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Children of FLDS 'prophet' kept in foster homes

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  • NEW: "Prophet's" children -- a boy and a girl -- have different mothers
  • Individual hearings begin in giant FLDS child custody case
  • 463 children were removed from YFZ Ranch, placed in foster care
  • Case involves at least 168 mothers and 69 fathers
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From Tracy Sabo
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SAN ANGELO, Texas (CNN) -- Two children of jailed "prophet" Warren Steed Jeffs are among the hundreds of children removed from a polygamist ranch by child welfare authorities, court officials said Monday.


FLDS women file into the Tom Green County courthouse in San Angelo, Texas, as officers stand by.

Court hearings in the historic Texas polygamist child custody case have resumed, with cases going on in five courtrooms. Texas child welfare officials removed more than 400 children from a polygamist ranch in April.

The hearings are being held for parents to review documents called "family service plans" that dictate the conditions under which they can regain custody, lawyers said.

Two mothers who had children with Jeffs -- a boy and a 3-year-old girl -- were in court Monday. Both mothers were told that the children would stay in state custody as officials try to finish the family service plan.

Jeffs is serving time in Utah after his 2007 conviction for being an accomplice to rape -- charges related to a marriage to a child bride that he performed in 2001. He also faces trial in Arizona on eight charges of sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy. Video Watch what's involved in the next child bride case »

Jeffs is the leader and "prophet" of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which openly practices polygamy.

Acting on calls alleging physical and sexual abuse, authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and took more than 460 children and teens into state custody. A family court judge recently ruled that they would remain wards of the state.

The YFZ Ranch is owned by the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sect that practices polygamy. The Mormon church has renounced the practice of polygamy and does not recognize the sect.

The sheer number of children under 18 in custody has created confusion and frustration between state officials and FLDS families and their attorneys. According to The Associated Press, the case involves 463 children, 168 mothers and 69 fathers.

Many of the lawyers say their clients don't know where their children have been placed.

Some of that frustration was evident Monday in court.

One example was Nora Jeffs, who was in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Gossett. (She is not the mother of "prophet" Warren Jeffs' two children.)

Her eight children have been placed in eight locations, forcing her to travel throughout the state to visit them. Jeffs was hoping that child welfare officials could place the children together.

She was presented with a family service plan that requires parenting training, family counseling and psychological testing of the parents. The plan was created by attorneys and state welfare workers, but those who created the plan had not met with Nora Jeffs.

Because the travel to visit her children is taking so much of her time, Jeffs said she could not meet with officials to help make the plan. Still, she said, she will try to comply if it would return her children to her.

"I agree to follow all recommendations so long as they don't conflict with my religious beliefs," Jeffs said.

The judge voiced some concern about her response.


"We all know why we are here. You have a right to religious freedom up until the point where it breaks the law," Gossett said.

Similar scenes played out in other courtrooms Monday. The hearings are expected to last for weeks.

CNN's Fuzz Hogan and Ismael Estrada contributed to this report.

All About Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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