Gideon's Story: A new life

Teen rejected by his polygamous family finds a new life, new parents

Salt Lake Tribune/March 13, 2005
By Brooke Adams

St. George -- Around the corner from where his exiled father has set up a new life, a castoff boy is trying to reshape his own.

His name is Gideon Barlow and, eight months after leaving a polygamous community on the Utah/Arizona border, he is settling into a life of high school academics, football and track, dances and snowboarding trips.

It hasn't been easy. At 16, Gideon frets over his old life and worries about fitting into his new one, about not betraying his old parents and trying to please his new ones - Stacha and Neil Glauser, who took him in last August.

"I am afraid to get close to them and love them because I'm afraid of losing this. I have a fear inside I'm trying to conquer. It's just been so hard to get here," Gideon says as tears come.

Hard for reasons like this: Gideon has had to accept that his real parents want little to do with him, and, the Glausers say, the discovery that his father, Dan Barlow, for months apparently drew Social Security funds in the teen's name.

Gideon is among dozens of so-called Lost Boys - hundreds, some say - who have fled or been kicked out of the polygamous communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

For decades, the Lost Boys made a quiet exodus from these border towns that are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Some lost their faith; others were driven out by parents or religious leaders, often when they rebelled against the community's strictures.

Their plight became more public in the past year as former followers of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs began to speak out about his harsh rule.

Gideon's story surfaced last week during a town meeting on polygamy in St. George, when the Glausers publicly questioned how his 73-year-old father could draw money intended to help minor children.

Jeffs banished Dan Barlow in January 2004, telling the former Colorado City mayor to leave his seven wives and 71 children, then ranging in age from 1 1/2 to 53, and repent of unidentified sins from afar.

Dan Barlow's ouster was stunning given his ties to the community once known as Short Creek; his father, John Y. Barlow, helped establish the settlement, and Dan was regarded as a stalwart of the faith.

Yet he left quietly, moving into a St. George home with several brothers who also had been banished and taking a job as a construction expediter. He has settled into a stoic silence, turning away other FLDS exiles and reporters who seek him out.

Two stories: By all appearances, Dan Barlow lives comfortably and untroubled by his son's circumstances.

But Gideon's world unraveled shortly after his father left. Jeffs reassigned Dan Barlow's wives and children, including Gideon's mother and his six full siblings, to other men. For a while, Gideon, then 15, got along fine.

"Then I started thinking about what had happened to my dad and my life," he says. "I started finding a way to get out of the pain."

Gideon began sneaking down to St. George to carouse with other castoff kids and see forbidden movies. His stepfather finally gave Gideon an ultimatum: get in step or get out.

"I said, 'I guess you're going to have to count me out because I don't want what's here,' " Gideon recalls telling his stepfather. "I said I wanted to be a normal person."

He had quit school after ninth grade to work full-time as a construction framer, for the most part turning his paychecks over to Dan Barlow to help support the family.

"That's kind of what they want - someone who doesn't have an education," Gideon says. "They take the kids and get them working young. They don't want people really smart because . . . if they did know how the world ran, they'd just leave."

Now, he told his stepfather, he wanted to go back to school, get a car, do the things kids do "out here."

Days later, the stepfather delivered a message from Jeffs: Gideon was to take a new job, leave his mother and go live with an older brother. The boy did as told, but "things kept getting worse and worse." He starting smoking, drinking and dabbling with drugs. Last July, Jeffs ordered Gideon's brother to kick him out.

For a while, two older brothers who had left Colorado City earlier let Gideon crash on a couch at their St. George home. He got a construction job and enrolled in public school.

Gideon says his father signed paperwork to get him in school, but made it clear he was on his own.

The boy had been with his brothers about a month when a woman who helps teens displaced from the twin cities put him in touch with the Glausers.

Stacha, a hairdresser, had seen news stories on the Lost Boys and wanted to help. She and Neil, who have a 15-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter living at home, met Gideon and agreed to take him in.

Stacha Glauser says she was astonished at how willingly Dan and Gideon's mother, whom she also met, relinquished their son. "It was just not that big a deal."

Gideon puts it this way: "Once you leave or you're kicked out, no one gives a damn about you."

Dan Barlow even inspected their home during a brief meeting, telling them "it seemed like a good opportunity for his son," says Neil Glauser, a developer. "He said he wasn't in a position to help."

Or was he?

Drawing funds: In November, the Glausers had Gideon apply for a Medicaid card so he could get health and dental care. That's when they say a caseworker told them Dan Barlow was drawing Social Security funds in his son's name.

Social Security allows retirement age people such as Dan Barlow to collect a stipend to help support children ages 16 or younger who still live at home. They're supposed to file reports explaining how the money is used.

In addition to Gideon, Dan Barlow has at least eight minor children living with their mothers in Colorado City. It's not known whether he has collected Social Security funds on their behalf.

"Basically, you should be getting paid because you have them in your care," said Delia Lasanta, the Denver-based regional communications director for the Social Security Administration. "If you are getting benefits as a father or mother for children in your care and you don't have them, yeah, that's fraud."

Gideon confronted his father. At first, Dan Barlow refused to hand over any money, saying he needed it to pay off credit cards, the Glausers say.

Finally he relented, and since November has given Gideon $200 a month.

In declining an interview, Dan Barlow said only that the Glausers were telling "lies." Arizona county and state agencies began looking into their allegations this week.

It has all added to Gideon's confusion. In one breath he questions how his mother could "shove a kid out onto the streets," and in the next says how much he loves and respects her.

Gideon calls Dan Barlow, whom he sees just monthly to pick up the money, an "awesome man - he's honest" and adds that "he loves me because I'm his kid."

But moments later he questions his father's refusal to help him and his other struggling brothers. "If one of my kids moved out and I was getting money - if it would not be used for drugs, I would give it to him or bring food for him with the money," Gideon says.

For their part, the Glausers remain focused on Gideon, who they say was an "emotional wreck" when he came to their home. For a few months, he visited Colorado City frequently, until his mother asked him to stay away.

"He really missed his family terribly," especially his younger siblings, says Stacha Glauser. "It was horrible."

Gideon contents himself now with the thought that he will some day be able to help those kids if they need it. And, slowly, he is finding his place in this new world and working hard to live up to the Glausers' expectations.

"This is a little bit rude, but I didn't think they would be so honest, so nice, that there would be people who would take someone in from a culture like I came from," he says. "Making friends is hard. It was hard to adapt, but I would have to say I'm doing quite well."

The Glausers have told Gideon they will see him through high school and, if he happens to join their LDS faith, through a mission and even into college.

Gideon, in the awkward way children who have been hurt sometimes put things, says he wouldn't "have a problem going through the paperwork, having them adopt me."

And what does he want from Dan Barlow?

"He should treat me like a kid - his kid," Gideon says.

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