FLDS parenting classes set

The lessons, scheduled to begin in about 10 days, were required for the sect to get kids back

Salt Lake Tribune/July 4, 2008

A month after their children were returned, FLDS parents are getting the first word about parenting classes the state of Texas has required them to complete.

Marleigh Meisner, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman, said the classes will begin to be scheduled within the next 10 days. They will be standard parenting classes consisting of two four-hour sessions.

"The curriculum will be much like those that the agency uses with other clients," Meisner said in a statement. "The instructors will be trained on how to best deliver this information to these FLDS parents."

Tom Green County Judge Barbara Walther ordered the classes for FLDS parents as a condition of allowing the 440 children taken from the polygamous sect's west Texas ranch to be returned to their families last month.

The children were taken from the ranch early in April based on allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

But two higher Texas courts found in May that Walther lacked sufficient evidence to keep all the children in foster care.

During hearings before those rulings, Child Protective Service workers had said that one aim of the parenting classes would be to educate FLDS parents about Texas laws regarding marriage, bigamy and other legal issues.

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is alleged to have allowed underage girls to be married to older men, and a criminal and child welfare investigation is ongoing.

A grand jury considering evidence against the sect is scheduled to meet again in Schleicher County on July 22. It met in June without issuing any indictments.

Attorneys for FLDS parents have said their clients have been wanting to begin work on the directions Walther gave to them.

"These people want to do what they need to do and move on with their lives," said Julie Balovich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid who represents two FLDS mothers.

About 30 families returned to the Yearning for Zion Ranch, according to DFPS, while another 33 are living in San Antonio and an unknown number of families with 120 or so children are in other Texas cities.

Attorneys say that some clients who have been interviewed by CPS have been told the state expects to close some cases in coming weeks.

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