Texas Authorities Seek Custody of Polygamist Sect's Children

More than two months after being forced to return children from a polygamist sect to their parents, Texas child welfare authorities want eight youngsters put back in foster care.

Individual hearings for the four mothers of the children, who range in age from 5 to 17, are set to begin Monday.

Child Protective Services has asked a judge to return the children to foster care because their mothers have allegedly refused to limit their contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages.

"We continue to have concerns in particular for these eight children, which is why we have asked the judge to review the case," said CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

None of the children live at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, from where authorities took roughly 440 children into foster care in April. Officials said the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which established the ranch, was forcing girls into underage marriages and grooming boys to be adult abusers.

The Texas Supreme Court forced CPS to return the children to their parents six weeks after they were placed in foster care because the agency presented evidence of no more than a handful of teenage girls being abused. Many of the children taken into CPS custody were infants and toddlers.

In the new petitions filed by CPS seeking foster placement for the eight children, the agency detailed alleged underage marriages involving the children's fathers or stepfathers, though only one faces criminal charges.

The FLDS believes polygamy brings glory in heaven. It is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Its leader, Warren Jeffs, already convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape, awaits trial in Arizona on charges of being an accomplice to sexual contact with a minor — all stemming from alleged underage marriages within the sect.