Rotarians Get the Skinny on Raid at Religious Compound

Attorneys representing members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints join a Houston Chronicle reporter in trying to explain the raid in March by law enforcement and child welfare investigators. It led to the removal of over four hundred children. Pat Hernandez has the story.

The children were taken from the FLDS compound in El Dorado in March on suspicion of being abused or under the threat of abuse or neglect. The children were separated from loved ones and placed in foster homes all over Texas. The order came from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The Texas Court of Appeals overturned the original judge’s decision and said there was not enough evidence that the children were in immediate danger.

Panelists at the luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Houston, included attorneys who volunteered to help the children. Annette Lamoreaux with the Texas Advocacy Project said her clients went through an ordeal went sent to the San Angelo Coliseum.

“If I had been there I would have gone ballistic.  And yet, throughout all of this, they managed to maintain this incredible state of grace…They are, I think, I only wish that all of you had been able to get to know them as I have.”

Donna Broom, with the South Texas College of Law Legal Clinics, says judicial oversight of the actions of CPS may not be enough.

“We need to set up regulations that require mandatory and timely disclosures of information by all parties in order to force CPS to present a clear case, set mandatory guidelines that siblings will be kept together during the removal process.”

Stewart Gagnon with Fulbright and Jaworski took another jab at state child welfare officials.

“You as a citizen in the state of Texas have got a choice of what kind of child protective system you want in this state, but you’ve got to pay for it. We’ve got to decide where our priorities lie because, if we don’t pay for it now, we’re going to pay for it later, when we’re building more prisons, when we’re addressing children who have specialized needs that never were treated when they were children.”

Sitting in between the attorneys — Houston Chronicle reporter Terry Langford — who’s been covering the story since it broke.

“Both sides in this issue, both the state and the FLDS are pretty silent and pretty silent about issues that we are trying to get answered. A lot of people say why don’t you have these issues answered? The fact is, we can’t get the information out on either side.”

All agreed that citizens have every right to question the actions of state CPS, especially when it comes to meeting the needs of other children in Texas who might be abused.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.