Foster children in polygamist enclave raising concerns

The Republic, Arizona/January 11, 2013

Arizona is placing foster children in the polygamist enclave of Colorado City, raising concerns about their future and state Child Protective Services' judgment in finding homes for abused and neglected kids.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson identified one foster parent as Dan Wayman, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose family was "reassigned" some years ago by church leader Warren Jeffs.

Johnson, a longtime opponent of the FLDS Churchlifestyle, this week notified Gov. Jan Brewer and asked Attorney General Tom Horne for help to bring the child back to Lake Havasu City, where hismother still lives.

The boy and his two brothers had been living with a foster family in Lake Havasu City since CPS removed them from their mother's home, Johnson said, but CPS recently moved the youngest to Wayman's home and his brothers to a foster home in Prescott.

"His (Wayman's) wife and children were taken away from him by the priesthood," Johnson told The Arizona Republic. "They got reassigned, so he's a single man now."

Johnson has prodded state and federal officials for years to dismantle the polygamist FLDS Church. He said foster children should not be placed in Colorado City, where he believes child labor, arranged marriages and abuse run rampant.

"You're putting them in an environment where you're setting them up to fail," Johnson said. "They're pretty much cut off from the real world."

Horne said he had referred the matter to Nicole Davis, chief counsel for the Child and Family Protection Division. He said he could not discuss details of the case. "It has a very high priority," Horne said. "We're taking it very seriously."

The state Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS and foster-care licensing, did not respond to a request for comment.

A call placed to Wayman was not returned Friday.

Among the factors DES considers when deciding whether to license foster and adoptive homes is the fitness of the parents, including mental-health history, lifestyle, domestic violence or past illegal practices.

Johnson said Wayman is licensed to care for five children. He already has one adopted boy, he said, and plans to adopt more. CPS also is considering relocating the boy's brothers to Wayman's home, he said.

The supervisor has long been frustrated by Utah and Arizona officials' inaction against the polygamous sect, which has held sway for decades in remote communities along the Arizona-Utah line.

Jeffs is serving time in prison in Texas on a number of polygamy-related convictions, but he is believed to continue to issue orders to his followers.

In his letter to Horne, Johnson said Wayman was involved in a Las Vegas leasing company with ties to Jeffs.

"As you are aware, these businesses owned by FLDS members have a long history of employing underaged children as slave labor," he wrote. "I hope you would agree that this is not an appropriate environment for any child. This is a place where polygamy is the norm and the abuse of women and children is commonplace."

Last year, Horne agreed to pay for Mohave County deputies to patrol Colorado City after state lawmakers rejected a bill to abolish the Colorado City Marshal's Office. Horne said the marshal's officers are FLDS Church followers and put Jeffs' orders above the law.

Last June, the U.S. Justice Department sued the twin polygamist towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, alleging discrimination against residents who are not FLDS Church members. The case is pending in federal court in Utah.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.