Sect Kids in for Culture Shock

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CBNNews.com - The children from a polygamist compound taken into state custody are on their way to group homes, shelters, and residences.

Experts and lawyers fear their transition may be much harder than it is for other foster children.

The 437 children will be plunged into a culture radically different from the community where they and their families shunned the outside world.

Television? What's That?

Many of the children have seen little or no television. They have been essentially home-schooled all their lives. Most were raised on garden-grown vegetables and twice-daily prayers with family.

Buses have already shipped 138 children to group homes or boys' and girls' ranches.

Most of the remaining children will be separated from their mothers for the first time when they are sent out of San Angelo in the coming days.

Officials with the Texas Child Protective Services program said they selected foster homes where the youngsters can be kept apart from other children for now.

"We recognize it's critical that these children not be exposed to mainstream culture too quickly or other things that would hinder their success," agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said. "We just want to protect them from abuse and neglect. We're not trying to change them."

Some Moving to Houston

The youngsters are moving out of the San Angelo Coliseum and will be placed in temporary facilities around Texas - some as far away as Houston, 500 miles off - until individual custody decisions can be made.

Those decisions could result in a number of possibilities. Some children could be placed in permanent foster care. Some parents who have left the sect may win custody. Other youngsters may be allowed to return to the ranch in Eldorado. Those who turn 18 before the case is complete will be allowed to choose where they want to live.

Pulliam said the temporary foster care facilities have been briefed on the children's needs.

"We're not going to have them in tank tops and shorts," she said.

Pulliam said the children will continue to be home-schooled by the temporary foster-care providers instead of being thrown into big public schools, where they could be bullied because of their differences.

The children were swept up in a raid earlier this month on the Yearning for Zion Ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group.

Authorities say the group believes in marrying underage girls to older men, and that there is evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the ranch.

Source: The Associated Press

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