Jun 15, 2008

A hectic, and happy Father’s Day

Dan Ferguson
Surrey North Delta Leader (Canada)
June 15, 2008

Scott Grant will be enjoying a wonderfully ordinary Father’s Day today, one free of court appearances and press coverage.

He will spend it with his two children, having a nice dinner at his sister’s place.

Like they often do, 14-year-old Max and 13-year-old Josephine will probably tease their single father about being both a mom and a dad to them.

“They’ll tell me how old old I look, how badly I dress,” he says.

He will laugh along with them.

And as he often does these days, he will think he is a truly fortunate man.

“If I never had any money, and only had my children, it would be okay,” the financial planner says.

“It’s a gift to raise children.”

Since he won a long and bitter court fight two years ago to get his children back from France, Grant has been living the hectic life of a single parent, juggling family responsibilities with his career.

The hours can be long when there are both clients who need to sort out their fiscal affairs and kids who need to get to school, when you are cooking meals and doing laundry (with the kids’ help) and making early morning runs to ice arenas.

He admits he gets a little sleep-deprived sometimes.

Grant is still digging out from a mountain of legal debts accumulated over the five years he fought to have his ex-wife Nathalie Gettliffe bring his children back from France after she fled the country with them in defiance of a court order.

In 2006 she was arrested during a visit to Vancouver and convicted of kidnapping her own children.

Shortly after her arrest French police returned Max and Josephine to their father.

Things were tense at first, but the kids have settled in.

They’ve completely regained the English language skills that had rusted away during their time in France.

They live in the rooms their father kept waiting for them.

Max has repainted his space orange, because he likes the colour.

Josephine has redecorated her room in more subtle shades of blue.

Max, much to his delight, is finally taller than his sister.

On the ice, the avid hockey player is a ferocious competitor, who once got his linemates sent to the penalty box because of a confrontation over a cheap shot by an opposing player.

All five players on the ice ended up in what Max began referring to as the “party box.”

Josephine is an honours student who appears to have inherited her father’s skill with numbers.

She likes going to school dances, but not in the same outfit twice, which is how her dad has become familiar with some local dress shops.

Josephine hopes to become a surgeon one day, while her brother would like to become a judge.

Money may be tight, and the legal squabbles are far from over, but none of that matters as much to this dad as getting to be with his children and watch them grow.

“It’s the best gift in the world,” Grant says.

“It’s worth everything.”

That’s really all he needs as a present this Father’s Day.



Jun 13, 2008

143 FLDS kids are back at YFZ Ranch

Brian West
Deseret News
June 13, 2008

One third of the FLDS children seized by Texas officials have returned to their original homes on the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado.

Of the 440 children who were returned to their parents earlier this month, 143 children are living in 30 households on the 1,700-acre Yearning For Zion Ranch, said Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

Most of the children from the Fundamentalist LDS Church — 178 children — are living in 33 households in the San Antonio area. The rest of the children are living in different areas of Texas.

No other details about those locations were released by CPS.

The information was gathered as the parents picked up their children from various foster facilities. Each parent or guardian was required to be photographed and fingerprinted. They also filled out forms listing their addresses and telephone numbers, as well as a list of names of adults and children who would be residing in the same household with the children.

Judge Barbara Walther released the children back to the custody of their parents after the Texas Supreme Court upheld a Court of Appeals decision saying the state had acted improperly by seizing the children from the ranch. All were returned by June 4.

Some parents who are renting homes and chose not to return to the YFZ Ranch, at least for now, told the Deseret News they wanted to avoid additional scrutiny from CPS that might occur if they moved back.

CPS officials say they have no preference about where families live, but attorneys for the agency have repeatedly argued since the raid that the ranch was an unsafe environment for the children and was a single-household community that fostered a dangerous pattern of abuse.

Some attorneys have also advised the parents not to return to the ranch.

Crimmins said CPS is continuing to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. As part of an agreement, child welfare workers can make unannounced visits to the homes between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. each day. During such visits, medical, psychological and psychiatric examinations can be conducted, according to the agreement.

CPS has also received "partial" DNA results from the maternity and paternity testing that had been ordered from the children and parents. "The results are being reviewed and analyzed to determine if the DNA results can help investigators in the multiple investigations to determine if abuse occurred," CPS officials said in a statement on its Web site.

Many believe that DNA evidence will also be used in ongoing criminal investigations against the sect.

E-mail: bwest@desnews.com


Jun 12, 2008

A Child's Death And a Crisis for Faith

Suzanne Sataline
Wall Street Journal
June 12, 2008

The recent death from untreated diabetes of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl has invigorated opposition to obscure laws in many states that let parents rely on prayer, rather than medicine, to heal sick children.

Dale and Leilani Neumann of Weston, Wis., are facing charges of second-degree reckless homicide after their child, Madeline Kara Neumann, died on Easter after slipping into a coma. The death, likely preventable with insulin, has renewed calls for Wisconsin and dozens of other states to strike laws that protect parents who choose prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.

The case also has frustrated the Church of Christ, Scientist, the main promoter of prayer as therapy, which says a few tragic cases have unfairly tarred a practice that can restore health. The Neumanns, a Christian couple who run a prayer group out of their coffee shop, are not Christian Scientists. The National Center for Health Statistics, a federal agency,
estimated in 2004 that more than 2% of the population uses prayer rituals.  "No one should be presumed to be guilty or innocent ... because they've chosen spiritual care," says Phil Davis, a Christian Science church spokesman.

Lawyers nationwide say they are eager to see if the Neumann case sparks more changes in state laws. It raises a "national discourse as to whether children can be medically neglected legally," says Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York who writes about children's rights. In another recent case, a 15-month-old child in Oregon died in March from a form of pneumonia and a blood infection after her parents opted to try to heal her with prayer. Oregon law provides no defense for parents charged with causing the death of a child through neglect or maltreatment, and the couple has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal

There's been a small, steady pushback against state provisions protecting spiritual healing. A Massachusetts bill that would have protected parents who used prayer in lieu of medical treatment stalled in committee last year, despite the measure's broad sponsorship by 33 lawmakers.

In Maryland, lawmakers in 2005 repealed part of a law that had protected parents from losing custody if they withheld medical treatment because of religious belief. And in Maine that year, legislators amended several laws regarding religious treatment, and repealed part of its family law that stated that children couldn't automatically be considered abused
solely because they were treated "by spiritual means by an accredited practitioner." Evert Fowle, the district attorney in Augusta, Maine, said the amendments would now allow him to bring charges against guardians should a child be harmed after being treated with prayer alone.

The Wisconsin case against the Neumanns also highlights an obscure area of child-protection law that will force judges to weigh seemingly conflicting laws: If a state permits people to employ prayers for healing, can it then hold a parent criminally liable if those prayers fail?

The recent deaths of children have spotlighted the little-known lobbying work of the Church of Christ, Scientist, a denomination with anywhere from 60,000 to a half-million members, according to various estimates. The group believes that health can be restored through a stronger connection with God -- in effect, willing the body to be healthy. The
church is the largest that supports relying on prayer for healing, though other small sects do, as well. Of course, many religious denominations advocate prayer in conjunction with medical treatment.

The Christian Science church doesn't provide guidance on whether members may seek medical care, says Mr. Davis, the church spokesman. He says the church does not bar members from getting medical care, nor does it advise members when they should do so.

Church founder Mary Baker Eddy believed it was "fear that creates the image of disease and its consequent manifestation in the body." Spiritual practitioners, who are trained by the church to heal through prayer, get patients to think differently about their relationship with God, says Mr. Davis, who also is a spiritual practitioner. "It's an affirmation [of truth],"
Mr. Davis says. "It's that understanding that restores harmony."

The church's Christian Science Journal prints monthly testimonies that prayer has wiped away prostate cancer, a breast lump, leukemia and other illnesses. Brian Talcott, a practitioner in Berkeley, Calif., says he has seen cases of glaucoma and cataracts disappear.

But a 2006 study in the American Heart Journal concluded that prayers for patients recovering from bypass surgery had no effect. The study was led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Every state forbids child abuse and requires parents to provide health care. But in the 1970s and 1980s, many states added provisions offering legal protections to parents who used prayer treatment. Many of these statutes were passed after Congress in 1974 began offering money to bolster child-protection agencies. But there were strings. Federal health
and welfare officials, pressed by Christian Scientists, made the funding contingent upon the requesting state legislating legal safeguards for those opting to treat with prayer.

In all, 45 states offer some legal accommodations in child-protection laws for parents who use spiritual healing, according to the Christian Science church. The laws vary widely, with some states protecting parents or guardians from felony abuse or murder prosecutions, while others exempt prayer practice only in misdemeanor cases, according to Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty Inc., a nonprofit group based in Sioux City, Iowa, that opposes such laws.

Wisconsin has three statutes providing religious healing exceptions: one in the child-abuse laws, one in the laws concerning crimes against children, and one that bars the state from forcing medical care on someone who chooses Christian Science prayer. The state's child-abuse laws were amended in 1987 to say: "A person is not guilty of an
offense ... solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing." The wording was requested by the local Christian Science government-relations office, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Council, a state agency.

A 1998 study in the journal Pediatrics, by Rita Swan, president of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, and Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician, reported that 172 children died with no medical care because of religious reasons in the two decades after states began exempting faith healing. Of those, 140 children had a greater than 90% chance of survival
if they had been treated medically, the researchers found. "Some of the religious defenses to felonies are a chilling betrayal of children," says Ms. Swan, a former Christian Scientist who lost a child to spinal meningitis in 1977 after initially relying on church practitioners before finally seeking medical help.

Although many states allow medical personnel to seek court orders to provide emergency care if a sick child is denied treatment, parents who rely on religious healing often don't inform doctors and hospitals of their children's condition.

Since 1982, states have filed criminal charges in the deaths of 65 children whose parents practiced faith healing, according to Ms. Swan's count. The prosecutions have had mixed results.

In California, the state Supreme Court in 1988 upheld the conviction of a mother found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and felony child endangerment after she used a Christian Science healer to care for her 4-year-old daughter. The child died of meningitis. The justices found that the religious-healing clause in the state child-neglect statute was not a defense in a felony death case.

But three years later, Minnesota's Supreme Court reached the opposite conclusion. The court dismissed second-degree-manslaughter charges against Christian Scientists William and Kathleen McKown. Her son, Ian Lundman, died at age 11 of diabetic ketoacidosis, or severe, untreated diabetes. The justices ruled that the government couldn't allow someone
to "depend upon" Christian Science healing methods "then attempt to prosecute them for
exercising that right."

The court will have to wrestle with a similar legal dilemma in Wisconsin. The judge will have to decide if the Neumanns believed they were acting lawfully in choosing to treat their child with prayer. The district attorney's office declined to comment and the lawyer for the Neumanns didn't return phone calls. The judge has imposed a gag order in the case.

Christian Science church members nationwide have lobbied lawmakers not just to allow spiritual healing, but to exempt members from mandatory health insurance and to allow insurance carriers to reimburse spiritual healers. And believers in spiritual healing have chalked up some recent wins. Iowa last year allowed parents for religious reasons to opt out of mandatory childhood screenings for lead poisoning.

Massachusetts, the only state that requires residents to have health insurance, allows residents to opt out of buying medical insurance for religious reasons.

Church lobbyists are now asking that the state allow insurance plans to reimburse prayer practitioners, who can charge $20 to $50 for a day's worth of prayer, says Wanda Jane Warmack, the church's legislative manager.

Jun 6, 2008

A Sect’s Families Reunite, and Start to Come Home

Gretel C. Kovach
New York Times
June 6, 2008

ELDORADO, Tex. — The cows still get milked each day by machine here at the Yearning for Zion ranch, although the raw-milk cheese is stacking up uneaten. The onions in the garden are as big as grapefruits, ready for harvest, with few people to pick them.

But a woman in a pink prairie dress, surrounded by a stack of boxes on a porch, is one of the first signs that life is slowly returning to normal.

Just a handful of families have returned to the ranch, the home of a polygamist sect that was raided in West Texas in April in an investigation of possible sexual abuse. The rest of the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have heeded their lawyers’ warnings and moved to other cities while criminal and child-abuse investigations continue.

All of the more than 460 children seized in the raid have been returned to their parents.

“It’s getting better,” said Zavenda Young, 43, who returned to the ranch at sunrise Tuesday after driving all night to pick up her children scattered in group homes across the state. “I notice a few more people coming home. It was lonesome when they were gone.”

Ms. Young’s husband, Edson Jessop, 51, said, “It will be a long ways to get back to normal,” as he and his brother, Guy, 48, took two reporters and a photographer on a tour of the ranch on Wednesday in their dusty sport utility vehicle.

But it will happen, they said.

“It’s been really hard to understand why people say this is not a safe place to raise children,” Edson Jessop added. “To me, this is the safest place in the world to raise children. Isn’t home where children should be?”

The Jessops usually work in the furniture shop. But with so few people to work the land, Guy Jessop has started helping out in the garden.

“We’ve got 300 pounds of cabbage out of there already, and a couple hundred more coming,” he said, driving by the green stalks of a garden plot waving in the hot wind. “It’s getting really weedy on that end, we’re so short of help.”

Residents of the ranch are largely self-sufficient, but they have to stop at the nearest Wal-Mart now and then. “We don’t make watches,” Guy Jessop joked.

In the schoolhouse, all the calendars are stuck on April. The chalkboard bears a handwritten date — April 3, 2008 — when state troopers and child welfare workers came through the gates, after a caller to a domestic abuse hot line said she was a 16-year-old girl who was being abused by her 50-year-old husband.

The caller was never found, and the authorities now say that the call might have been a hoax. Two courts, including the Texas Supreme Court, have ruled that the children who were taken from the ranch by the authorities in April had to be returned to their parents because there was insufficient evidence that they were in imminent danger of abuse.

The criminal investigation, led by the state attorney general’s office, is continuing, and government officials are still expressing reservations about the court rulings.

“The governor is troubled that the children, especially those most at risk for abuse, the young girls, are being sent back to the compound in a situation riddled with uncertainty and the potential for harm, while it remains at the center of a very serious criminal investigation,” said Krista Piferrer, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry.

The sect is trying to put the pieces back together. “We’re trying to find that safe little town in Texas where we can be in peace,” said Willie Jessop, a sect spokesman.

Church members have been through this before. Most of their parents tell the tale of the 1953 Short Creek raid, when the authorities rounded up the women and children from their historic homeland on the Utah-Arizona border, only to return them after a public outcry over pictures of screaming children being ripped from their mothers’ arms.

“Our progenitors all the way down have been persecuted for their religion,” Edson Jessop said. “Now we get to have those one-on-one conversations with our fathers about what it was like.”

At the ranch, the purple petunias and white alyssum were still blooming next to the strip of green lawn and the rose bushes outside the schoolhouse. But life has been “totally disrupted,” Edson Jessop said.

Sometimes, residents of the ranch have to throw out the milk from their black and white Holsteins and the brown Swiss cows.

“You have to milk them, whether you do anything with it or not,” Guy Jessop said. “You’ve got to maintain them, so when the people come back, you’ll have something to feed them.”

Edson Jessop’s children — Zachery, 9; Ephraim, 7; Russell, 5; and Anne, 3 — have been reunited with one another and with their parents. Mr. Jessop and Ms. Young are thankful to the strangers who invited them to stay in their homes, “total strangers, very sweet people,” while they went from group home to group home across the state to visit their children.

Back at their apartment near the furniture shop, Mr. Jessop’s daughter scoots around the pavement on her purple plastic tricycle.

“Anne, come over here so we can take a picture,” Mr. Jessop calls, but she says “No!” and makes her father laugh. “She got sassy; they must have taught her that,” he jokes.

Watching her children play, Ms. Young, said, “It’s wonderful, wonderful to have them all here.”


Jun 5, 2008

4 incest charges against Warren Jeffs dropped

New York Times
June 5, 2008

KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) -- An Arizona judge dropped four of eight charges against Warren Jeffs, even as authorities in Texas looked into whether the polygamist sect leader had relationships with four girls at the west Texas ranch raided in April.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn dismissed the charges at the request of the defense, finding that a state incest law does not apply to the arranged marriages of two teenage girls and their older male relatives.

Conn ruled the law only applies if both participants in the sexual activity are older than 18, and that the law does not apply to half cousins.

In both of the marriages Jeffs is accused of arranging, the girls were under 18 and were their husbands' half cousins. He was charged with incest as an accomplice.

Prosecutors said the law could lead to absurd results, such as an uncle having sex with two nieces, one younger and one older than 18, and being subject to harsher punishments for his conduct with the older one.

But the judge said the statute's language was clear and unambiguous, leaving no room for interpretation.

''We're obviously very pleased with the court's ruling,'' Jeffs' attorney, Mike Piccarreta, told The Associated Press. ''You can see we've chopped these things down considerably.''

In his ruling, Conn wrote that Arizona's incest law initially was enacted without reference to participants' ages. In 1985, it was amended to apply only to people who were 15 years or older, and in 1998, it was changed to its present form, applying only to those 18 or older.

Conn also wrote that because the incest law specifically mentions half brothers and sisters, it arguably excludes all other relationships of the half blood by not mentioning them.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith, the prosecutor in the Arizona case against Jeffs, did not return a call or e-mail request for comment Wednesday evening.

If convicted of all charges, Jeffs could face anywhere from probation to eight years in prison. Before the incest charges were dropped Wednesday and two others were dropped in March, Jeffs faced up to 27 years in prison.

Jeffs, who was already prosecuted in Utah, is still charged in Arizona as an accomplice with four counts of sexual conduct with a minor stemming from the marriages of the two girls.

Last week, investigators at the Texas attorney general's office took DNA from Jeffs, saying they were looking for evidence of relationships between him and four girls from the Yearning For Zion Ranch ages 12 to 15.

All 440 children seized from the ranch April 3 were returned to parents by Wednesday, Child Protective Services spokesman PatrickCrimmins said.

Jeffs, 52, was named president, or prophet, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 2002. Members of the church live in the twin border towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accomplice in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to two terms of five years to life in prison.

Jeffs remains jailed in Kingman as he awaits his Arizona trial. No date has been set.


Jun 4, 2008

Mankind Project of Houston settles wrongful death lawsuit; some mental health oversight required

Warren Throckmorton
June 4, 2008

Some months ago, I reported extensively on the Mankind Project with attention to their signature program, the New Warriors Training Adventure. My interest in MKP and NWTA was provoked by a Houston Press article detailing the suicide of Michael Scinto. Mr. Scinto had attended a NWTA and reported distress thereafter. His parents Kathy and Ralph Scinto believed his death was linked to his experiences on that weekend and filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in August, 2007.

In April, 2008, the case went to mediation and was settled. Although the parties to the dispute have signed a confidentiality agreement, the terms of the settlement are available for review on the Harris County, Texas District Court e-docs website. You will need to register (name, email address), verify your email and then change your password but the process is free. Once registered, search the name Scinto as Plaintiff and you will find all documents related to the case.

The terms of the settlement are found in a 20 page, May 20 document titled, Defendant's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. The Scintos and their attorney won $75,000 split roughly three ways. Furthermore, MKP of Houston is required to make some changes in procedure. The changes involves screening of applicants, disclosure of activities and means to exit the weekend. Anyone who registers can preview all of the court documents for no cost. I summarize the highlights here:

MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.

Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.

The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:

Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.

The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.

The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.

Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.

MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

As far as I can tell, this settlement is only applicable to MKP of Houston with no requirement that MKP elsewhere implement any of these points. Given the lawsuit involved a wrongful death charge as well as claims of performing psychotherapy without a license, I would say these changes are minimal, but important. I think they are valuable and provide recognition that some form of oversight, minimal though it is, is important. While I suspect that MKP of Houston will have no problem getting a mental health professional to perform this screening function, I would recommend any mental health professional performing this duty check first with his/her liability insurance carrier to make sure such a review is covered activity


Jun 2, 2008

A new deal on FLDS offered

Ben Winslow
Deseret News

June 2, 2008

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A new order to return hundreds of children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch will be put before a judge today.

Lawyers representing FLDS mothers, children and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services met for several hours Sunday at a state office building, hammering out a new order for Judge Barbara Walther's consideration.

"We reached consensus on some things and other things we really didn't. We're just making an effort to try and get this worked out as soon as possible so we can get the kids home," said Brad Haralson, a San Angelo lawyer representing three FLDS mothers.

If Walther signs the proposed order, the children could be reunited with their parents as early as Tuesday. Texas child welfare authorities indicated the order would apply to all of the children in state custody — not just the children whose mothers successfully appealed the judge's decision to Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals.

Attorneys have been trying to figure out what to do after Walther abruptly left the bench on Friday, refusing to sign an order to return the children to their mothers.

The Texas Supreme Court and the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin both ruled that Texas child welfare authorities acted improperly in removing more than 450 children from the YFZ Ranch while they investigated allegations of abuse. The courts ordered Walther to return more than 130 children to their parents — but allowed her to set conditions. It also allowed Child Protective Services the ability to continue its investigation.

Negotiations broke down in court on Friday, leaving parents and attorneys unsure of when they will be reunited with their children.

"The judge has a right to enter an order, whether or not the parties agree," said Andrea Sloan, a lawyer representing a group of young women Texas claimed were underage. "At the end of the day, because of time constraints, I would expect she will just enter the order."

Lawyers declined to detail what the new order would say but said the language that was tweaked was a compromise. There will be no hearing today; the order will be dropped in the judge's box for her to sign.

"I think she's going to sign whatever order she wants to sign," said Kirk Hawkins, a lawyer representing four FLDS mothers. "It's closer to her version."

The sticking point still appears to be a disagreement over whether the judge has the authority to impose broad conditions giving Texas CPS authority over the families, or whether the judge should just free the children.

Julie Balovich, an attorney for the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Society (representing 38 FLDS mothers), argued in court that the judge should just release the children. She left Sunday's meeting without commenting.

Proposed orders have required parenting classes, access to homes at various times, interviews and medical evaluations, travel restrictions — and how long CPS can be involved in the families' lives.

"It's not an agreed order," Hawkins said. "It's the judge's order. We're just hoping she'll sign an order. You can't get 400 lawyers to agree. We just went over her order and tried to clean up the language some."

Some attorneys complained they weren't in on the discussions at all. Deborah Keenun, a court-appointed attorney representing 11 children in state custody, arrived as the meeting was breaking up. Others found out about the meeting from news reporters.

"There's a lot of general frustration from attorneys who have not been part of the process, when under the law we're supposed to be," Keenun said.

If the order is signed, the children will not be bused en masse to the YFZ Ranch. Instead, parents will go to foster care facilities that have sheltered the children and pick them up. Once they are reunited with their children, some families may not return to the ranch.

"Many of them will be getting independent housing," said Laura Shockley, a lawyer representing a group of young women Texas believed were underage.

She declined to say why they would not return — citing attorney-client privilege — but said some parents are trying to respect the concerns of Texas child welfare authorities and remain with their children.

"They're going to listen to what they think CPS is requiring and try to respond that way," Sloan said.

Texas CPS has claimed the YFZ Ranch is essentially "one household," with a culture of sexual abuse that grooms girls to be child brides, and boys to be sexual perpetrators.

The YFZ Ranch was raided April 3 when Texas child welfare workers and law enforcement responded to the FLDS property on a report of a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant and in an abusive, polygamous marriage with an older man. The girl was never found, an arrest warrant for the alleged husband was dropped and Texas authorities are still investigating whether the original call was a hoax.

Once on the ranch, authorities said they found other signs of abuse, prompting Walther to order the removal of all of the FLDS children.

Texas child welfare authorities had claimed to have as many as 31 pregnant or underage mothers in custody. They were young women the FLDS insisted were adults. On Sunday, Shockley told the Deseret News that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has declared all but "four or five" to be adults.

"We're happy that our 29-year-old client is now an adult," Sloan said.

A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could not immediately confirm the status of the "disputed minors" on Sunday.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com