To regain kids, FLDS women try new tactic: public relations
Texas judge rules that 416 children must remain in state custody for now, orders DNA tests.
(Page 2 of 2)
The DNA tests should take care of that. But they also could help build cases for criminal charges. At issue is whether many of the girls were spiritually married to older men and impregnated before reaching legal age, which is 16 in Texas. At the hearing last week, Texas Child Protective Services workers testified to finding instances of at least 20 girls, some of whom are now adults, who had conceived or given birth before the age of 16 or 17.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The DNA tests will not only identify fathers, but mothers as well. And if those mothers were found to willingly turn over their underage daughters for such marriages, they could be charged as complicit to statutory rape, experts say.
"As long as the women were conspiring in the child sex abuse, knowingly allowing these underage marriages, all of them are capable of being indicted," says Marci Hamilton, an expert on church-state issues at Cardoza Law School in New York and author of the recently released "Justice Denied: What America Must Do To Protect Its Children."
As of now, no criminal charges have been filed in this case. That could be, experts say, because the children haven't identified their parents – some young children believe all the so-called sister wives are their mothers – and the women are being evasive in the answers they provide, according to the Child Protective Services workers' testimony. That may change once the DNA tests are completed.
"I suppose what they're hoping to do in part is identify the guys who impregnated these girls and prosecute them for statutory rape," says Ira Ellman, an expert on family law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in Tempe. "The adult women who cooperated in supplying these underage girls who were impregnated could have a criminal liability, too."
But right now, they face losing their children in this civil action in the 51st District Court in Texas.
"This is all about the care of the children and not a criminal trial," says Paul Bennett, director of the child advocacy clinic at the University of Arizona's College of Law in Tucson. "The court's main concern is how to keep these children safe, and how to create the best situation they can for them."
For now, that means placing all 416 children in temporary foster care while the investigation continues into whether all the children are at risk of sexual abuse if they return to the YFZ ranch.
For the mothers especially – the fathers are so far staying in the background – that means waiting and weighing options.
"We are evaluating the appeal options at this point," says Mr. Parker, the FLDS attorney and spokesman.