Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hearings Begin In FLDS Custody Cases; Vague Service Plans Protested

The AP and the Salt Lake Tribune report on hearings that began yesterday in the custody proceedings for over 460 children taken from the FLDS ranch in Eldorado, Texas. Five judges are conducting the hearings which, it is expected, will run for three weeks. Nearly identical "service plans" were proposed in each case as a condition to return of children to their parents. More individualized tailoring of the plans is expected in the future. However attorneys for the parents say the service plans are vague and it is unclear exactly what parents need to do. The plans generally require parents to get counseling and vocational training, obtain psychological evaluations and attend parenting classes. Authorities hope to reunify families by next April. In the meantime, parental visits are difficult or impossible as the children have been scattered around the state, up to 650 miles apart. It is unclear under the plans whether the children will be allowed to return to the Yearning for Zion Ranch. The plans merely call for a "safe" environment for the children. It is also unclear whether parents will be able to continue home schooling their children.

UPDATE: Child welfare officials are banning any mention of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs to the children in state custody. Tuesday's Houston Chronicle reports that family members visiting children in foster care may not mention Jeffs, and children may not have copies of the Book of Mormon if they have Jeffs picture or signature in them.