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Attorneys representing FLDS looking for custody changes, visitation

SHARE Attorneys representing FLDS looking for custody changes, visitation

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Defense attorneys hired by some of the parents of children taken into custody in the raid on a Fundamentalist LDS ranch near here earlier this month continued on Friday to cross-examine a child protective services supervisor in a court hearing.

The mid-morning legal proceedings featured questions by one attorney that hinted some of the mothers would be willing to follow whatever court order necessary to regain custody of their children.

"One of your concerns is that they have a mindset. What do they have to do to prove they are amenable to counseling services?" said an attorney questioning Angie Voss, the supervisor.

What if, the attorney went on, her clients were willing to get an apartment, obtain a restraining order against the FLDS husbands or fathers, and would only allow the men to have supervised visitation?

Voss did not directly answer the question, but said, "This population of women have a difficult time making decisions on their own."

The line of questioning indicates that some of the women want to know if the department is willing to put forth a "safety plan."

Such plans are mediated efforts between child protective service agencies and parents who are accused of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Safety plans allow children to remain in the custody of their parents while they receive services that are designed to make reunification a safe and healthy situation.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys hired by the parents continued to launch a series of objections in today's hearing. "The department is taking a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to all these parents when they are individuals and individual families," one attorney said. "Based on global allegations," the agency took away more than 400 children from their families.

He wondered how the department could justify that.

Voss said that more than 20 girls have been identified who have conceived or given birth at the age of 16, and "there is a culture of young girls being pregnant by older men."

Another attorney called into question Voss' ability to somehow look at a young woman and ascertain her age. Voss on Thursday had testified that many of the young women in state custody gave officials ages that they didn't suspect were true.

"She (Voss) did not provide any testimony as to her expertise to her experience at being able to do this," said attorney Mary Lou Alvarez. "And yet she could magically tell that they were under 18."

The 51st District Judge, Barbara Walther, later excused Voss from the stand, and while saying she had heard enough testimony from the state's witness, told the supervisor she must remain in the courtroom for possible further questioning.

The state then presented psychiatrist Bruce Perry, who is the senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy, an organization that works in cooperation with a multitude of state government agencies to counsel traumatized children.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com; nperkins@desnews.com