May 30, 2008 2:30PM

Texas Supreme Court: Return the Children

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that Child Protective Services (CPS) abused its discretion by seizing 468 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints ranch in Eldorado. Eugene Volokh has a roundup of the legal analysis.

I wrote about this case a few days ago at NRO, but space limitations kept me from going into more detail about how the women and children were treated while in state custody. For those who have not followed this matter closely, the children were seized by CPS but the mothers were "permitted" to remain with their children on the condition that they comply with all CPS rules and commands. 

CPS invited some mental health workers to the various shelters to help care for the hundreds of children. The mental health workers were disturbed by what they saw of CPS's treatment of the women and children, and their written reports corroborate the bitter complaints of the FLDS mothers. I don't think the news media has given this aspect of the story the attention it deserves — so here are some excerpts from the various reports that have been made public:

  • "Women were constantly lied to about where their children [were] and when they could see their lawyers and about when they would be reunited with their children."
  • "Constant reminders that the adult women were only guests and that they were not in charge of the children and what CPS did to them. [The children] belonged to CPS now and they could talk, interrogate, separate and treat them any way [CPS] wanted. This included physical exams and x-rays without [parental] supervision."
  • "I sat with Audrey while three of her children were removed for six hours of questioning." 
  • "The children arrived healthy and happy and left sick and crying."
  • "The door to the room was almost constantly open. Even when the women closed the door to reduce noise during naptime or to dress themselves or the children, it was almost immediately opened again [by a CPS worker]."

  • "The women were lied to and denied access to their attorneys."
  • "At least 5 mothers reported that at night CPS [workers] circled their beds, held flashlight in their faces & then would sit inches away from them as they tried to sleep. Mothers reported that they were scared CPS would take their children during the night."
  • "The CPS workers were openly rude to the mothers and the children, yelled at them for trying to wave to friends and family members in surrounding shelters, threatened them with arrest if they did not stop waving to others, continually reminded them that the women were guests only and could be made to leave if they did not cooperate, threatened the mothers with never seeing their children again if they did not cooperate, and ignored requests for anything."
  • "The children were amazingly clean, happy, healthy, energetic, inquisitive, well behaved, and self-confident; while the mothers were consistently calm, patient, and loving with their children."
  • "Living conditions in the coliseum were not conducive to good health for anyone, and the presence of hostile CPS workers who spied on them constantly, kept them awake at night by shining lights in their faces and talking and laughing created enormous stress for the mothers and children.  None of them slept well or enough."
  • "Try to imagine all these children from age 1 to 12 years, left in that coliseum [separated from their mothers] with only CPS and [police officers] to care for them. The only others were mothers whom CPS decided were under 18 and kept in their custody along with their children. The floor was literally slick with tears in places. A baby was left in a stroller without food and water for 24 hours and ended up in the hospital. A 4 year old boy was so terrified that he snuck away and hid and was only found after the coliseum had been emptied the next day."
  • "I witnessed a young mother named Rosinith be required by CPS to board the bus back to the ranch, though her young child was in the hospital with 104 degree fever and even though the child's physician had personally requested the mother's presence at the hospital. This event haunts me still, and I cannot imagine such a heartless act."
  • "By the second day, I was ready to run in front of the CNN cameras to shout that there was a travesty happening inside those walls.... Of course I was cautioned not to interfere in a 'crime scene investigation.'"
  • "I have always been proud to be an American and a Texan but this incident is not what America or Texas stands for and something must be done to undo the horrible injustice that has been done."

CPS denies the allegations of mistreatment. But the excerpts above are eyewitness reports from objective/disinterested social workers that CPS invited into the shelters.