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Polygamist Children

Polygamist Children

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Published by T.L. Langford
CPS seizure of Polygamist Children
CPS seizure of Polygamist Children

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Published by: T.L. Langford on Oct 29, 2013
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10/29/2013

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The Houston Chronicle
April
10, 2008 Thursday3 STAR R.O. EDITION
Like Branch Davidians,
sect youthsconditioned
to deceive outsiders;CPS challenge is to win trust, find truth, expertsays
BYLINE:
 
TERRI LANGFORD
, Staff 
SECTION:
A; Pg. 1
LENGTH:
1163 wordsWhen the children came into the interview rooms, they were orderly andrespectful. If asked to do something, they did it, without question or backtalk. Butwhen they sat down to talk to authorities about life inside their expansive homeout in the country, their stories became guarded, often layered with half-truths."When it came to responding to a question, the answers were purposelydeceptive," Dr. Bruce Perry recalled of the behavior of the 21 Branch Davidianchildren released before the 51-day siege with authorities ended near Waco in adeadly fire in 1993.Perry, a national expert on child trauma and children living in sects or cults,worked side by side with Texas Child Protective Services when the agency took theBranch Davidian children into custody.Fifteen years later, the Houston-based psychologist finds himself working with CPSagain, this time to advise nearly 300 caseworkers in West Texas about whatthey're up against with the 416 children taken from a fundamentalist sect: toughlittle soldiers for God trained since birth to protect their way of life."This is one of the most challenging situations you face in a child protectivesituation where you have children who are socialized into an abusive lifestyle, yetthey feel it is normative," said Perry, a psychiatrist and senior fellow of ChildTrauma Academy in Houston, a nonprofit that conducts research and providesservices for mistreated children.In an insulated worldThe children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado are part of theFundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, a group thatbelieves in polygamy. What is known about the group, through those who haveleft, is that children are conditioned to protect their family against prying eyes andquestions from outsiders."They have lived in a very insulated world," said Darrell Azar, spokesman for CPS'parent agency, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
 
The children could prove the toughest interview subjects yet for veteran CPScaseworkers, emboldened as they may be by an increase in staff and more moneyto investigate abuse cases more effectively.A child who has lived in a restrictive community such as FLDS, where children aretold they will risk their souls or be tortured by the mainstream world, can't helpbut develop a fear of outsiders, Perry and others say."They were told we were the evil people," recalled Bobby Gilliam, president of Methodist Children's Home in Waco, the foster care home that took in 20 of the 21Branch Davidian children.He remembers how the heart rates of the children were 30 percent to 40 percenthigher than normal because of their anxiety. There also was a darkness about thechildren. All of them had lost a relative, either in the gunfight with federal agentsor in the fire."They didn't grieve like normal kids," Gilliam said. He also recalled how he askedthe other children why one girl, about 11 or 12, wore a Star of David. Withoutblinking an eye, they told him that was what cult leader David Koresh had younggirls wear after he had chosen them to be his next wife."Their sense that something is wrong is so different that it really poses a challengefor the agency," Perry said.Passive-aggressiveIn the case of the children from Koresh's compound, most of them, particularly theolder ones, had experience with the outside world and let down their guard faster.But it was difficult to get them to trust the social workers, Gilliam and Perry said.It was a long time before they divulged details about their lives inside."Their behavior is what some might call passive-aggressive," Perry said. Sectchildren act cooperative but know how to dodge questions.And that's something CPS already is finding out.On television screens, the pictures of orderly and cooperative women dressed inlong skirts leading their children quietly onto buses and away from the YFZ ranchhave pulled at the nation's heartstrings.But behind the scenes, at interview areas in San Angelo, the setting is somewhatdifferent.Many of the women have been giving different names every time they are asked.Some caseworkers are finding it tough to interview the children when the women -some of whom are not the child's birth mothers - are never far from the child.There is a sense among some caseworkers that the children are being told to bequiet and that in a few days everyone will be back home at the ranch."They eat together, they sleep together and they even go to the bathroom ... as agroup," said one agency official, who asked not to be identified.Also, there are no birth certificates to help identify so many children, and thewomen are seen often on cell phones, talking to the men still at the ranch andletting them know the state's every move.Despite the obstacles, CPS, an agency used to tremendous pressure fromlawmakers, families and the public at large, believes it is up to the task."They know what's at stake," the agency official said.

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