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State requests foster care for 8 FLDS children

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: One child reportedly is a spiritual wife of FLDS "prophet" Warren Jeffs
  • Officials request foster care for 8 children living in Texas polygamist compound
  • Officials say moms won't limit contact with men suspected in underage marriages
  • Court also asked to close 32 cases due to lack of evidence of underage marriage
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(CNN) -- Texas child welfare officials on Tuesday asked a court to order foster care for eight children at a polygamous compound, saying their mothers have refused to limit the children's contact with men suspected of being involved in underage marriages.

Photos from a Web site launched by the polygamous sect FLDS show authorities raiding its Texas ranch.

Child Protective Services officials also asked the court to end cases for 32 children after finding no evidence that their families engaged in underage marriages.

The agency has been investigating the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado since April, when it raided the compound and seized more than 400 children on allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

The ranch is run by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which separated from the mainstream Mormon church in the 1890s over the practice of polygamy.

In June, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the children returned, saying the state had no right to remove them because it did not prove the children faced imminent danger of abuse on the ranch.

Since then, the mothers of girls ages 10 to 17 have been asked by Child Protective Services to sign "safety plans" to protect their children from sexual abuse, officials said.

"For children who lived in a home with a man who married underage girls or agreed to an arranged marriage of an underage daughter, the safety plans include a requirement to keep the children away from that man," officials said in a statement Tuesday.

"In the cases of the eight children listed in today's court filing, the mothers have refused to sign the safety plans," according to the statement, which said the cases include six girls and two boys who range in age from 5 to 17 years old.

A hearing to determine whether to put the eight children in foster care was scheduled for September 25.

"At that time we'll present evidence that we believe indicates that these children continue to be in imminent harm," said Marleigh Meisner, a Child Protective Services spokeswoman.

State officials said the agency has reviewed thousands of documents seized from the ranch, including marriage records, that show "a pervasive pattern of spiritual marriages between older men and girls 17 and younger."

An FLDS spokesman did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday.

Officials say they have a marriage document that lists one of the eight children, a 14-year-old girl, as a spiritual wife of Jeffs, who was 51 at the time of the July 27, 2006, marriage.

The parents of the girl, who was 12 at the time, consented to the ceremony, according to the affidavit.

During an interview with a case worker, the girl was asked whether she considered a 13-year-old girl "spiritually married" to a man in his 40s and having a baby a form of abuse, according to the affidavit.

The girl gave the worker "a disgusted look," and said "the marriages are pure," the document said. The girl added that "this can't be a crime because Heavenly Father is the one that tells [Jeffs] when a girl is ready to get married and that he is only following the word of Heavenly Father."

On July 22, a Texas grand jury indicted Jeffs on sexual assault charges. Five of his followers also face charges.

Jeffs, who has already been sentenced to five years to life in Utah on accomplice to rape charges, was charged with sexual assault of a child -- a first-degree felony.

All About Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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