 children are still involved in court actions, and just one of them, Teresa Jeffs, is in foster care. She was sold down the river by her own lawyer. See June 23 and September 27, 2008.
Costs top $12.4 million for raid on FLDS
Figure doesn't include court fees for massive case
By Ben Winslow, Deseret News, Published: November 21, 2008
The raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch and its aftermath have cost the state of Texas more than $12.4 million, new figures provided to the Deseret News reveal.
A spreadsheet outlining some of the costs for the sheltering of FLDS women and children in the aftermath of the April raid was provided by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Wednesday after a request for an accounting. The figures for the "San Angelo Mass Care Event" do not include ongoing costs since the 439 children were returned to their families in June, including the salaries of caseworkers and attorneys still involved in the case, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
"We think this is the final cost of the operation," he said Wednesday.
More than $4 million was spent on goods and services at Fort Concho and the San Angelo Coliseum, where FLDS children and some of their mothers were housed immediately following the raid. The "unified command center" set up there cost nearly $1 million. Another $1 million was spent on buses to take the children to foster-care facilities scattered around the Lone Star State.
Foster-care placement, security and Medicaid cost Texas more than $3.3 million, the figures show.
The numbers do not include court costs in the nation's largest child-custody case. A judge in San Angelo recently signed an order approving payment to hundreds of lawyers appointed by the courts to represent the children from the Utah-based polygamous sect.
"All attorney ad litems were advised prior to accepting appointments that their service would be voluntary and possibly without compensation, and that if compensation became possible, actual expenses and attorney's fees would be paid by the court at a reduced rate," 51st District Judge Barbara Walther wrote in the order signed last week.
The judge's order sets a cap of $4,000 for hourly billing and $750 for travel and other expenses. Walther left open the door to approve higher fees if attorneys make their case to her for more money.
"There were some tenacious ones among us who spent a lot of time trying to force CPS to give us the information they should have voluntarily given us in April," said Susan Hays, a Dallas attorney who represented a 2-year-old girl in the custody case.
Hays calculates she drove more than 7,200 miles between Dallas and San Angelo, where the court hearings were held, the places where her child client was taken and the mother lived, and the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado. She also logged more than 264 hours on the case.
"In child welfare cases, the ad litems and the state are on the same sides, which is the best interests of the child," Hays said. "They shouldn't make it hard to represent the child and, unfortunately, they did here."
The bills will be paid by Texas' Health and Human Services Commission, which is expected to be reimbursed during the upcoming legislative session. It is estimated the total amount to be doled out to attorneys is about $2 million, said Texas governor's spokeswoman Allison Castle. More than $116,000 has already been paid to Schleicher County for ad litem attorney costs.
The county itself passed a resolution earlier this year seeking indemnification against the extraordinary costs associated with the raid. The resolution said Texas Child Protective Services instituted a "costly procedure without the knowledge of Schleicher County against residents," and that county officials had no way of controlling it.
"The governor's position was to go ahead and work with the counties," Castle said.
Only 36 children's cases remain under court jurisdiction as the massive custody case winds down. On Wednesday, CPS announced another child was "nonsuited." The agency has dropped more than 400 children from the case for varying reasons, including findings of no evidence of abuse or their parents took appropriate steps to protect them.
CPS caseworkers and law enforcement went to the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado in April on a report of a 16-year-old girl trapped in an abusive marriage to an older man. The call is believed to be a hoax, but government authorities said that at the ranch they found other signs of abuse. That prompted a judge to order the removal of all of the children.
The children were returned two months later when a pair of Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and that the children were not in immediate danger of abuse. A criminal probe of the FLDS Church appears to be centering on underage marriages. A dozen people, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted on charges ranging from sexual assault of a child to bigamy to failure to report child abuse.
Two men indicted by the Eldorado grand jury last week have not surrendered yet, the Texas Attorney General's Office said.
Source: Deseret News