WEST JORDAN – The mother, children, therapists and attorneys all have had their turn to speak. Now, they must wait three weeks to learn what the judge has to say in the complex, controversial Kingston child welfare case.
Third District Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Lindsley set Aug. 15 as the day she will issue a decision about the fate of the children of Heidi Mattingly Foster and polygamist John Daniel Kingston. The judge said she had a previously scheduled vacation, but also needed time to review documents in the case.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t look over everything and I need to do that to determine what is in the best interests of these children,” Lindsley said.
In April, Judge Andrew Valdez, then presiding over the case, ordered that eight children in state custody be reunited with Mattingly Foster. Two boys are now home, but six other children remain in foster care.
The judge began Friday’s hearing by visiting privately with the eight children as the attorneys listened in.
Gary Bell, Mattingly Foster’s attorney, said later the children repeated what they told Valdez in April.
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“The kids want to go home, and I think that is what the judge heard,” Bell said. “What she heard from the kids was inconsistent with what she heard from the kids’ therapists.”
In his closing argument, Bell said the state thwarted Valdez’ reunification ruling by not following a graduated visitation schedule that would have returned the children home by June 10 and delaying the provision of a peer parent.
“Parents have a right to know that if they abide by the service plan, the kids are going to go home,” Bell said.
Instead, Bell said, the state is hung up on getting Mattingly Foster to admit what could amount to criminal behavior that might be used against her in the future.
Mattingly Foster, he said, has done and continues to do what is asked of her. And the children in her care now are “healthy and happy,” he said.
Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Nichols, joined by Guardians ad Litem Kristin Brewer and Anthony Ferdon, said Mattingly Foster refuses to see herself as a victim of domestic abuse or to recognize her own abusive behaviors, which makes lasting behavioral change unlikely.
“She’s been given the opportunity to show she’s changed, to put her children above all else,” Nichols said. “She hasn’t and she won’t.”
Nichols hammered Mattingly Foster for allowing Kingston to interact with her children at a funeral for her father in April. Valdez gave Kingston permission to attend, but the no-contact order remained.
She also said the children’s therapists, who testified Thursday in a closed hearing, believe there is a substantial risk of harm if the children go home.