Monday, June 2, 2008

Texas child welfare officials criticized

Texas child welfare officials criticized
Published: June 1, 2008 at 5:42 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, June 1 (UPI) -- The decision by Texas Child Protective Services to remove more than 460 children from a polygamous sect's compound has drawn criticism from some observers.

While officials say they were following the letter of the law in removing the children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch near Eldorado, Texas, critics say authorities failed to grasp the case's scope, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.

"Treating this case like it was any other case was obviously an error," said Jack Sampson, a University of Texas law professor who helped write the state's family code. "That's why one could, in retrospect, say it was too ham-handed. They should have been more nuanced."

Sampson said child welfare authorities should have considered the case's political and social ramifications.

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said the child welfare agency has only itself to blame.

"Their blundering, and their hubris, created this mess," Wexler said.

He said the case shows the broad powers child welfare officials are given in many states.

"The families to whom this normally happens are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately minority," he said. "They rarely have good legal representation. And everything happens in secret."

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