If you’ve been following the story of the 437 children removed by the state of Texas from a breakaway, fundamentalist Mormon community in Eldorado, you know things are more complicated than they initially appeared: Police raided the compound after they received a call from a woman who said she was a 16-year girl who’d been sexually assaulted there. Now authorities believe those calls were actually placed by a Colorado woman with a history of making false police reports. Yet a Court chose to keep the children, even breast-feeding infants, away from their families and in foster homes, at least for the time-being. It is known that the sect forces girls in early puberty into marriages with older men, and that girls as young as 13 years old have been impregnated. A powerful argument can be made that when a community of adults forces children to conform to such a misogynist, violent, and abusive ideology, it is in their children’s best interest to be raised by adults outside of that community.
Yet voices are beginning to raise in protest of the removal. Warren Binford, a children’s rights expert, writes in the Oregon Statesman Journal:
If these teenage girls are being sexually abused, they should be in protective custody — absolutely. However, most of the children in custody are boys and young children, and thus, not at imminent risk of the abuse alleged.
All children have the right to remain with their families unless and until there is substantial proof of imminent risk of serious harm to that specific child. Due process rights entitle each and every child to individualized findings of harm or serious risk of harm.
It is sensible to assume that, especially for girls, being raised in an environment of sexual coercion has a profoundly negative psychological impact well before the actual acts of physical abuse take place. Still, Binford’s point is well taken; removing young children from their parents abruptly may be equally traumatic. Indeed, there is no way for society to root out every family subjecting their children to such ideas and put those kids into an already over-burdened foster care system. So policy and legal solutions to these problems are unclear. Readers, what do you think? Is Texas right to keep the FLDS children in state custody?
cross-posted at TAPPED