Judge lets FLDS girl move in with relative

The 14-year-old is the only sect member still in Texas custody after the YFZ raid.

Salt Lake Tribune/May 5, 2009

The only FLDS child still in Texas state custody after last year's raid of a polygamous ranch will soon move to a relative's home, a judge said Thursday.

Texas Judge Barbara Walther approved a plan that allows the 14-year-old girl to live with Naomi Carlisle, an FLDS member and a distant relative who moved to San Antonio from Utah last year to help families affected by the raid.

"We're absolutely elated, and we feel like this has been an answer to prayers," said Willie Jessop, a spokesman for the polygamous sect.

"You couldn't count the tears that have been flowing today."

The girl was among 439 children removed by Texas authorities from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, amid allegations of abuse then returned to their parents two months later. The girl was allegedly married at age 12 to Warren S. Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Tribune is not naming the girl because she is an alleged victim of sexual abuse. She is the daughter of Barbara and Merril Jessop, who oversees the Texas ranch.

The girl was returned to custody in August after authorities say her mother balked at working with caseworkers. The teen has lived in several foster homes since then.

She will move to Carlisle's home on Tuesday.

Attorneys for the girl's mother and the state Department of Family and Protective Services supported moving her to Carlisle's home.

"Barbara was so overjoyed and so emotional that her daughter is going to be back with a family member and out of foster care and is grateful to the state for doing what was right on behalf of her daughter," said Valerie Malara, a Colorado attorney who worked with Texas attorney Brett Pritchard to represent Barbara Jessop.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, opposed the relative placement and asked Walther to keep the girl in foster care.

"Our largest concern was [Carlisle] has a 15- and a 17-year -old son in Utah and she has left them there and come out here to raise someone else's daughter," said Debra Brown, executive director. "CASA thought that was a little weird. And it just felt like with the track record and problems we've had on visitation we would have felt she was safer in foster care."

A CASA volunteer had been visiting with the girl about once a month but Walther asked them to meet with her more regularly, Brown said.

Jessop said Carlisle's two sons are living with family and she did not want to move them because they are doing well in their private school. Carlisle is a widow who formerly ran a dairy farm in Salem, Utah, with her husband.

Malara said Barbara Jessop will continue to have weekly in-person visits and three telephone calls a week with her daughter, who also may visit with approved relatives.

Texas Child Protective Services will continue to monitor the girl's case. A progress hearing is set for Sept. 9.

"If it works out, the permanency goal will be permanent custody to the relative," said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

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