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State now a danger to children, sect's mothers say

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  • NEW: About two dozen boys moved to temporary foster placement on judge's order
  • Claims of abuse at Texas ranch not supported, say women of polygamous sect
  • Most mothers return to ranch after being separated from children
  • Six mothers take state's offer of safe house, state officials say
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ELDORADO, Texas (CNN) -- The mothers of some of the 416 children taken from a polygamous sect's ranch say that authorities have denied them their constitutional rights and that they want 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.

The mothers of all children age 5 and older were separated from the children Monday. The mothers had the option of returning to the ranch or going to a state safe house.

Although sect members said all of the mothers of the older children returned to the ranch, Texas Child Protective Services officials said Tuesday that six women had gone to the safe house.

The children were taken in a caravan of 19 buses from a crowded shelter at the historic Fort Concho in San Angelo to the larger San Angelo Coliseum, Assistant Police Chief Kevin Holloway said.

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

It was decided that the move was in the "children's best interest," she said, and she later added that children who are victims of abuse or neglect typically feel "safer" and are more truthful if their parents are not around. Video Watch Meisner talk about the children's welfare »

Meisner also said Tuesday that about two dozen boys were moved Monday to temporary foster placement on the order of a judge.

The children were removed from the compound April 4 and 5 because authorities suspect they "had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse," CPS spokesman Darrell Azar told CNN during the relocation.

Police raided the 1,900-acre Yearning for Zion, or YFZ, ranch in Eldorado after receiving a report of sexual abuse in a phone call from someone who identified herself as Sarah, a 16-year-old who said she had been choked and forced to have sex with her "spiritual husband," Dale Barlow, 50. She said she had an 8-month-old child with Barlow.

Kathleen denied that the call came from within the ranch occupied by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"The state of Texas has taken away a whole community of children and withheld their parents from them on an allegation from outside," said Kathleen, 42, who said she was separated from her five children, ages "18-plus," 16, 15, 11 and 9 and a 10-month-old grandchild. Video Watch how mother wants her kids back »

"I do not understand how they can do this when they don't have a for-sure knowledge that anyone has abused these children," another woman, who identified herself as Paula, 38, told The Associated Press.

A third 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 told CNN.

But Teressa Wall Blackmore, who left an FLDS community in Canada two years ago, said the sect's women are indoctrinated not to see the problems in its lifestyle.

"They believe that, you know, that they aren't doing anything wrong, because that's how they grew up," she said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Dorothy Allred Solomon, who was born and raised in a polygamist family as the 28th of 48 children, said the first wife in the relationship controls the others.

"The pecking order is that the one with the most power, usually the legal wife, controls the other women and often runs the show entirely, manipulating her husband to do the things with the other women that she would like to see done," said Allred Solomon, who wrote the memoir, "Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy."

Kathleen is the fifth wife of a sect member, said Carolyn Jessop, who escaped from the sect with her eight children in 2003. Jessop said that she was the fourth wife of Kathleen's husband and that Kathleen had tried to block her escape. Video Watch former sect member explain pressures »

The state of Texas is acting in the best interest of the children taken from the ranch, she said, and the courts need to determine if they are in any danger.

"The officers did not go in there because they had a call that there was polygamy going on in that compound," Jessop said. "They had a cry for help from a child. And they went in to investigate that cry for help.

"And if there's crimes that have been committed against children, then a judge is going to have to rule in the best interest of protecting a child," Jessop said.

The court battle will begin in earnest on Thursday, when custody hearings for the 416 children are set to begin before Judge Barbara Walther in the Tom Green County courthouse.

But at least one woman at the YFZ ranch say they're being treated like Jews during the Holocaust.

"We have been persecuted for our religion," Kathleen said. "We are being treated like the Jews were when they were escorted to the German Nazi camps."

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And the women say the state is placing their children in greater danger by exposing them to things they would have never seen at the ranch.

"They are clean and pure," one mother said of the children. "This is the worst thing happening to them. They are learning terrible things from the questions being asked, things that they have never been exposed to. They have been so protected here." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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