|Updated: 11/19/2008 8:59 pm
||Published: 11/19/2008 5:24 pm
A judge in Texarkana is hearing testimony from witnesses to determine if four girls taken from the Tony Alamo compound will be released from state custody. At the same time 20 more children are now in state custody after allegations of abuse and neglect.
The state says so far everything is running smoothly, the children are generally healthy and doing quite well. But there is still a lot of work ahead to figure out whose custody they will end up in...
The Department of Human Services is conducting health assessments on 20 children taken from Tony Alamo ministries.
"Some have medicines for illnesses that they are being treated for, some will need crisis counseling services," Julie Munsell with DHS says.
State police picked up 11 boys and 9 girls Tuesday in Fouke and Fort Smith but calls went out to foster families earlier than that.
"We began to marshal those resources and make them aware we were going to need some placements even if we couldn't offer them the detail at the time," Munsell says.
Munsell says now the Alamo children are in foster homes but not all separated.
"We have sibling groups, some 3, 4 or 5 siblings,” Munsell says. “We try to keep them together and we've had families willing to take in all of them within that sibling group so they can stay together."
Hearings for six Alamo girls seized in a September raid started Monday in Miller County. That is when allegations of abuse in open court were heard.
"We believe that children are in danger, were in danger, those children that we removed, of being abused and or neglected," Munsell says.
Now DHS is caring for a total of 26 kids taken from Alamo properties in Fouke and Fort Smith.
"We will still work to find and locate children we believe to be Arkansas residents still in danger, that's going to be a part of our process,” Munsell says. “So I think the answer is yes we suspect there may be more, how many and where, those are still some unanswered questions."
DHS is talking with Oklahoma because there are Alamo ministries there too. Right now it's focused on information sharing. But DHS says they will follow this investigation beyond state lines to protect Arkansas children.