Oregon authorities have taken the first step toward sending some of the children of the Watts-based Ecclesia Athletic Assn. back to California, where they will live with their relatives.
Officials at the Oregon Children's Services Division said Friday that they have initiated transfer proceedings for 10 of the 53 children, who were taken into protective custody Oct. 14 after the beating death of the 8-year-old daughter of Ecclesia founder Eldridge Broussard Jr.
"There may be more, but right now we're starting with 10," agency spokeswoman Alice Galloway said.
Authorities have alleged that the children, who had been living with the group in a four-bedroom farmhouse in rural Clackamas County, were beaten with electrical cords and paddles--as many as 800 strokes at a time--when they broke Ecclesia's rules. Since they were taken into custody, numerous extended family members have come forward to offer to care for them, authorities said.
Acting under the "interstate compact"--a nationwide agreement between social service agencies--Oregon officials have asked their California counterparts to investigate the relatives to determine if they can provide a proper home.
Officials in California said confidentiality laws prevent them from discussing the request.
But Bart Wilson, manager of the Clackamas County branch of the Oregon agency, said the "interstate home studies," as they are called, will examine whether the California relatives can provide "enough room for the kids, enough food, enough finances, enough supervision."
None of the California relatives are affiliated with Ecclesia, according to Galloway. She did say, however, that the group might include one or two parents who are estranged from their spouses.
Galloway said it is "unlikely" that children will be reunited with parents who remain a part of the group. "It's unlikely that we would return the children to the same environment that we took them from," she said, "and currently, most of the parents are living together in the same house in the same group and have shown no inclination to leave the Ecclesia Athletic Assn."
In other recent developments:
- One of the four Ecclesia members charged with manslaughter in the death of 8-year-old Dayna Broussard has also been charged in connection with what Oregon authorities have called "systematic beatings" inflicted on the Ecclesia children.
Constance Jackson, 37, was arraigned Nov. 25 in Clackamas County Circuit Court in Oregon on nine counts each of second-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment for allegedly injuring children under her supervision "by means of a dangerous weapon"--an electrical cord.
- A Juvenile Court judge in Oregon has permitted one of the children--a 16-year-old-girl--to move in with her grandparents, who reside in Oregon. Galloway said "strict stipulations" have been placed on her living arrangement, among them that she and her mother have "no contact with anyone from Ecclesia or any of its affiliates."
- Nine more Ecclesia children have been placed in foster homes in Oregon in recent weeks, bringing the total number in foster care to 25. The remaining 27 children are still being housed at two state-run schools for juvenile delinquents.
Oregon authorities plan to have all the children living with families--either their relatives or foster parents--by Jan. 31.