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Updated 8:46 AM- ELDORADO, Texas -- A Texas judge today signed an order that hundreds of children seized during a raid on a polygamous sect's ranch must immediately be released to their families.
Signed by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther, the order was approved shortly after attorneys for the state and the children and their parents submitted the terms this morning.
The order provides for parents to retrieve their children from the various foster care facilities where they have been placed beginning today at 8 a.m. and extending through 8 p.m.
Willie Jessop, an FLDS sect member and spokesman, asked news media to be aware that the reunions of parents with their children will be personal, and to please respect their privacy.
"We wish it was a better order, but we'll take it," he said. "We're grateful to get this order signed."
The terms of the release remain tough for sect members. Parents must agree to be photographed picking up their children, and to be fingerprinted and provide identification, as well as agree to attending "standard parenting classes," according to the order.
They also must agree not to interfere with the Texas Child Protective Services ongoing investigation into alleged child abuse and neglect; allow CPS workers to visit, question and examine the children, both medically and psychologically, in their homes. Further, the parents must provide seven days notice before any moves, and 48 hours notice of any travel more than 100 miles from their homes -- and they are prohibited from leaving Texas with their children.
Attorneys for two legal aid firms who successfully petitioned the Third Court of Appeals arrived at the courthouse at 8:15 a.m. and submitted their own order for the judge to sign. But Walther had already come up with her own plan, a slightly modified version of the
proposal she made Friday.
Julie Balovich and Kevin Dietz of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid had little to say after picking up the signed order. "We're pleased she signed an order," was all Balovich would say.
About 450 children were seized during a raid of the FLDS sect's El Dorado ranch in April. The raid came after alleged complaints about alleged under-age marriages and abuse.