- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

They dress like characters from the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, their old-fashioned clothing covering them from neck to ankle. They’ve never eaten processed food or watched television. They’ve been trained to fear and mistrust outsiders.

They’ve also been conditioned to believe it’s normal for men to have multiple wives and for a young girl to marry a much older man as soon as she reaches puberty.

It would have been difficult to find foster homes for even a dozen such children. Now caseworkers with Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) must place 416 girls and boys removed by authorities last week from the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, the polygamist compound run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“This has never been done before on this scale,” said Rowena Erickson, co-founder of Tapestry Against Polygamy in Salt Lake City.

Texas law enforcers met yesterday in Utah with the man accused of abusing the 16-year-old girl whose call for help triggered a raid on the compound, the Associated Press reported.

Dale Barlow, 50, of Colorado City, Ariz., has denied allegations of physical and sexual assault made in a whispered March 29 telephone call to a Texas domestic violence hot line.

Mrs. Erickson applauded Texas officials for removing the children from the compound but warned that caseworkers would be wading into uncharted waters as they try to place hundreds of children into an alien culture.

“They’re going to be so fearful of the people, the technology,” said Mrs. Erickson, who was born into a polygamist clan in Utah and married at 16.

“Some of them didn’t even know what Crayolas were. But you know what? You have to start somewhere,” she said.

The only case that comes close is the Branch Davidians one in Waco, Texas, where 21 children were placed in homes after their parents were killed in a fire that engulfed their religious compound in 1993 after a 51-day standoff with the FBI.

State agencies have deployed nearly 1,000 staff and experts to oversee the legal, medical and custodial issues surrounding the case.

“There are some unique challenges,” said Darrell Azar, spokesman for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS.

The children are scheduled to remain at their temporary facilities in San Angelo until a court hearing Thursday on their status, state officials said Friday.

“All these children are now technically in foster care, and we are exploring placement options that will give them the stability they need while we continue our investigation,” Mr. Azar said.

The state must first identify the children’s names and backgrounds. The process isn’t easy; the women appear to be attempting to confuse caseworkers, for example, by giving different names during the interviews.

Foster-care officials advised placing the children with open-minded families and keeping siblings together whenever possible.

“Probably what they need the most is a family with a very tolerant belief system,” said Deborah Lindner, community-relations manager for the Utah Foster Care Foundation. “I would hope there would be some training for these families.”

Katherine Kerr, spokeswoman for Lutheran Services of the South in Austin, which provides foster homes, said her agency had taken an inventory of available beds in preparation for the FLDS children.

“This case has gotten a lot of publicity, but we have seen kids who have been very isolated, or who’ve been told people on the outside are bad and can’t be trusted,” Mrs. Kerr said. “It’s not like foster parents don’t have experience with these extreme situations.”

It’s also not unusual for foster children to mistrust authorities, she said.

“The people who commit abuse do things to make sure their abusers don’t get in trouble with authorities,” Mrs. Kerr said. “So you’ve got to break down the barriers and teach them they can trust authority.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide