What is Texas' plan for kids of polygamous sect?
When hearings begin Monday for individual FLDS families, the state's conditions for reunification will get clearer.
(Page 2 of 2)
Attorneys ad litem, representing each child, will weigh in on that child's plan and possibly negotiate changes with the child's social worker. Parents, too, all represented by individual attorneys, will have an opportunity to sign onto that plan.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Some of the lawyers are advising their parents to sign the plan and some are not," says Rod Parker, an attorney in Salt Lake City who is acting spokesman for the FLDS group in Texas. "If it were me, I'd be advising parents not to sign them."
The plans' vagueness sets parents up to fail, Mr. Parker says. "For example, the plans say parents have to provide a safe environment," he says. "That language raises three questions: One, is it [the state's] position that the parent can or cannot return to the ranch? Two, is it [the state's] position that the parent can or cannot teach this religion to the children? Three, is it [the state's] position that the men can or cannot reside in the home?"
The biggest complication is the sheer number of children, says Ellen Marrus of the Center for Children, Law and Policy at the University of Houston. "Even though some of the situations are similar, that doesn't mean that for each child and set of parents it will be the exact same plan. ... The courts are supposed to look at each one individually."
That is, by all accounts, difficult when there are so many children of such a vast age range, from infants to 18-year-olds.
A lawyer takes exception to removal
Polly O'Toole, a Dallas attorney who represents an 8-year-old girl taken from the ranch, says the court has not looked at the cases individually. The girl she represents is one of eight children.
"There was no evidence introduced that either of these parents has abused or neglected these children in any way," Ms. O'Toole says. "The parents identified themselves, they have a marriage license, birth certificates, and they don't believe in underage marriage."
O'Toole has visited the San Antonio facility where her client and one sibling are staying. The other siblings are in four other facilities throughout the state, and O'Toole has been to one of those. Although critical of the DFPS process and workers, she says the two facilities are providing exceptional care.
A status hearing for the 8-year-old and her seven siblings is set for June 3. O'Toole says she has moved to return the children to their parents or, at least, to their mother, and learned last week that the court will entertain her motion.
Meanwhile, Parker says at least four petitions have been filed with Texas appeals courts challenging the original removal of the children.