|CPS Refusing to Release Findings in Polygamist Case
By Stephen Hunt
The Salt Lake Tribune
December 18, 2008
Texas Child Protective Services, the agency that last spring removed 439 children from a polygamist ranch in West Texas because caseworkers suspected child abuse, is refusing to release the findings of their completed abuse investigation to the Houston Chronicle.
On Wednesday, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins confirmed that the abuse investigation is finished but said the findings would not be released because CPS officials want to release them later in an upcoming report. The agency hasn't set a date for that release, Crimmins said.
"The findings are going to be included in an overall report on the Eldorado operation," said Crimmins. "And that's the point when the findings will be released."
The Texas Public Information Act does not provide for an agency to withhold readily available public information unless it meets certain exemptions.
But CPS officials are not claiming these abuse investigation findings meet any exemption and are therefore not subject to release.
The Chronicle's request does not seek the names of the children, only the sex and the age of each child and whether the agency found a "reason to believe" abuse occurred or that investigators were "unable to determine" any abuse or neglect happened.
The probe into the care of children at an Eldorado ranch belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect, began last April when a woman claiming to be an abused, underage bride to an FLDS member contacted CPS.
The call, now thought to be a hoax, resulted in the initial removal of all the children from the FLDS' Yearning For Zion Ranch
Some attorneys for the children in the case have confirmed their clients' parents began receiving notice CPS had concluded investigations in their children's cases months ago.
The newspaper began inquiring about the abuse investigation findings after hearing about the notices sent by CPS to FLDS parents.
In October, an attorney from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, CPS' parent agency, told the newspaper it would release the findings eventually.
"The Department is in the process of compiling information that it intends to release as soon as practicable and will include you in the response," wrote John Adamo, the department's director of administrative legal services, in an Oct. 27 e-mail to the Chronicle.
The FLDS children were eventually returned by CPS to their parents and all but 19 children have been removed from a West Texas court's oversight. The entire episode has cost taxpayers more than $12 million. Since July, a grand jury has indicted 12 FLDS men on charges ranging from failure to report child abuse to sexual assault of a child and bigamy. None of the cases have been scheduled for trial.
Under Texas law, those under 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.
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