SAN ANGELO, Texas — Adult mothers who have been allowed to stay with their young children since they were taken from a polygamous sect will be separated from them after DNA sampling is completed next week, a child welfare official said Saturday.
State District Judge Barbara Walther late Friday ordered that parents and children of the Yearning for Zion Ranch submit DNA samples to help sort out family relationships that have confounded authorities since 416 children were taken into state custody two weeks ago.
Sampling is to begin Monday and will probably take several days to complete, said Darrell Azar, a spokesman for Child Protective Services.
"We're going to make these transitions as easy as possible," Azar said. "We want to keep them together as much as possible so they don't feel they're completely isolated from their culture."
Officials have said figuring out how the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group, are related has been difficult because of evasive or changing answers members have given them.
Families that include half brothers and sisters, and those that include reportedly married first cousins, can be particularly challenging to unravel. Dr. Arthur Beaudet, chairman of the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said DNA testing can easily deal with these types of complexities.
"It's reasonable to say the information (from testing) will give full proof documentation" as to which parents belong to which children, he said.
Although the many unique family ties found in the sect will probably add a level of difficulty for DNA analysts in determining parentage, Beaudet said, the added complexity is still "not a significant concern."
More than 400 children will be tested, but officials have not said how many adults will be tested.