Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sect Children Face Culture Shock

The hundreds of children from a polygamist compound taken into state custody are on their way to group homes, shelters and residences, but experts and lawyers fear their transition may be much harder than it is for other foster children.
The 437 children taken from the compound in West Texas will be plunged into a culture radically different from the community where they and their families shunned the outside world as a hostile, contaminating influence on their godly way of life.
Many of the children have seen little or no television. They have been essentially home-schooled all their lives. Most were raised on garden-grown vegetables and twice-daily prayers with family. They frolic in long dresses and buttoned-up shirts from another century.
"There's going to be problems," said Susan Hays, who represents a toddler in the custody case. "They are a throwback to the 19th century in how they dress and how they behave."
Buses have already shipped 138 children to group homes or boys' and girls' ranches, but most of the remaining children will be separated from their mothers for the first time when they are sent out of San Angelo in the coming days.
The state Child Protective Services program said it chose foster homes where the youngsters can be kept apart from other children for now.
"We recognize it's critical that these children not be exposed to mainstream culture too quickly or other things that would hinder their success," agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said. "We just want to protect them from abuse and neglect. We're not trying to change them."
The children were swept up in a raid earlier this month on the Yearning for Zion Ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group. Authorities say it believes in marrying off underage girls to older men, and that there is evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the ranch.
The youngsters are being moved out of the crowded San Angelo Coliseum and will be placed in temporary facilities around Texas - some as far away as Houston, 500 miles off - until individual custody decisions can be made.
Those decisions could result in a number of possibilities: Some children could be placed in permanent foster care; some parents who have left the sect may win custody; some youngsters may be allowed to return to the ranch in Eldorado; and some may turn 18 before the case is complete and be allowed to choose their own fates.
Pulliam said the temporary foster care facilities have been briefed on the children's needs. "We're not going to have them in tank tops and shorts," she said.
Pulliam said the children will continue to be home-schooled by the temporary foster-care providers instead of being thrown into big public schools, where they could be bullied because of their differences.
In a related development, an arrest warrant affidavit made public Wednesday shows that a phone number used to report alleged abuse at the Texas retreat had been used previously by a 33-year-old Colorado woman.
It's not yet clear whether authorities suspect Rozita Swinton, of Colorado Springs, made any of the calls that triggered the April 3 raid of the compound.
Texas authorities have said a 16-year-old girl called a crisis center claiming she was abused at the compound. Authorities have not found that girl but say they have found evidence other children were abused.
In February, a woman calling herself "Jennifer" called 911 in Colorado Springs from the same number, claiming that her father had locked her in her basement for days, the document said. Swinton was arrested in connection with that incident on April 16 and later released.

More than 400 FLDS children are in state custody, and officials worry that living in the outside will be diffcult. They are trying to take steps to ease the transition.
Scores of the children have been sent to group homes or boys' and girls' ranches. Others will be separated from their mothers and sent to foster homes around Texas. A state official said children will "not be exposed to mainstream culture too quickly." The following photos illustrate some of the differences between the two cultures.
Daily Family Life: While many children in mainstream culture are familiar with fast-food restaurants, tight schedules and having parents work outside the home, FLDS children have been raised on garden-grown food and are accustomed to twice-daily prayers with their families.
Education: FLDS children are essentially home-schooled, and officials worry they would be bullied if moved immediately into big public schools. Temporary foster parents will home-school them.
Style: "There's going to be problems," said Susan Hays, who represents a toddler in the case. "They are a throwback to the 19th century in how they dress and how they behave." State officials recognize this. "We're not going to have them in tank tops and shorts," said a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.
As the massive custody case moves through the court system, the children face several possibilities. They could be placed in permanent foster care, or turned over to parents who have left the sect. Some may be allowed to return to the sect's compound, while others could turn 18 and leave state custody before the case is resolved.

Ashlee Dodges More Pregnancy Questions
No matter where she goes these days, Ashlee Simpson has to be on the defensive when people ask her whether or not she's expecting a baby. Her latest culprit was the dance-happy Ellen DeGeneres, but Ashlee stood her ground and continued her trip on the vague train.
On Wednesday's 'Ellen' show, DeGeneres poked and prodded the singer about whether she and fiancee Pete Wentz are indeed expecting. DeGeneres bluntly asked: "Are you or are you not pregnant?"
Ashlee, with a smile, issued what has become her standard theme, saying "Well, that has been going on for quite a while. That is something that I choose personally not to discuss."
DeGeneres continues to jab at Simpson with little taunts, then asking "Is it a boy or a girl?" Simpson then turned the tables, asking the audience "Do I look like I had 10 cheeseburgers or something?" She then stood and did a model-like 360, hoping her thin frame would quell the pregnancy questions.
It all ended with Simpson promising that if she is indeed pregnant, she won't wait as long to announce it as Jennifer Lopez did.

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