AUSTIN (AP) - Lawyers for mothers in a polygamist sect say the
state went to far in removing all children, even the youngest, from
their West Texas retreat.
But some child advocates and family-law experts side with a West
Texas judge who ruled that the environment at the sect's ranch was
unsafe for anyone under 18 because children were groomed to become
victims or abusers.
Former state District Judge Scott McCown says leaving some
children behind would have meant they could have been whisked out
of the state, which would put them at risk of harm and slowed the
investigation into alleged abuse.
But Robert Doggett, a lawyer for some of the mothers in the
Mormon splinter group, said many of the children were too young to
be indoctrinated to believe in "celestial" marriages between
under-age girls and older men.
Initially, child-welfare investigators took 18 girls, ranging
from 6 months to 17 years, into emergency state custody on April 4,
the second day of the raid of the ranch near Eldorado. But that set
in motion a series of events that culminated in state District
Judge Barbara Walther ordering all 462 children removed from the
The judge modified her order last week to let children younger
than 1 year to stay with their mothers in shelters.