SAN ANGELO, Texas — Many of the children have seen little or no television. They have been essentially homeschooled all their lives. Most were raised on garden-grown vegetables and twice-daily prayers. They frolic in long dresses and buttoned-up shirts from another century. They are unfailingly polite.
The 437 children taken from the polygamist compound in West Texas are being scattered to group homes and ranches across the state, plunged into a culture radically different from the community where their families shunned the outside world as a hostile, contaminating influence.
The state Children's Protective Services agency said it chose foster homes where the youngsters can be kept apart from other children for now.
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 that believes in marrying off underage girls to older men. State child-welfare authorities said there was evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the ranch.
The youngsters are being moved out of the crowded San Angelo Coliseum and will be placed in 16 temporary facilities around Texas — some as far away as Houston, 500 miles off — until individual custody hearings can be held.
Some children may turn 18 before the case is complete and will be allowed to choose their own fates.