Texas child welfare officials are preparing to reunite more than 450 children with their parents after the state’s highest civil court said their removal from a West Texas polygamist ranch seven weeks ago was illegal, says the Houston Chronicle. The Texas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state didn’t have enough evidence to order into foster care every child who lived at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, instead of just the teenage girls who child welfare officials said were at risk of being sexually abused by marriages to older men.
State attorneys must decide whether to go back to court to try to regain custody of some of the children, particularly the underage girls, whose safety has been at the heart of this case. “It is a victory as to returning the children to the families, but it does not mean the case is over,” said Laura Shockley, an attorney who represents some of the children. “It doesn’t mean that re-removal of some of the children couldn’t occur again.” Lawyers from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas represented 43 mothers who challenged the largest custody case in Texas history. Although the appeals decision involved only 129 children, it is expected to apply to all of the children.