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Kidnapped Mormon Children Reunited with Families

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    Families Reunite After Judge s Ruling By MICHELLE ROBERTS, AP Posted: 2008-06-02 http://news.aol.com/story/_a/sect-families-reunite-after-
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2008
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      Families Reunite After Judge's Ruling
      By MICHELLE ROBERTS,
      AP
      Posted: 2008-06-02
      http://news.aol.com/story/_a/sect-families-reunite-after-
      judges/20080602103309990001


      [See above website for heartwearming reunion photos]


      SAN ANGELO, Texas (June 2) - More than 400 children taken from a
      polygamist sect's ranch two months ago began returning to the arms
      of their tearful parents Monday, hours after a judge bowed to a
      state Supreme Court ruling that the seizure was not justified.

      A Texas judge on Monday ordered the return of roughly 430 children
      seized from a polygamist sect to their parents. The state's Supreme
      Court said Texas Child Protective Services had overreached in taking
      custody of the children. "It's just great day," said Nancy
      Dockstader, above center.

      "It's just great day," said Nancy Dockstader, whose chin quivered
      and eyes filled with tears as she embraced her 9-year-old daughter,
      Amy, outside a foster-care center in Gonzales, about 65 miles east
      of San Antonio. "We're so grateful."

      Her daughter and four other children were among the roughly 430
      children ordered released after two months in state custody, much of
      it spent in foster care centers. Because siblings were separated at
      facilities hundreds of miles apart, it will probably take several
      days for all the families to be reunited.

      Judge Barbara Walther responded to a state Supreme Court ruling last
      week by signing an order that cleared the children to be released
      from foster care. Walther allowed parents to begin picking up their
      children Monday, ending one of the nation's largest child-custody
      cases.

      Dockstader and her husband, James, were headed to Corpus Christi and
      to Amarillo to pick up their other children. "We'll get the rest of
      them," said Dockstader, who was clad in a teal prairie dress and
      clinging to Amy, who wore a matching dress.

      Walther's order requires the parents to stay in Texas, to attend
      parenting classes and to allow the children to be examined as part
      of any abuse investigation.

      But it does not put restrictions on the children's fathers, require
      that the parents renounce polygamy or force them to leave the
      Yearning For Zion Ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
      Christ of Latter Day Saints.

      Late Monday, elder Willie Jessop said the church won't allow
      underage girls to marry. Jessop said the new policy will forbid any
      girl to marry who is not of legal consent age in the state where she
      lives.

      Jessop said the church has been widely misunderstood, but he said
      the church will not sanction marriages of underage girls and will
      counsel members against such unions. He insisted marriages within
      the church have always been consensual.

      Child Protective Services removed all the children from the ranch
      after an April 3 raid prompted by calls to a domestic abuse hot line
      that purportedly came from a 16-year-old mother who was being abused
      by her middle-age husband. The calls are now being investigated as a
      hoax, but authorities contended all the children were at risk
      because church teachings pushed underage girls into marriage and sex.

      The church has denied any children were abused, and members have
      said they are being persecuted for their religion, which believes
      polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

      Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the child-protection agency,
      said authorities still have concerns about the children's safety,
      and the investigation into possible abuse would continue.

      The Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed an appeals court ruling that
      reversed Walther's decision in April putting all children from the
      ranch into foster case.

      The high court and the appeals court rejected the state's argument
      that all the children were in immediate danger from what it said was
      sexual abuse of teenage girls at the ranch.

      The Third Court of Appeals ruled that the state failed to show that
      any more than five of the teenage girls were being sexually abused,
      and had offered no evidence of sexual or physical abuse against the
      other children.

      Half the children sent to foster care were no older than 5.

      All the children, including any underage mothers, will be allowed to
      go back to their parents, though it's possible some children's
      attorneys or child-protection officials could pursue further action
      in individual cases.

      It's not clear how many might return to the ranch right away. Many
      of the parents have purchased or rented homes in Amarillo, San
      Antonio and other places around the state.

      Rod Parker, a spokesman for the FLDS church, said some of the
      attorneys have advised parents to stay away from the ranch for now,
      but most families want to return so the children can continue the
      education they were getting at the sect's schoolhouse before the
      raid.

      Walther's order does not end a separate criminal investigation.
      Texas authorities last week collected DNA from jailed FLDS prophet
      Warren Jeffs as part of investigation into underage sex with girls,
      ages 12 to 15. He has been convicted in Utah as an accomplice to
      rape and is jail in Arizona awaiting trial on separate charges.

      The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, which renounced
      polygamy more than a century ago.


      Associated Press writers Elizabeth White in Gonzales, Linda Ball in
      Fort Worth and Betsy Blaney in Amarillo contributed to this report.

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