FLDS kids coming home?

June 2, 2008 7:21:03 AM PDT
Children seized from a polygamist ranch in west Texas may soon be back with their parents. But some say the plan needs a little work. And now, lawyers for the children are getting ready to go back to court. As we first told you last week, the Texas Supreme Court upheld a decision, saying child welfare workers had no right to take the children. But their return to their parents is being held up by the same judge who ordered them taken away in the first place.

Now, lawyers in the case want things worked out.

Local attorneys for the Yearning for Zion children tell Eyewitness News that CPS officials met Sunday afternoon in San Angelo. This week, some ad litems representing the children are hoping to force a San Angelo judge to sign off on a plan to reunite children.

The largest custody battle in US history will enter yet another week as dozens of attorneys, FLDS church leaders and parents head back to court in San Angelo on Monday.

"These children have suffered enough at the hands of the state of Texas," said FLDS spokesperson Rod Parker. "It is time for the children to come home."

But any hopes of reuniting mothers and children from the YFZ ranch in Eldorado this weekend came to a halt Friday when district court Judge Barbara Walther failed to sign the agreement between the state CPS workers and the church.

That agreement included terms from preventing parents or children from leaving Texas to mandating each child have their photo taken and kept in their possession.

Houston ad litem Betty Luke says the judge's plan left her puzzled.

"According to the Texas Supreme Court order, this judge could have had those fathers kicked out of the home as alleged perpetrators, but she chose not to do that so we've seen her go from left field to right field," she said.

The plan was drawn up after last week's decision by the Texas Supreme Court, which said Judge Walther, who first removed the children, had to find a new plan which included reuniting the children with their mothers.

"What worries me as someone who's responsible for an eight-year-old girl is that apparently the fathers as well as the mothers are allowed back in the home," said Luke.

And as the custody battles resumes at the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo, a grand jury could soon decide whether any criminal charges will be brought against any fathers from the ranch in neighboring Schleicher County.

The judge said the order would have to be signed by all the mothers who sued to get their children back before she would sign off on it. Attorneys argued that would be difficult because they are scattered across the state.

The agreement would affect the more than 400 children from the ranch who are now in foster care, including some in the Houston area. More than two dozen are staying at the Kidz Harbor home in Liverpool. They were brought to southeast Texas at the end of April. More children are staying at Boys and Girls Country in Hockley.

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