The Associated Press
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - All their lives, the girls in the Polygamist sect in the West Texas desert were told that the outside world was hostile and immoral.
They were told that venturing beyond the brilliant white limestone walls of their commune 40 miles south of San Angelo would consign them to eternal damnation.
Now, hundreds of the girls could be put in foster homes in what could be a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require intensive counseling.
Margaret Cooke left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with seven of her eight children in 1994. She says what child welfare workers "are up against is having to
deprogram an entire community." She says the children "are so naive and they have been sheltered to the point that they don't even trust their own judgment."
Child welfare officials seized more than 400 children, most of them girls, in the raid on the sect's commune. They say the girls are in danger of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. But the
children and the 139 women who followed them out of the compound are so secretive that child welfare workers are having trouble matching children with parents.
Authorities say the renegade Mormon splinter group requires girls at puberty to enter into polygamous marriages with much older men and bear children.