Talula’s Barefoot Books Blog

A running commentary on life as an online bookstore owner after 25 years in Early Childhood Education.

I live in Texas…

Posted by Talula on April 17, 2008

Girl Writing at Desk   so I have to write this post. finally.  I have to admit publicly that my heart goes out to those children taken in by the Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services from the El Dorado ranch compound of the group known as FLDS.

I normally do not espouse my professional ethics on other people; but i have to finally speak up! Today is the court date [April 17th, 2008] for the Texas DFPS and the FLDS folks to meet in front of the judge in San Angelo, Texas. As one who protected the state’s children for 25 years, educating the teachers and family members; I am usually under confidentiality constraints involved when dealing with minor children. However these children are not in my care, not in my child care center, not even in my town. I have to speak out though, because they ARE in my state!

And I have had occasion to be the one responsible to make the call to CPS for beginning an investigation; presenting evidence for removing children from their home environment in the past. It is not a call I made lightly; weighing the consquences on the children for both choices is torture every time.  It was (and is) always done with an eye on the children’s immediate safety; plus their mental & physical future. It is always an extremely tough choice, until you have hard evidence to prove the neglect or abuse.  

It is easy when, like this case; the underage girls are pregnant and/or have young babies.  You can’t hide the stark evidence of illegal abuse when it is right in front of you. Sheriff Doran made the right choice to bring in those CPS staff with him to take custody of those 416 children. It now remains for the court to do it’s part to protect those childen. And as for me — if i had come across those children and had to make the choice; I  would have made the exact same choice!

You have to have a little background to understand why I have held my comments for so long as this has played out in the media.  I not only sell children’s books online and in my community. For over 25 years, I worked in many different levels of children’s care as a teacher, Lead Teacher, trainer of teachers & owners, and for the last 15 years of my career as a Director of Child Care Centers (from one-owner centers to those run by local colleges and highly acclaimed). I worked along side many CPS workers for the state and many private/corporate funded groups to train families and teachers how to treat children with respect, kindness, and in state-mandated (and human-ethics bound) Child Developmentally Appropriate ways.

I have to say, with no reservation of any kind; that Texas Protective & Regulatory Services (their old name) staff has always shown me the best educated and child-friendly way to  inform parents and teachers how to care for children in the most positive environment possible in that whole 25 years. 

I think back to my first encounter with an agent of the Child Care Licensing division. I was a greenhorn staff member working afternoon shift at a local center from a Corporate chain, but with a couple of Child Development classes under my belt. I thought I knew a lot. The scene was summer nap-time and we had two older children with disabilities in the group, who were too old for nap. They both normally attended special schools, but in late August their schools had not yet started the semester. I had been told neither could talk so I was to only use hand signals/gestures and body language to communicate with them. One child had severe hearing loss; but I quickly realized he read lips and coud read and write — so we communicated more fully during naptime on the nearby chalk board.   While the other children slept, I would step past the two-foot tall bookcase once or twice in a nap session to write a message to the deaf child. (It was literally 4 steps away from the sleeping children in the same room). The Licensing Rep came in for a routine inspection and promptly wrote me up for being “out of the nap area” of the assigned sleeping children. I was furious at the time and she patiently explained that she had to write up the ‘violation’, because if I had my back turned to the sleeping group instead of being on the floor sitting mong them or sitting on a chair in their midst — that a child could unexpectedly choke, become ill, or any manner of dangerous scenarios could occur in a few seconds and i would miss the chance to save them immediately; thereby I was posing a danger to the children by not being totally aware of their breathing and sleeping sounds.

Needless to say I was stunned at the implecation that I might have missed a danger to the children in my charge. I was humbled by this  woman’s complete attention to details and the possiblities of anyone’s behavior which might inadvertently cause harm to a child in a classroom setting. Later on in my career I found out that ‘Ms. Frieda’ (the very same Licensing Rep.) was legendary in several counties around my home town for being the all-time-most-feared staff member of the Texas Human Services Agency (head of the Texas Protective & Regulatory Services, now known as TDFPS). I decided not long after that encounter that I would be a pro-active member of the Early Childhood Education profession and always teach the same ‘tough-love’ core values style that ‘Ms. Frieda’ had used on me. That decision has served me well.

Later, I became fairly well-known in my own right in 3 counties for being an innovative Director/Consultant who could go into a center and completely turn-around the mind-set of owners, staff and Directors  to change from ‘babysitters’ to ‘educators’ with at least some Child Development education training, and usually had linked them into on-going education systems at the local colleges. For my own sense of ethics — I had to train as many caretakers and parents as I came into contact with to make a positive difference in every child’s life that i could influence directly (or indirectly through other peoples actions with children.)

All this was my way of setting up my absolute Thanks! for the Texas CPS staff, and the Texas court systems which I hope will prevail to protect this group of 416 children in this massive child abuse scandal; and with much help from the various agencies and the people of Texas who volunteer to help in the thousands of small & large ways to serve and protect these children during what looks to be a very long and drawn out process to give them a life free of mental, physical and sexual abuse and of course — help them to find a life within the larger community with loving folks around to lead them.  

And YES! If you are wondering; I have volunteered my professional services to the department, should they have the need. 

Thanks for listening (reading) to my rant and recollections. If you are blessed to have a child in your life — give them an extra hug today for all the ones who don’t get hugs! The universe will feel it and send it to those who need it!

SEPTEMBER O8 UPDATE:  For those still following the tiny bit of news that slip out occasionally about this landmark CPS case; I though I should post a short update. There was a lot of sadness in my eyes as I read of the decision to return all of those children to their so-called ‘parents’. I placed the quotes around that word because as it has  already been revealed in some of the court-filed documents that many of these children were not the biological children of those whom they called their ‘parents’. The group’s leader (Warren Jeffs) had “re-assigned” wives and children to different husbands and fathers based on his judgement of the behavior of group members. And eventually some of the men were charged with sexual assault of minors, having knowledge of sexual assault of minors, and/or bigamy. Most recently; CPS has filed to regain custody of several children due to the fact that the ‘parents’ refuse to follow the court-ordered guidelines for conducting the investigation.  While it is currently not a “hot topic” in the national news; I do firmly believe that the eventual reports on the final disposition of this case will show many abuses and both physical & psychological damage to many of the children of this Fundamentalist sect’s version of Mormonism.  My prayer is to the universal hope of all children everywhere to live a life free from terror & abuse – no matter it’s origin!

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