Judge-endorsed abuse by protective services: more on the FLDS mother-child foster separation issue

In a followup to this issue mentioned under Tigtog’s post “The FLDS polygamy and statutory rape farm”, Time Magazine has a piece on the FLDS “rescue”[1] in Texas.

“The Texas Polygamist Sect: Uncoupled and Unchartered”

Caught in the middle is Texas judge Barbara Walther, who was asked to weigh requests from the parents to hold twice-daily prayer meetings with the children and to reunite nursing mothers with the 77 kids who are under age 2.

Prosecutors worried that the prayer meetings might be used to influence the children “in a way to impede the ongoing investigation,” but Walther’s suggestion that mainstream Mormons might serve as neutral monitors was turned down flat by the official church. Church spokesman Scott Trotter told the Salt Lake Tribune that the beliefs of the FLDS long ago diverged from orthodox Mormonism and, “in fact, many in these isolated communities view us with some hostility as part of the outside world they have rejected.”

For the nursing mothers, the judge offered a lesson in contemporary feminism: “Every day in this country there are thousands of mothers who, after six weeks’ maternity leave, must go back to work–and they deal with this issue.”


Judge WaltherTo journalist Dave Von Drehle:, feminists have been fighting for adequate, humane maternity leave for a long, long time. The USA has the worst maternity leave system in the world, and it’s nothing to be proud of. Feminists are not arguing for tiny minimums in maternity leave. Feminists battle against anti-woman, anti-mother practices in workplaces; they don’t endorse them. Early economically-forced separations are an result of capitalist bullying, not “contemporary feminism”. Read a damn book.

To Judge Walther: working four or six or eight hours a day five days a week before being reunited with your infant and being able to play and cuddle and breastfeed and sleep together in your own home for the other 16 hours is not the same as being dislocated from your family and then having your child snatched away as well. Being in childcare or in the care of friends and family for four or six or eight hours a day five days a week before being reunited with your mother to play and cuddle and breastfeed and sleep together in your own home is not the same as being plunged into a sea of complete strangers and then having your mother removed from you as well.

How many attachment issues is this system needlessly creating? Shouldn’t it be a cornerstone tenet of foster caring that family members be placed together where possible, and mother-young child pairs always? Why did they have to fight for this in court, and why is the age limit two?

Being under 18 does not make a mother any less a mother. Snatching wanted, loved children away from mothers isn’t going to magically reinstate their innocent girlhoods.

We need to stop punishing girls and women, and their children, for reporting abuse and rape. This is one part of a much larger pattern of abuse and re-victimisation by the systems that are supposed to protect us.

[1] I use “rescue” in quotes, not because I don’t think the situation was horrendous and required intervention. It’s because being forcibly separated from your mother or your child in foster care can’t feel like much of a rescue to the vulnerable, abused people concerned.

Categories: gender & feminism, violence

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3 replies

  1. The breastfeeding comment really bothered me too. My daughter is 18 months old and still nursing up a storm. I really feel for these mothers who have had their babies ripped away from them, especially those who are still nursing. The judge needs to do some research before spouting off about something she obviously knows very little about.

  2. “We need to stop punishing girls and women, and their children, for reporting abuse and rape.”
    This is a great point, I had to stop and really think about this case all over again when I read that line of yours. I have mixed feelings about this particular instance generally. Just trying to sort it out inh my head – clearly the women are victims in this sect too, not just the children, but they’re adults, if they can’t participate in the rescue of these children from abuse then their rights to their children come second to their children’s rights to safety from abuse.

  3. Yes – it’s definitely mixed-up and grey in all sorts of areas. How do we, as a society, cope with and help women who have been abused so much that they have trouble judging how to best protect their own children – but they’re over the age of 18, and can’t and shouldn’t be judged “incompetent” under mental illness law?
    Mainly, I’m posting to try to remind people that there isn’t really a black-and-white between “safe” and “not-safe” here, and that there really are competing priorities. Since the USA as a whole (and Australia’s getting there) has this culture of “Formula/bottlefeeding is just as good”, breastfeeding seems to have completely disappeared as an actual consideration in emergency situations.
    Further example: New Orleans after the hurricane. There was a focus on getting formula into relief centres, which is fine as far as it goes, but was anyone going in assisting with relactation and expressing advice? Even tiny babies, around a week old, were being fed formula. Bloody dangerous in dirty-water, crowded situations.

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