Sunday, April 27, 2008

Class Action Child Removal

I hope everyone saw the excellent Keith Morrison documentary on Dateline NBC last night chronicling the State of Texas raid on the Yearning For Zion ranch and the horrific aftermath for the families and children who had lived there.

Morrison put a human face on the tragedy. And it is worse than a tragedy. It is easily the worse abuse of power by any state in the history of the United States. Four hundred sixty two children were kidnapped and imprisoned in concentration camp like conditions by the State of Texas. And a court system that should be protecting the rights of these children, has completely ignored the facts of the case and issued rules based solely on rumor and prejudice.

Jessica Dixon, director of the child advocacy center at Southern Methodist University's law school in Dallas has called the raid "class-action child removal."

She added "I've never heard of anything like that."

Keith Morrison has brought the whole story to life.

    Lorene: "Clinging to my skirt. My baby's sick."

    Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC: "How old is your baby?"

    Lorene: "Seventeen months -- and he's so sick."

    Keith Morrison: "Who has him?"

    Lorene: "I don't know, some woman has him, I don't know who it is."
Keith Morrison had full access to the Yearning For Zion Ranch. And the remaining parents were open and candid in their interviews. The compound was modern, clean and attractive. The school is modern and well equipped. The buildings, carved from limestone right on the ranch, are stunning.

However, the State of Texas wouldn't allow Keith to see any of the women and children they had forced to leave in mere minutes without explanation. Texas "protected" the women and children by locking them away and wouldn't even allow their lawyers to visit them, let alone the press or any of their families.

And although Texas law demands they have a hearing before children are removed into foster care, after three weeks in confinement, the children were placed into foster homes as far as 500 miles from their homes or parents.

    The women and children were held first at the complex of Fort Concho, an hour away, then taken to this sports coliseum. Three weeks elapsed. During which the mothers said they were offered a choice.

    Keith Morrison: "Were you allowed to leave at all?"

    Mother: "If we left, we couldn't come back to our children."

    So here they stayed. The media, and even their own lawyers, were refused entry.
The Associate Press reports that CPS officials have conceded there is no evidence the youngest children were abused, and about 130 of the children are under 5.

Teenage boys were not physically or sexually abused either, according to evidence presented in a custody hearing earlier last week, but more than two dozen teenage boys are also in state custody, now staying at a boys' ranch that might typically house troubled or abandoned teens.

Constitutional experts say U.S. courts have consistently held that a parent's beliefs alone are not grounds for removal.

"The general view of the legal system is until there is an imminent risk of harm or actual harm, you can't do that," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.

The DATELINE Report continues with this sad anecdote:

    Lorene, it turns out, is one of the tearful women just returned from that sports stadium, where she watched her children bused off to foster care. She worries most about Natalie, her only daughter.

    Lorene: "She's always been very attached, she doesn't do well without me."

    Authorities said they'd attempt not to separate siblings, but couldn't guarantee it as they spread the children around the vast state of Texas.

    Keith Morrison: "You don't know where they've gone?"

    Rulon and Lorene: "No."

    Keith Morrison: "Have they gone to one place or more than one place?"

    Rulon: "We've heard more than one."

    Lorene: "We've heard rumors that they're split up."

    And this very morning, Lorene tells us, was her 3-year-old's birthday.

    Lorene: "He turned 3 today. His third birthday and they took his mother away."