Thursday, May 22, 2008

Texas appeals court rules for the children

    A Texas appeals court has ruled that Texas CPS had no right to remove many of the children taken from the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado. It is not yet clear how many of the more than 400 children are affected and it is not known if Texas CPS can or will appeal. The decision has been posted by CNN and is available here.

    As is often the case, some of the most telling material is in the footnotes, particularly notes 9, 10, and 11, where the appeals court demolishes CPS' claim that the ranch is one household and therefore if one child may have been abused, all supposedly are in danger. In Note 11 the judges write that "the simple fact, conceded by the Department, that not all FLDS families are polygamous or allow their female children to marry as minors, demonstrates the danger of removing children from their homes based on the broad-brush ascription of every aspect of a belief system to every person living among followers of the belief system or professing to follow the belief system."

    And, of course, the court stated the obvious. The issue here is removal of children without a hearing or even any real investigation first. That is such a drastic action that legally it can be done only when the danger to the child is immediate. When the allegations involve abuse of teenage girls and "grooming" boys to be abusers, obviously the danger to younger children is not immediate. So there is time to investigate and see if the danger is real – before subjecting children to the clear and present danger of foster care. The question to CPS is: What part of "immediate" don't you understand?

    This will not stop apocalyptic statements from the take-the-child-and-run crowd. Expect phrases like "hands tied," "protecting abusers instead of children" to turn up all over the airwaves from all the usual suspects. None of it is true. The appeals court said only that before you remove a child in an emergency, there really needs to be an emergency. Otherwise, you need to investigate before taking actions likely to destroy children in order to save them.