Some members of a rural Manitoba Mennonite community at the centre of child-abuse allegations are one step closer to being reunited with their children.

A number of children were removed from the private community by child and family services (CFS) officials in June after 13 adults were charged with multiple counts of assault.

The charges are based on allegations of children being struck with cattle prods, whips and leather straps between July 2011 and Jan. 31 of this year.

All but one child was taken from the Mennonite community and placed in foster care. Since then, their parents and community leaders have been in talks with CFS officials towards having the children returned.

Following a court hearing on Wednesday afternoon, a lawyer for five of the Mennonite families said he believes all of his clients' children will be brought home once child-welfare concerns are addressed.

Step in the right direction, says lawyer

Paul Walsh told reporters outside court that the latest development is a step in the right direction.

At the same time, he said he believes the process has taken too long, even though all of his clients have already agreed to conditions laid out by CFS officials.

Those conditions were listed in a CFS letter sent to the Mennonite community in July and include:

  • Only spanking children on their buttocks with their hands.
  • Not to leave marks or injuries on the children from disciplining them.
  • Having children disciplined only by their parents, not by teachers or pastors.

Some of the family members, who spoke publicly for the first time outside court, told reporters that they love their children and it's been an extremely difficult summer, and they would do anything to have their children home.

The family members also said they are worried their children are losing touch with their Mennonite beliefs.

A court-ordered publication ban means neither the Mennonite community nor the people charged can be named in order to protect the identities of the alleged victims.

One mother says her son celebrated his first birthday on Tuesday but she wasn't allowed to see him.

CFS officials have said they will meet with each family to discuss child-welfare concerns before the children are brought back to the community.

With files from The Canadian Press