May 19th, 2008
01:10 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: Negotiating each child's future

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/19/art.fldscourt.jpg]
Ismael Estrada
360° Producer

Hearing's underway in courtroom B in San Angelo, Texas.  The purpose is to review the state's "family service plans" outlining what parents need to do to get their families back, and to make sure the parents understand what the state is requiring.  The state says the plans are tools to help family reunification.

Judge Thomas Gosset presided over one mother, Nora Jeffs, the mother of 8 minor children.  All the cases were grouped into one, as they had the same mother.

Child Protective Services (CPS) child case worker Irene Schweneger (SP?) takes the stand.

One problem, the caseworker says, that the state is looking to remedy is that all 8 of her children have been placed in different parts of the state.  Ms. Jeffs has been driving all over Texas to visit them.

CPS says it is aware that some health issues have popped up while the children have been in CPS care.  The youngest child, a 1- 1/2 year old boy, has had various illnesses including minor ear infections, but the child required hospitalization.  Unsure why.

While in the coliseum here, some children were rumored to have chicken pox, strep throat etc.  But CPS says they are all in good health now.  They have been given immunizations and other medications including benedryl for what appeared to be an allergic reaction.

The family plan requires parenting training, family counseling and psychological testing of parents.  It was prepared by CPS, working with child care professionals from Texas and the Arizona and Utah attorneys general.

"We do intend this to be a starting block...geared toward family reunification," the caseworker testified.

CPS establised these plans without meeting the parents.  The caseworker says the traveling schedule of the mother driving all over the state to see her kids made such a meeting difficult, but she plans to meet with the mother and amendments to the plan can be made.  She says the father is nowhere to be found and no one can answer to where he is.  His name is Allen Keate.

– Kids need to be educated with a familiar curriculum
– Mother has had to do a lot of traveling because of the separation
– There is no timetable for the reunification
– No meeting with individual parents to structure a plan

CPS says the plan was implemented on basis of the temporary order and original investigation findings, but says today is the first day CPS has even had a face to face meeting with Ms. Jeffs.

 "I agree to follow all recommendations so long as they don't conflict with my religious beliefs."

"We all know why we are here. You have a right to religious freedom up until the point where it breaks the law"
He agreed that CPS should work to place the children as close to each other and to the mother as possible.

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Ismael Estrada • Polygamy
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. JJ_Orlando

    This is a modern day witch trial. Help these poor people.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  2. Matt in Tucson

    The problem is that so far the state has not been able to prove the FLDS have broken the law. So far it has been rumor, bigotry, and the assumption that all the FLDS are equally guilty.

    I think the CPS workers should have to submit to parenting classes, and psychological evaluation. So far, they only thing CPS has proven is that they are much worse parents than the FLDS. It is time for CPS to return the kids to the FLDS, and pay millions for fraud, illegal imprisonment, acting in bad faith, and religious persecution.

    May 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  3. Lynn Lake County, CA

    I think the siblings should be kept together, even without their parents they would have each other. Where is all the gas comming from to go all over the state to visit the children?? $$$ If the children are returned to the mothers who is going to support all of them? Doubtfull the fathers will !!

    May 19, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
  4. Cindy

    Hopefully they can work out something so these kids can see there mom. But I do hope that they make her go through rigorous steps to get the kids back. And maybe even make her leave the compound. No need in sending the kids back to that same old situation that got them taken away in the first place.

    May 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    It's good that the judge began with the statement that the FLDS had a right to religious freedom up until the point where it broke the law. That at least provides a line which the FLDS members cannot cross. I wonder though after the court gets the children back with the mothers who comply with the state's plans if the state intends to find the fathers and prosecute them for polygamy, which is also against the law. I also wonder if some of the younger mothers "married" to these older men even know that its against the law. The state may need to include what the state law on marriages and children and abuse are in those classes.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 19, 2008 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Peggy

    I would like to talk about McCain. If the truth were told,it was his negligence that caused him to be a POW ending up with an arm that is useless so if the people of America are stupid enough to put him in the white house and he robs the poor and gives to the rich, he will then be called the ONE ARM BANDIT

    May 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm |