The polygamist psychological toll on young children is daunting, officials say. Many were told from birth that the outside world was hostile and immoral, and that leaving the compound would result in their eternal damnation.
Depending on the outcome of future custody arrangements, hundreds of the girls could be put in foster homes, a cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling.
"What they are up against is having to deprogram an entire community," said Margaret Cooke, who left the sect with seven of her eight children in1994. The children "are so naive and they have been sheltered to the point that they don't even trust their own judgment."
Fending Criticism of the Raid
As state officials determine future custody hearings, Texas authorities are fending off criticism they should have raided a polygamist compound sooner.
Earlier this week, state troopers removed more than 400 children, most of them little girls, from a fundamentalist Mormon ranch.
The sheriff's office said it knew about the sexual and physical abuse of the children for four years, but didn't remove the children because they didn't have proof.
"This is the United States," said Sheriff David Doran of Schleicher County, Texas. "We are going to respect them. We're not going to violate their civil rights. Until we get evidence there is a problem."
An informant gave Doran information on the group in 2004, but made the decision to leave them alone after no concrete evidence was found.
"I have no regrets because we never received any outcry, a complaint. There was no evidence of illegal activity nor an offense in plain view," he said. "You can always suspect something, but until you get something that puts you on that property, there's not a whole lot you can do."
Proof of Harm
Now authorities may have the proof they need.
Officials released Friday a list of documents seized from the Yearn for Zion Ranch compound. Some listed marriage and birth records of the girls in custody.
Police found hundreds of items that may become evidence against many of the men on the 1400-acre ranch, including beds on the top floor of a temple believed to have been used by husbands and their underage wives.
Computer equipment, family photo albums, letters, school and medical records were all seized by police.
Court papers also show that police found a "cyanide poisoning document" on how to treat cyanide poisoning. But the 80-page list of items seized gave no further explanation as to why the group would have that.
The case is heading to court, with a custody hearing set later this month.
Source: CBN News, Associated Press