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Sect's boys moved to temporary foster homes

  • Story Highlights
  • "This is really the first of placements," Texas Child Protective Services says
  • Spokeswoman: The two dozen adolescent boys remain together
  • More than 400 children from a polygamous compound are in state custody
  • Some of the mothers say authorities have denied them their constitutional rights
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SAN ANGELO, Texas (CNN) -- About two dozen adolescent boys taken from a polygamist ranch were moved Monday afternoon to temporary foster placement outside the San Angelo, Texas, area, authorities said Tuesday.

"A judge did make that decision, and a judge did order that, and so this is really the first of placements," Texas Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said.

She did not provide details except to say that the boys remained together.

More than 400 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound in Eldorado, Texas, are in state custody.

State officials took the children after a 16-year-old girl made a series of phone calls in late March, claiming that she had been beaten and forced to become a "spiritual" wife to an adult man.

Acting on her calls, authorities raided the ranch in Eldorado, about 190 miles northwest of San Antonio, on April 4. See a timeline of events »

Two men were arrested for obstructing the raid, and it remains unclear whether the 16-year-old who made the initial call has been identified.

Authorities had moved the children Monday from the Fort Concho historic site to larger facilities at the San Angelo Coliseum and the nearby Wells Fargo Pavilion. Mothers who had children under the age of 5 were allowed to stay with their children in San Angelo, but other women were returned to the compound.

Six women opted not to go back to the compound when given the chance, Meisner has said, and they were taken to "a safe place."

The decision to separate children 5 and older from their mothers was made carefully and with input from attorneys and therapists, Meisner said.

It was decided that the move was in the "children's best interest," she said, adding that children who are victims of abuse or neglect typically feel "safer" and are more truthful if their parents are not around.

However, she acknowledged, separating them was a "difficult thing to do."

"There was some sadness among the children; there were some tears. ... We were very sensitive to the issues involved with this," Meisner said. Video Watch her say many children are 'happy and smiling' »

Rhonda Jeffs, a mother of two and a spokeswoman for the other women, has said that the authorities "didn't even let us say goodbye to our children."

But Meisner countered that, saying that, "to my knowledge, yes," the mothers were able to say goodbye to their children.

It was unclear whether Rhonda Jeffs is related to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving time in a Utah prison after his September conviction on charges of being an accomplice to rape. The Mormon church, which gave up plural marriage more than a century ago, has no ties to Jeffs' group.

A custody hearing for the children placed in temporary state custody is set for Thursday.

Meisner said authorities believe that they have a strong case.

"I believe we have ... children who are victims of physical abuse, and I think we have children who are victims of sexual abuse. I think we also have children who were at risk because of the environment they were in -- that they could be potential victims or they certainly could be witnessing abuse or neglect. And I believe and our department believes that this was not a safe environment for these children."

Meanwhile, the mothers of some of the children said authorities had denied them their constitutional rights and they wanted their children back.

"The state of Texas has confiscated our children on an alleged allegation that has no facts. And now they're holding our children. And we want the children back," a woman who identified herself as Kathleen told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday night. Video Watch the conversation between Kathleen, Cooper »

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A woman interviewed at the ranch Monday said the children suffered no abuse there.

"Our children have good mothers. We take very good care of them. We are not child abusers. The only abuse they've ever had is since the CPS has taken them. They are innocent and sweet children," she said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's David Mattingly, Katherine Wojtecki, Sean Callebs, Ismael Estrada and Eliott McLaughlin contributed to this report.

All About Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day SaintsChild AbuseWarren Jeffs

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