"This week, Texas Child Protective Services reported that of the 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 taken from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound 31 have either given birth or are expecting a child.
That seems to validate suspicions that young girls on the Yearning for Zion Ranch are being stabled for the benefit of older men. The girls who are being abused -- and the boys who are being raised to become their abusers -- are in danger and should be removed from their families.
But the cure might emotionally devastate the more than 400 children who have been ripped from their birth mothers for nearly a month now. The children's pain is multiplied by separation from the other "sister wives" in their polygamous households. I hope that authorities are equally sensitive to the reality that these children are being traumatized by separation from members of their families who are not their kin.
Family attachments are often about social attachments, not blood relationships. You don't have to be raised on a compound to know that sometimes water is as thick as blood.
Member of the family
It's an old story: A family takes in a needy child or a friendly neighbor. Before you know it, the adoptee has a branch on the family tree.
My "Aunt" Helen was my mother's best friend when the women were young military wives living in Japan. I grew up considering her a blood relative, and her five sons were my boisterous "cousins." My husband's childhood friend has been so close to our family that our kids think of him as "Uncle Duck."
Detroiter Margaret Keys-Howard had a similar experience. When she was about 4, her mother asked her to look out of the window for a little boy crossing the street.
"She said that his mother had to work late and would not be home to let him in -- he was to come to our house," said Margaret. "I saw the big-headed boy with glasses and a cool 'Lost in Space' lunchbox walk to our house, and the story was written. He had a key and the full privileges and responsibilities of all of my mom's eight other kids. Some 40-plus years later, Leon is my 'brother.' "
To imagine being separated because he was not her real brother would have been unthinkable. "Leon is a permanent part of my life," she said.
Consider the children
It will take months to determine if the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints children were living in an abusive family environment. In the meantime, authorities should be prepared to deal with the authentic grief of separation each child is bound to feel. Grief not just for their birth mothers and full siblings, but for the many other people they had come to know as family.
The FLDS mothers have not, I repeat, NOT relinquished their parental rights. Granted they are being investigated, however they have not relinquished their parental rights. The State of Texas is still sorting the mess out. I hope that they do it right. Even though we are all horrified at the abuse that these children have suffered, many of these young girls can parent their own children with some assistance. They can adjust to society.
Recently in the news on CNN one of these young mothers just gave birth to a baby boy. Congratulations on the birth. I hope and pray that things will be worked out that will allow this young mother to raise her son.