[ETA: Parley Pratt, one of Mitt Romney's ancestor, makes an interesting test case for how FLDS might have been handled back when wives and children were property. Hector McLean sued Pratt for taking his wife and their children; the judge acquitted Pratt. McLean then got a posse together and shot him. I'm still looking for a better explanation for why the judge thought the mother should have custody, since that seems a little anomalous.
Further ETA: http://jared.pratt-family.org/parley_histories/parley-death-stephen-pratt.html
Reading between the lines, I suspect that the judge concluded Hector was a dangerous drunk and no good as a man, much less a father. The presence of one of Eleanor's brothers makes it more likely that this would be heard and believed. OTOH, it may have been because he sent the kids off to Eleanor's dad unattended -- one of those custody things that makes you go hunh, wha?!? now, but probably made a lot of sense of everyone back then. This is actually quite an incredible story, in which, surprisingly, Parley (whoops!) comes off looking pretty good.
Further ETA: OMIWTF The judge and Pratt were both masons and the judge perceived it as a bond. Conspiracy alert! ]
In the course of trying to follow up on this, I stumbled across the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which I knew about in general, but had never read in specific, either the original or any summary. And I have to say, I'm a little surprised at what is in it. Article 7.1 says, for example, "The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents." It would seem that FLDS as a group has definitely been thwarting this principle in a variety of ways. I know it's easy to go, wait, CPS is thwarting this, separating children from their mothers/fathers, but if you can't figure out who the parents _are_ or establish when they were born, there's a bit of a problem of longer-standing than this month.
Article 8.2 says, "Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity." DNA testing seems like exactly the right approach under the circumstances, particularly since we're increasingly discovering that a lot of these children have been separated from their bio-mothers, possibly to the degree they have no idea who their biological mother is.
If I recall correctly, the US is not signatory to this convention. I think the reasons can be found in Articles 10 and 37, among others.
Article 11.2 says, " States Parties shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad." which would appear to be relevant to trafficking between Texas/Utah/Arizona and Bountiful, B.c.
Article 13.1 is a bit breathtaking: "The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice." Any FLDS kid with the presence of mind to demand access to cable news and broadband internet access, for example, has at least a basis for making a claim, right? ;-)
Article 14.3 clearly limits freedom of religion: " Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others." That is one long list of exemptions.
There's a lot more -- a _lot_ more, at least 40 articles, ignoring boilerplate for states and implementation and so forth that don't set out specific rights of the child. Several articles address abuse of various sorts, trafficking, etc.
One more for the road: Article 29.1
"States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:"
"(c), The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;"
You can take this to mean, we should be tolerant of what FLDS is up to and not interfere. More plausibly, any State that is a party to this agreement is signing up for the idea that the State has a responsibility to protect the Right of Children to an education that satisfies that criteria. Which I think we can all agree the children at YFZ were not getting such an education.
ETA I missed a doozy in Article 24.3: "States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children."
I'd bet money that this sucker got put in with a view to going after stuff like FGM, but it's sure written broadly.