Dad happy: A judge lifts an order that restricted Kingston’s contact
Third District Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Lindsley on Tuesday lifted an order that had limited Kingston’s contact with eight of the couple’s 11 children, but refused to close the case because of the couple’s past history.
Continuing oversight may help prevent the family from landing in juvenile court a fourth time, Lindsley said – an event that would likely trigger the state to immediately move to terminate their parental rights.
“I am looking out for these children’s best interests,” she said. Lindsley also ordered Kingston to continue therapy and set a progress review in the case for June 15.
Outside the courtroom, Kingston and Mattingly Foster hailed the decision as moving them one step closer to being fully united as a family.
“We’re very pleased,” Kingston said. “Tonight I get to go home to my family. The children have needed a father in the home and they have not had that” for two years.
As for the drop-in visits Lindsley ordered, Mattingly Foster said, “Come on over, we don’t care.”
The case began in February 2004 after an argument between the couple and their two oldest daughters over ear piercing. The couple terminated their parental rights to the two girls last October.
Lindsley took over the case in July after two judges recused themselves after their impartiality was questioned. The judge returned eight children, who spent 10 months in foster care, to Mattingly Foster in August; her youngest child was never removed.
Kingston has been allowed to work with his oldest son and visit the others under supervision since November.
Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for the Division of Child and Family Services, said Tuesday the peer parent described the children as happy. “We’re fairly comfortable,” Sisco said of Kingston’s transition to unsupervised visits.
Psychologist Ralph W. Gant was the sole witness during the review hearing, describing his efforts to help Kingston show empathy to his children, address control issues and learn to act without anger, confrontation or threat of punishment.
“He comes from a culture in which empathy may be present but may not be well demonstrated,” Gant said.
Gant said Kingston had made “dramatic progress” but recommended loose monitoring and continued therapy to provide “some assurance this issue is not going to come back again.”
Kristin Brewer, director of the Guardian ad Litem’s Office, said she continues “to have concerns about the children and those are unabated.”
Still to be decided is how much child support Kingston owes the state for the months his children spent in foster care. The state is seeking more than $23,000, an amount Kingston’s attorney says is beyond his client’s ability to pay. A hearing is set for April 13.
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