Updated: June 3, 2008 05:34 AM MST
CORPUS CHRISTI-On Monday morning, a judge in San Angelo signed an order clearing the way for the more than 400 children taken from a west Texas polygamist compound nearly two months ago to be reunited with their parents.
Parents, and lawyers representing them, picked up their kids they had not seen since April. Under guarded watch, parents walked out with their kids in hand.
Legal aid attorney Nancy DeLong told 6 News, "My clients are very thrilled to be going home with their children. I'm an attorney picking up my client." When asked who her client was, Delong replied, "She's one of the mothers who's been held as a child."
The Ark Assessment Center set up a makeshift office in a recreational vehicle, where guardians began the release process, showed their IDs, and, as John Lennan of Child Protective Services described, "sign some paperwork, list addresses where they can be contacted, then each one of the parents were photographed with their children. Then they were allowed to leave."
Case workers carried out bundles of supplies to cars, while others exchanged last minute hugs. One by one, those who stayed at the shelter finally headed home.
The little ones made sure they did not leave anything important behind, while a mother in the background filmed the whole event with a smile.
Lennan said his department was pleased with the court order, adding, "Number one, it helps to reunify the children with their families in a safe manner. The second thing the court order allows us to do is to continue our investigation into the safety of the children."
For now, the families will head back to the ranch and the lives they know. As for the rest of the kids spread out across Texas, it could be at least a week before all are reunited with their parents.
KRIS 6 News learned that just one child remains at the Ark Assessment Center in Calallen of the group staying at the shelter.
Online Reporter: Melissa Monti