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Back On The Ranch

Back On The Ranch

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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Two months ago, Texas Child Protective Services raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a polygamous compound run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). More than 400 children were taken into custody.

Yesterday, Barbara Walther, the district judge in Schleicher County, Texas, responding to a decision by the Texas Supreme Court, ruled that the state had to return those children. Texas did not have enough evidence to seize them, they said.

In our first hour, NPR's Wade Goodwyn will tell us more about Judge Walther's decision, the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and the FLDS. Then we'll hear from Jackie Carter, who directs the High Sky Children's Ranch, where 15 girls went after the raid; Scott McCown, the director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, based in Austin; and Dan Adams, who runs Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, where 72 boys have been housed.

Do you have questions about the raid? About the ruling? Do you think that Texas Child Protective Services went too far? Should they have intervened?



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I think we are treading on dangerous waters when the government can come in and take ALL of the children from a particular group of people because they do not agree with the way they are being raised. When it came to light that the allegations were made falsely the children should have been returned IMMEDIATELY!!!! And the very small children (COME ON,,,TAKING NURSING BABIES!!!!!) Should not have been taken at all. There was no allegation of abuse of the small kids.

Sent by MD | 2:17 PM | 6-3-2008

Yes, but not until the paternity is established and these families quit abusing the food stamp program! The twin cities of Hildale/Colorado City have over 2 million dollars a year in federal assistance in food stamps. The FLDS also adhers to a bleed the beast (the federal government) mentality.

Sent by Mary Doyle | 2:22 PM | 6-3-2008

I completely oppose the lifestyle of the FLDS church. I think the marrying of underage girls and the exiling of boys is despicable. HOWEVER, the state of Texas stepped way over the bounds when it decided on the basis of one unsubstantiated complaint to remove these children. There was a complete lapse of judgement not to mention due process. It bordered on witch hunting. The rights of the few (even if they are on the fringe of society) must be protected or we are all vulnerable.

Sent by mary | 2:22 PM | 6-3-2008

Child Protective Services is designed to error on the side of protecting a child who did not need it, in the judgement of the court, rather than NOT protecting a child who should have been protected. Where human judgement is a critical factor, no system can be perfect. Nevertheless, the public seems to demand perfection in CPS. The LDS effectively functions a one household. The adults of this household knowingly allowed children to be abused. In such instances agency policy and court generally require all children to be removed from the home under the presumption that all children are at risk of harm, not just the individual child who may have actually been abused. The religious nature of this case I believe unduely influenced the judical system. I bet you can find numerous instances in which traditional families in similar circumstances did not have their children so readily returned. Ultimately, the children in the LDS household will suffer because of the court's decision.

Sent by Michael | 2:24 PM | 6-3-2008

It is very disappointing to hear that the children have been returned to the compound. It makes me think that CPS did not do their homework before they blew the whistle.

Sent by G. Anderson | 2:26 PM | 6-3-2008

I have a question about the legal basis for prohibiting polygamy. I understand the FLDS case involved alleged child abuse, but absent that, why is polygamy considered illegal? A man who marries more than one woman and has children with these women is breaking the law, whereas a man who has children by more than one woman out of wedlock is not breaking the lawl?

Sent by ldpk | 2:26 PM | 6-3-2008

Given that the FLDS lives apart from the rest of society, I am surprised that they were able to so quickly muster the resources to combat the state of TX. When mention was made of the members of the sect in a Mercedes SUV, I was also surprised. How do they manage financially while sequestering themselves in facilities like the YFZ ranch?

Sent by Karen Hatch | 2:30 PM | 6-3-2008

I want to know why the Texas law against bigamy is not being enforced irrespective of any child abuse?


Sent by Polly | 2:30 PM | 6-3-2008

The members of the FLDS did not cooperate with the investigation initially. Additionally, there was reports that they interfered with the investigation. Anyone, else who did not cooperate would not receive their children back until it was certain no abuse occured. I feel they are taking it easy on the FLDS culture due to the claim of religion.

At first, I did not feel that polygamy was the issue. But, in further investigation, I do believe any polygamous culture should automatically be investigated for abuse. Because, mathmatically polygamy can not easily persist. Within any culture there are approximately 51 male births to every 49 female births. This suggests that mathmatically for every man to have 3 permanent mates (wives) alteration of a natural state must occur. They have to remove males from a polygamous culture. Which is where the biggest abuse investigation should occur. Basically, they have to neglect males or use them for forced labor to prevent those males from taking a mate. Additionally, a 2nd or 3rd wife has to be brainwashed and isolated or forced at a younger age to have a child to keep her in a situation that is against her natural advantage. Therefore, I believe in evaluating the need for a crime to occur for polygamy to even exists that polygamy needs to be prosecuted as the crime that it is.

Basically, Texas is right to have removed the children. I hope Texas continues their investigations seriously.

Sent by jackie yates do, pediatrician | 2:30 PM | 6-3-2008

My daughter was abused by her mother for 12 years after reporting it to cps there was two visits after getting custody of my child she told me the beating got worse cps is just about usless in my opinion and by the way the pres. W was Gov and the time and witheld money do the buget would look balanced

Sent by LEN | 2:38 PM | 6-3-2008

Only two words come to mind when I think of government agencies like Texas' CPS: arrogance and hubris.

Sent by Rick | 2:39 PM | 6-3-2008

It seems to me that case workers at CPS as well as physicians should observe the first part of the Hippocratic oath that states "first do no harm." While it may be clear that girls as young as ten or eleven could conceivably be considered in eminent danger, I see no justification for separating small children from their mothers. I fear that these children are now at much more risk of suffering long term effects resulting from the trauma of being separated from their parents and everything that was familiar to them. Does the state have any plan to provide counseling for these traumatized children?

Sent by Mary Maco | 2:40 PM | 6-3-2008

Why is it that women and children must always suffer for the sins of men? Why didn't the State of Texas just go in and arrest the men suspected of committing these abuses and leave the women and children in place? They'd have been sad about the men leaving, but at least their lives wouldn't have been uprooted. Besides, aren't men supposed to make sacrifices for their families?

Sent by Crystal Downs | 2:43 PM | 6-3-2008

How does Texas define marriage if a relationship or ceremony is not filed with any government agency? What if there is no sexual consumation? What if the ceremony is given a name other than Marriage? What does the state know about the FLDS marriages of teenagers?

Sent by Chris Kite | 2:47 PM | 6-3-2008

The FDLS Church has been getting away with polygomy for over 100 years, you think that they don't have it down yet? They know how to keep these marriages under wraps from the government and how to keep from being caught. If you look at the public records only one woman will be listed as a man's wife, the other "sister wives" or "spirit wives" are more like a mistress or a concubine if you please. They also have a few of these ranches within which to move their people. They have places in Mexico, Canada, Utah, Arizona and Texas all of which are interconnected. The government tried and failed to stop them in the 50's what makes anyone so certain they can be stopped now? If you are interested read Under The Banner of Heaven it is a real eye opener as to the practices of the FDLS.

Sent by Ellen Ulrich | 2:58 PM | 6-3-2008

I think they should for the girls who were pregnant. DDS always over steps their bounds on phony BS around here and forget the real stuff. Maybe one day they will save a child. This state and certain counties always want money from the people who need it and qualify. CPS always make up some lies to get money from parents who are wrongly accused. DSS should help those kids with Autism and reunite them with their parents as well.

Sent by Kendra Van Pelt | 3:16 PM | 6-3-2008

"Yes, but not until the paternity is established and these families quit abusing the food stamp program! The twin cities of Hildale/Colorado City have over 2 million dollars a year in federal assistance in food stamps. The FLDS also adhers to a bleed the beast (the federal government) mentality."

Well, here's at least one FLDS person here in Colorado City who isn't using any sort of government assistance. Also, people seem to forget that not ONE person on the ranch was receiving welfare. Those who advocate this "bleeding of the beast" as you guys term it (it's not an FLDS term), aren't really living their religion.

I didn't listen to the first few minutes of the program, but I didn't hear any mention by the retired judge about all the "underage" girls who actually turned out to be adults. Does he still believe there were 31 pregnant teens there or something? Please stop painting all of us with the same broad brush.

I was also thought it was funny when Neil seemed surprised that we had iPods and knew about computers. Ah, ignorance is bliss, I guess. ;)

Sent by Surge | 3:23 PM | 6-3-2008

Of course Texas CPS overstepped their bounds. How can one unverified phone call (now proven bogus) trigger the confiscation of hundreds of children because they adhere to the same belief system? All Catholic children weren't rounded up in the priest abuse scandal. Aren't we protected from unreasonable search and siezure? Shouldn't that apply to our families as well? There was not adequate investigation to determine that all the children removed from their families were involved in abuse. Each case should be individually investigated, as stated by the Appellate and Supreme courts. That seems to be the way justice should be done.

What this case really illustrates is the nearly unfettered power and real damage CPS (in all states) does to families. Once a child enters foster care, the statistics for criminal activity, (real) sex abuse, protitution, drug abuse poor academic performance, etc. are enormous. Children are bounced around from home to home, often several homes per year. How can CPS claim to protect children when sujecting them to this kind of future abuse? I hope that some reform to CPS comes of this incident.

Sent by Ken | 3:29 PM | 6-3-2008

The CPS of Texas has always been out of control.The judge in this case is no better because she did not follow the law either.The CPS should have been requored to return the children to the ranch and not put the burden of returning them on the parents.

Sent by larry boyd | 3:31 PM | 6-3-2008

**I THINK THE FLDS MOTHERS should not have to take parental classes***or do anything they have been ordered to do***
***Its ashame they are in the sytem now**

Sent by Tika | 3:39 PM | 6-3-2008

The children never should have been removed from their homes in the first place. Texas is a bigot state.

Sent by celia | 3:51 PM | 6-3-2008

I am so glad they are going back to their parents. Regardless of the fact that they may not agree with their lifestyle does not give anyone the right to rip babies from their mothers on a presumption of guilt. It is obvious those children are well taken care of and very much loved. The government should not be able to remove children on
FALSE allegations. I am so happy for FLDS. What a victory. The constitution exists after all.

Sent by kerri | 4:07 PM | 6-3-2008

I am so glad those kids are going back home, but should never have been taken in the first place. All the gossip about these people makes me sick. The nursing mothers and children who will no longer be able to nurse because of the time seperated, this is awful, you can never go back. The trauma on all the kids, young and teen. And of course, one last blow to these people on getting the kids back, "we took them out at our transportation expense, but if you want them back, you'll have to go get them yourselves. Good luck". What a crock. I hope they sue everyone involved, at least it will help a little. Also, I don't believe anyone is on welfare, so stop the gossip. And yes, in the inner city you see multiple women with babies and only one baby daddy. Why is that so different? And the inner city people do it on welfare. Why don't we take those kids? If they consider the ranch one house, who is to say that one bad apple in a gated community won't be treated as one house someday. All of us should take this as a wake up call to stop the so-called child protection. In the meantime, there are kids in TX that actually NEED help and aren't getting it. This goes for all states.

Sent by Jackie | 4:23 PM | 6-3-2008

I thought the bouncing back and forth about polygamy in this interview was funny. First the judge states they were trying to protect the young girls, then he said only the ones that were in plural relationships, then he said, "I don't know what they're investigating here, it's all a secret". This is just more evidence of the state attacking a religious group. How come the state only acknowledges plural marriages from this group, when plural marriages are not acknowledged by the state. In other words, the state is the only one that can perform a "legal" marriage, yet they say this group is performing plural marriages. If a bum off the street declared you and the neighbor girl "man and wife" would he then be arrested for performing a plural marriage?

Sent by Curious George | 4:41 PM | 6-3-2008

What a disgrace for those children. They definetly are abused by those old men. Why are they not being charged with rape of a minor. You can't marry un underage child or make them pregnant. The parents should have to show birth certificates to prove who their parents are. and also marriage certificates. If it were any where else they would not have gotten back their children until they can prove everything. And besides what about the food stamps? Don't these pig men support these children? Take those kids away, please..............

Sent by Lena | 4:56 PM | 6-3-2008

It is time for people to stop taking sensational rumors about the FLDS at face value. The welfare remark is soooo uninformed, as the state of Texas has testified that no one on the YFZ ranch received welfare. Instead, they are one of the top 3 taxpayers in their county?

While this is just one lie, there are too many to report. If you actually do some fact checking most rumors about the FLDS turn out to be false.

This type of bigotry led to the unconstitutional raid. We need a federal "Parents Bill of Rights" to truly protect us and our children from CPS.

Sent by Matt in Tucson | 12:15 AM | 6-4-2008

Regarding Welfare- this is about the YfZ ranch in Texas and what the residents there have or have not done, not about what members of the sect in Utah do. The fact is, according to Albert Hawkins, the state's executive commissioner for health and human services for Texas, "officials have found no evidence that anyone from the sect is receiving any sort of public assistance."
Regarding FLDS members allegedly being dishonest to CPS workers- we now know that CPS was dishonest with us. 31 teens are not pregnant or mothers- all but about 5 of those 'teens' are adults. One of them is 37, one is 29, one is 27, one is 26, one is 22, etc, etc. One allegedly pregnant 14 year old isn't pregnant. So perhaps the 'lying' CPS refers to is CPS' own unwillingness to believe that adult women were, in fact, adult women.
Adult women were questioned without their lawyers present and were told that they didn't have to have a lawyer because they weren't adults- in spite of the fact that CPS had seen their I.D., and in some cases submitted documents to the court with the womens' proper birth dates.
Judge Walthers told attorneys to stop making objections and then said that their appeals should be ignored because they'd made no objections when they had the chance.
CPS properly identified 22 y.o. Louisa Jessop as a 22 y.o. in court, but insisted she was a pregnant minor until she had her baby- then they took custody of the infant on the basis that he was the minor child of a minor child, and two days later declared the mother an adult after all, but still kept custody of the infant.
CPS at one point said they had 'dozens' of pregnant minors, and it turns out the only two they had were adults.
The Civil Rights abuses by the state are long and set a dismal precedent for the rest of us. CPS took shortcuts they never should have taken, and they did not 'err on the side of the child.' There is no such thing. Removing a child is always choosing to inflict a known and certain trauma on a child instead of risking a possible harm by leaving the child at home. Removing the child is right only when there is a clear and present danger of immediate harm. CPS chose to traumatize those little children (more than half were younger than 5) NOW to prevent a *possible* harm more than ten years away. There is nothing in Texas statutes that permits that.
Returning the children will not undo what CPS did, it will only stop harming them further.
It was the right thing to do, but it never should have happened.

Sent by DHM | 2:49 AM | 6-4-2008

CPS didnt even have the resources to investigate 460 + children on a case by case basis and do it in the time allowed. That is why the ruling went against them. It is so ironic this occured in the state that Bush was Governor of too!!! A GOP state that probably doesnt care one iota about social services!!!

They also do abuse the foodstamps system since there is no lifetime limit on the amount they can receive. How can one man provide for 3 or 4 "wives" with the average salary that he can earn in today's economy? and how can we as a society expect a 16 year old to afford to feed herself and 1 or more children without going on welfare and abusing the system?

TX doesnt allow parents to permit minors to marry into a plural marriage situation and yet that is what we have here too. Is this being investigated?

This whole situation is bad news and it wasnt handled well at all.

Sent by jm | 3:14 PM | 6-4-2008

Part of the problem in going after the FLDS for abuse, is that our legal system does not address the root cause of the abuses.

Polygamy is illegal, but that is an unenforceable law. Our society tolerates all sorts of cohabitational weirdness. Singling out polygamy doesn't make sense.

The real problem is centralized control over unrelated family units. That needs to be defined and outlawed. The potential for abuse in the wrong hand is enormous as evidenced by the FLDS case. No one person or group should ever be allowed to use "undue" pressure such as overt or implied threats of excommunication, loss of housing, income, social status, etc. to force members of the group to marry, divorce, have sex, have children, shun family members, etc.
Such a law targets the root problem. It is not biased against the FLDS (because they say they don't practice such things) and it provides an opportunity for victims to sue or press charges against abusers who violate their most fundamental rights without having to find evidence of related crimes (like statutory rape.)

Sent by Teresa | 1:07 AM | 6-8-2008