I was astonished when the ‘breaking news’ came on CNN that the Supreme Court of Texas had found that the Texas Children’s Protective Services had gone beyond their defined ability to remove 468 children from their parents. As a long-time children’s advocate, social worker and founder of an adoption agency, I personally felt that the Supreme Court had stepped over the line in allowing these children to be returned.
However, upon reflection, and noting later judicial negotiation with the sect’s lawyers, it appears that the Texas CPS will have unannounced access to the children from 8AM to 8PM, 7 days per week. In addition, the families are prohibited from removing the children from the state of Texas and they must take parenting classes. At least the state’s authority over children’s welfare can still continue their investigation.
The Texas Department of Child Protective Services has begun the DNA identification of the children and their parents. This data may give incontrovertible proof that some children were ‘spiritually wed’ to older men and the ages of the offspring of these unions may give the state the age when the pubescent female was married and gave birth.
I realize that many people are uncomfortable with the power of the state to arbitrarily remove children from their parent’s home, but I believe that the state has an obligation to err on the side of caution when considering the possible abuse of children. In this case the spiritual leader of this sect, Warren Jeffs, has been imprisoned in Arizona for forcing underage girls to marry older men through ‘spiritual marriage’ defined by their religion. In addition, anecdotal evidence exists that claims Mr. Jeffs had the power to ‘reassign a woman and her children’ to another man if he felt that God had instructed him to do so. Coincidentally, it seems that this happened most often when a man who lost his wife and children had previously displeased Mr. Jeff personally, professionally or publicly.
There are many unanswered questions surrounding this case including why the Texas Child Protective Services took all of the children rather than the ones most at risk as defined by their biological age: pre-pubescent girls and teenaged boys who might be at risk of being dismissed from the compound to allow more girls to marry older men. In addition, CPS has alleged that the younger children were being groomed to accept as normal the advances and touching of older men.
I think the main unanswered question that must be answered by the citizens of Texas is: Are we going to sit idly by while children are returned to an environment which is potentially abusive when our courts ere on the side of biology. Biologically and according to the Texas courts, these children ‘belong’ to their parents; however, we have a moral obligation to see to it that they are not physically, mentally, emotionally or sexually abused.
Maxine Seiler, LCSW