FLDS Custody Cases Strain Local Agencies - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/18/08

FLDS Custody Cases Strain Local Agencies

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A chaotic round of hearings in San Angelo Friday, as hundreds of attorneys shouted objections. It comes as a judge considers the fate of 416 children removed from a polygamous compound near Eldorado, Texas.

The state is trying to place the children in foster homes because of evidence showing they were being physically and sexually abused. A child welfare worker already testified that at least five girls younger than 18 are pregnant or already have children.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry says Texas has the resources for the massive custody case, but some in Lubbock say it's straining an already stressed system. The folks at Court Appointed Special Advocates of the South Plains tell NewsChannel 11 that their case workers are balancing their local cases with trips to San Angelo. The Children's Home of Lubbock is also on notice to receive some of the children if the state is granted custody.

"I'm glad that these kids are getting the help that they need, but it is a huge strain on the system which was already over burdened as it was," Amy Paiva, Executive Director for CASA of the South Plains said. 

She says local case workers are going to San Angelo on a regular basis.

"They also have full case loads back home. We have to make sure that our advocacy at home is just as good as it ever was, if not better, so that nothing gets missed," Paiva said. 

"Most homes run at pretty close to capacity," Lynn Harms, President of The Children's Home of Lubbock said. 

The possibility that hundreds of children could move into state custody at one time has officials looking for homes.

"We are looking at our system, and I'm sure children's homes all around the state are doing the same thing, if this happens, how many could we take," Harms said. 

Harms says, the Children's Home of Lubbock can take 14 children. That's a small portion of the 416 children already in temporary custody.

"We stay just almost full, and most children's homes are in that situation," Harms said. 

"There is a potential that all of these kids could end up staying in the system for a little while, so that strain on the system isn't going away anytime soon," Paiva said.

"Time will tell. I don't think we have enough experience anywhere in the country with this population of children to know what's going to happen," Harms said. 

In the meantime, Paiva says the agencies dealing with this dilemma need help.

"It's brought a lot of focus to the cause that we're all dealing with, and that's child abuse. I think it's a great time to step up, and if you've been thinking about volunteering or helping in some way, now is the time to do it," Paiva said. 

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about how you can help, give CASA of the South Plains a call at (806) 763-CASA.  We're told that the locations in San Angelo are also in need of office supplies if you would like to donate to that, you can also call CASA.

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