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A Texas child welfare spokesman said Monday that more than half the teenage girls taken from a polygamous sect's ranch are pregnant or mothers - a new tally that includes women whose ages were previously disputed.
Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar said 31 of 53 girls ages 14 to 17 have children, are pregnant or both.
"This includes that group of girls that once claimed they were 18 or older," he said. "It was determined they were not adults."
He said some women acknowledged being younger and the age of others was determined by their attorneys or by looking at the women.
"I have seen them myself," he said, "and I don't see any that look like an adult to me."
Azar said he did not know how many girls are pregnant, but said it is a small number. CPS has previously said that three teenagers are pregnant.
Salt Lake attorney Rod Parker, a spokesman for the FLDS, said that of the three, one teenager refused to take a pregnancy test, one is 18 and the other is 17.
He also contends that the state's new count includes 17 adult women who are being classified as minors.
"Beyond that I am unable to verify the information because the Texas Rangers took all the records that might be useful in responding to this," Parker said.
Two attorneys with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), which represents 48 mothers, challenged the "eyeball" test CPS used to separate minors from adults.
"My clients told us they were put in a line and looked at," said Julie Balovich. "So I know that is how some of the numbers happened."
The tally of women and children has changed almost daily over the past three weeks, following a raid on the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado. The ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect traditionally based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Texas officials removed the children from the sect because of what they describe as a "pervasive pattern" of requiring underage girls to "spiritually" marry much older men and become mothers.
Amanda Chisholm, who also works for TRLA, said she would be surprised if the actual number of teenage girls who are pregnant or mothers is "anywhere near that high."
"Until we can get numbers of how many of these women dispute the age CPS is attributing to them I wouldn't rely on any of the figures that [the state] gives out," Chisholm said.
TRLA attorney Julie Balovich said one woman now deemed to be a teenager is a 24-year-old woman who is pregnant. FLDS member Willie Jessop contends the state's tally also includes a 28-year-old whom the state has listed as being 17.
"Do we correct it and get out the girls who are overage when the minute they do that, they forfeit their children?" he asked. "CPS has had a very difficult time being accurate with any of the numbers and this number is the most outrageous yet."
Chisholm agreed that some women may be claiming to be minors in order to stay with their children, since CPS is only allowing mothers breast-feeding infants 12 months or younger or who are teenagers to remain in shelters.
"I don't know if people are doing that but would understand why they might," she said.
Azar rebutted the critics, saying CPS has had to counter many erroneous claims.
"The simple truth is there is a steady flow of misinformation, which is often the case when people who may have abused children, and those who never stepped in to protect them, try to discredit those who move to protect [the children]," Azar said.
Azar said the state has custody of 463 children, a group that includes minor mothers and their children. In addition, 17 adult mothers have been allowed to stay with infants 12 months or younger who were nursing.
The state moved the FLDS children to group homes and shelters throughout Texas last week. Azar said that six children remain in area hospitals, where they are being treated for illnesses such as ear infections. Three other children were treated and released.
TRLA praised CPS on Monday for setting up a supervised visiting schedule for parents whose children are being treated at Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital.
Azar said all children are accounted for and caseworkers each have been assigned 15 children to represent. Arrangements also are being made that will allow mothers to visit their children while in foster care, he said.
Some attorneys representing children said Monday they were having difficulty getting information about their clients or the caseworkers and guardian ad litems assigned to them. Azar said that will improve now.
"The ad litems have been frustrated and that is certainly understandable," he said.
Dallas attorney Polly R. O'Toole said she visited two facilities on Monday: Boysville Inc., which has 17 FLDS children; and Baptist Children's Residential Emergency Shelter, which has 71. Staff at the facilities are "generous, caring and concerned" but also complained about the lack of information and direction from CPS, she said.
She also said that, contrary to a courtroom pledge by CPS, sibling groups have been split up. Eight children from one monogamous family have been sent to five different shelters, she said. Another little girl is in a shelter an hour away from the group home where her sisters are, O'Toole said.
Azar acknowledged the state had broken up sibling groups but said officials were working to reunite at least some of them. He said making placements was difficult given that the "children don't even want to answer you what their name is and where they feel everyone is their brother and sister."
During a court hearing two weeks ago, a CPS investigator said the agency had identified one teenager who was pregnant and four others were mothers. She also spoke of a list of 20 minors and young women who conceived their first child between the ages of 13 and 16.
According to that CPS document, one woman was 13 when she conceived a child who was born in 1997; another was 14 when she conceived a child born in 2000.
But the document also lists a woman who was 23 when she gave birth in 2006.
* LISA ROSETTA contributed to this story.
There are a total of 463 FLDS children - 250 females, 213 males - in state custody in Texas. Here is a breakdown of that count:
* 0-2: 101, 49 females, 52 males
* 3-5: 99, 46 females, 53 males
* 6-9: 131, 68 females, 63 males
* 10-13: 62, 34 females, 28 males
* 14-17: 42, 27 females, 15 males
* Disputed age: 26 females, now classified as 17 or younger.
* Two boys who turned 18 while in state custody also have voluntarily chosen to stay with younger boys.
Source: Texas Child Protective Services