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Texas authorities defend separated mothers from children in polygamist compound

By Emily Ramshaw
The Dallas Morning News
(MCT)

AUSTIN _ Child Protective Services officials investigating abuse at a West Texas polygamist compound fired back on Tuesday against accusations that they wrongfully separated women from the compound from their children _ saying they have been unable to get information out of the kids in the current environment.

Darrell Azar, spokesman with the Department of Family and Protective Services, said agency officials believe they won’t have success interviewing the children until after Thursday’s custody hearing, when he expects a judge to order their move to foster homes or small group homes.

“We will never learn the full truth as long as there are adults who encourage a code of silence and stand over the children’s shoulders coaching them,” Azar said in advance of a Tuesday press conference. “Unfortunately these women have been unable or unwilling to protect these children from a pattern of sexual abuse in the past.”

On Monday, CPS moved all children under age 5 and their mothers _ about 400 people _ to a larger shelter. Fifty-one women _ those without children, or those with children over 5 _ were bused back to the compound, and another six women asked to go to a nearby women’s shelter.

The 100 children over the age of 5, the majority of them girls, are being supervised by CPS staff and licensed child care workers. Roughly two dozen boys are being housed in a separate care facility.

Azar said some of the children in their custody do not even appear to have parents in Texas, let alone at the Eldorado compound, and that it will take DNA testing to determine who’s related to whom.

___

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News.

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