Court Rules Children Were Illegally Seized

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that Child Protective Services overstepped their bounds when it seized children from a ranch in Texas. The ranch is home to the polygamist sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrick Crimmins of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services speaks with Host Madeleine Brand about the ruling.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host: This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes, we talk about the fashions in the "Sex and the City" movie and what's hot this summer.

CHADWICK: First, Texas officials have collected DNA from Warren Jeffs, he's the polygamous sect leader. He's awaiting trial in an abuse case for his spiritual marriages to teenage girls. Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in a different case involving the FLDS sect. More than 400 children were taken from the sect's ranch by child protective services. They were placed in foster care, but now the court says they should be returned to their parents.

BRAND: Patrick Crimmins is spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Mr. Crimmins, what is your reaction to this ruling and what will you do today?

Mr. PATRICK CRIMMINS (DFPS, Spokesman): Well, the first thing that has to happen is Judge Walter has to act. The ruling did not order Child Protective Services directly to return the children, so what happens next is up to Judge Walter.

BRAND: So this court, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals both said that what your agency did was really overstep your bounds, that the removal of all these children was not warranted, what do you say to that?

Mr. CRIMMINS: Well, you know, from the very beginning, we only had one goal, and it's a goal that Child Protective Services always has and that's to protect children. And again, we were disappointed with the ruling as we were disappointed with the earlier court ruling, but we acted appropriately. We believe, given the information that we had at the time and given what our investigation found when we went to the YFC ranch.

BRAND: Which was that five teenagers were pregnant, is that right?

Mr. CRIMMINS: Well, there's quite a bit more to it than that, I mean, I don't want to go into it again, right now.

BRAND: But that is a key point in this whole dispute is that the Court of Appeals found that there was evidence that you presented, only five teenage girls were pregnant and did not warrant the removal of all the children on basically a suspicion that they might be abused sometime in the future.

Mr. CRIMMINS: You're picking out one or two sentences from what the Court of Appeals said.

BRAND: Well, do you think that that's an erroneous interpretation?

Mr. CRIMMINS: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's just that I don't want to talk about the court rulings. The court rulings are something that have happened, has already happened, and we just need to move forward.

BRAND: Well, is there any other recourse, then, besides reuniting the children?

Mr. CRIMMINS: Well, it depends on what Judge Walter does and as far as how that affects the investigation that's currently going on, you know there is an active abuse neglect investigation going on now. I mean, it had not concluded. You know, it's interesting to know the Supreme Court did not direct the agency to end the investigation, but you know, it's difficult to know exactly what's going to happen.

BRAND: Are you worried at all that this might compromise future child abuse investigations?

Mr. CRIMMINS: That's something that is being discussed a great deal in all kinds of circles--legal and social services and government and otherwise--as to what effect this whole, you know, two-month long experience will have on how Child Protective Services in Texas and perhaps elsewhere, conduct investigations, how they respond to complaints.

BRAND: What are some of the possible outcomes do you think?

Mr. CRIMMINS: It's impossible to say. I mean, again, Child Protective Services in Texas, like any CPS in any state, has to operate a great deal on judgments and a great deal on, you know, risk assessment rules and risk assessment models and in any case in which you respond to a report of possible child abuse or child neglect in a household, if you find abuse or neglect in that household a CPS investigator is trained that if one child in a household has been abused then the other children in that household may be at risk of abuse. So it may be in the best interest of everyone in the household to remove all the children. That's the model that we operated under in the YFC case. And the court says that that model, that risk assessment decision-making, was flawed, and you can't remove all the children in a given household just because you believe one or more of them have been abused or neglected, and so that's something that is causing a great deal of interest in social service circles.

BRAND: Well, Patrick Crimmins, thank you very much for speaking with us today.

Mr. CRIMMINS: You're welcome.

BRAND: Patrick Crimmins, he's spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

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