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Mothers allowed to stay with children under 12 months

Mothers allowed to stay with children under 12 months


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(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Courtney Orton and Associated Press reporting

More than 100 children taken from a polygamist compound in Texas have been placed in foster care.

The rest remain at the San Angelo Coliseum, where they've been housed for the last two weeks.

Wednesday, Texas Judge Barbara Walther ordered that mothers with children under 12 months can stay with the children as they move to group homes around Texas.

That order by the judge is very good news for FLDS mothers who are breast-feeding children, because the state will now make arrangement for them to be housed near their children.

Earlier this week, Walther rejected a temporary restraining order request seeking to keep breastfeeding mothers with their babies. CPS attorney Gary Banks told Walther Wednesday afternoon there are 18 adult mothers with babies 12 months and younger. Placements have already been found for 16 of those mothers and their children, he said.

There is still some question, though, as to why women and children were not allowed to stay at the Texas ranch if the men left. FLDS attorney Rod Parker says that offer was made directly to Texas Child Protective Services (CPS), but he says it never responded.

"The state would have spared the burden of caring for all these people, the spectacle of all this moving around and tearing people apart. It would have been a much more humane option," Parker said.

Parker and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff were part of a panel Wednesday for the Utah State Bar. The luncheon was planned before the FLDS raids happened, but Shurtleff says that option would have only worked had the men really been willing to leave voluntarily.

As for how Texas has handled the removal of more than 400 children, Shurtleff says he's concerned the Texas CPS went overboard, but he admits there's no easy way to investigate allegations of abuse in a secretive compound. Shurtleff asks, "How do you go into that 1,700 acre compound, and those people aren't allowed, Sarah isn't allowed to come and shop at the store and come in and out and find somebody to seek for help, how do you do it?"

In Wednesday's hearing the judge ruled there will be no more hearings until May 18 when the state of Texas will present its service plan.

The individual hearings of children will begin the day after on a per-mother basis.

All children going into homes will be provided with psychological evaluations. Children will also be schooled but will not attend public schools at any of the foster care locations.

Meanwhile, Texas authorities have finished taking DNA samples from all the children removed from a polygamist compound more than two weeks ago.

Roughly 500 samples were taken at the San Angelo Coliseum where authorities have been holding the children. The attorney general's office sent 10 technicians on Monday to begin taking samples ordered by the court as child welfare officials try to sort out the complicated family relationships at the compound.

Spokeswoman Janece Rolfe said the testing at the coliseum was completed late Tuesday, but technicians are still taking samples from parents in Eldorado.

E-mail: corton@ksl.com

(The Associated Press contributed to this story. Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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