With eight children of polygamous couple in foster care, judge orders the mother to cut ties to their father’s clan
Heidi Mattingly Foster will temporarily give up her home, her job and all interaction with family, friends or any one else connected to the polygamous Kingston group – all in the hope of regaining eight of her children.
In a deal reached Friday after a 30-minute private meeting with attorneys, 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez sent Mattingly Foster into a domestic violence shelter and cut her off from any contact with ”The Order,” the polygamous organization she has belonged to since birth.
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That arrangement, proposed by her own attorney, removes Mattingly Foster from an allegedly abusive setting and allows her to prove she is making decisions without undue influence from Kingston or other members of The Order, attorneys said later.
It is the latest twist in a saga that began in February, when a dispute between the couple and their two oldest children, girls ages 13 and 16, landed the family in court. The couple has 11 children.
Valdez removed eight other children from Mattingly Foster’s home Tuesday after hearing new allegations that several children had been physically abused and that the parents were being uncooperative with a child welfare caseworker.
That action drew about 50 family and friends, including Heidi’s parents Vicki and Ronald Mattingly, to the courthouse Friday in support of the couple.
The Mattinglys declined to comment.
Other supporters said the couple are being persecuted to further a political agenda and because of their religious beliefs as members of The Davis County Cooperative Society.
The society, often referred to as The Order, has 1,200 members in Utah and controls a $150 million business empire. Its followers adhere to a 19th-century version of Mormonism that includes polygamy, a principle abandoned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. Mattingly Foster, 33, is said to be one of 14 “spiritual wives” of Kingston, 49, who has around 120 children.
Rachel Young, Kingston’s sister and a member of The Davis County Cooperative Society, called Valdez’s action on Friday “an outrage.”
In a brief statement after the hearing, Kingston said, “Not only did the state take our children from us, today they took their mother, too. This is a very sad time for us.”
But Carolyn Nichols, an assistant attorney general, said neither politics nor religious persecution are at work in the situation.
“We’ve done this before with victims of domestic violence, which she is,” Nichols said. “It has to do with abuse – child abuse and domestic violence.”
The state has built its case during 10 months of court hearings. Investigators are relying in part on testimony from the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, who said that Kingston hit her mother on several occasions and failed to provide adequate support for the family. State attorneys also said Mattingly Foster failed to intervene when the children were physically disciplined by Kingston.
Child welfareworkers have investigated Mattingly Foster four times during the past decade, each time finding her children were being physically neglected and living in squalor.
Valdez said a psychological evaluation of Mattingly Foster and concern for the safety of her children, as well as the family’s past history, led to his decision.
In addition to the “no contact” order, Mattingly Foster must give up her job at Advance Copy, a Kingston business. She will be able to use $2,700 set aside in support by Kingston, plus ongoing monthly support payments, to cover expenses and find new housing that is not under the control of the group. And she will receive counseling and parenting help.
Mattingly Foster will keep her 3-month-old daughter; she will have supervised visits with her eight other children, who will be placed in two foster homes.
Kingston will be allowed weekly supervised visits with the eight children, the judge said.
The older teens were placed in state custody in February.
Adam Trupp, legal administrator for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, said it is not unheard of for judges to bar contact between certain family members, or smaller groups or segments of families.
But he said ordering no contact within an entire extended family may be a first.
“Certainly to extend it in the broader sense to the entire family, that’s not heard of,” Trupp said.
Kristen Brewer, director of the Guardian Ad Litem’s Office, said the order was necessary because of the “groupthink” within the Kingston clan that has allowed ongoing child abuse and domestic violence.
“It’s about the treatment of children, abuse and trying to stop that,” Brewer said.
Russ Pietryga, Mattingly Foster’s attorney, apparently began working on the agreement Thursday with Nichols and Daniel Irvin, Kingston’s attorney.
“My understanding is they want to make sure she is making independent decisions that are not forced on her,” Irvin said.
Rowenna Erickson, a former spiritual wife of Kingston’s brother Paul and co-founder of Tapestry Against Polygamy, believes Mattingly Foster needs extensive counseling or her return to the group is inevitable.
“She can’t go back or she’ll get right back into it,” Erickson said. “It is such a crime what goes on there. [State officials] haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Mattingly Foster, who had stood arm-in-arm with Kingston before the hearing and expressed her love for him, told Valdez in court she would comply with his order.
She remained silent when the judge pressed to know if she agreed with it – prompting Valdez to acknowledge his question was unfair.
“It is not easy to have [to] leave your home and go live in a domestic violence shelter and not have contact with people you are close to,” he said, adding the goal is to reunite her with children as soon as it is clear her needsare being met and the children will be safe.
He has set Mattingly Foster’s next hearing for Nov. 3 and Kingston’s for Nov. 4.
After Friday’s hearing Mattingly Foster issued a statement through Tracey Dalby, a friend and former DCFS caseworker, that said DCFS and Brewer were “trying to force me to leave my family and all that I love. I’m begging the state of Utah to stop breaking up my family and let my children come home.”
Tribune reporter Jacob Santini contributed to this story.
What’s happened previously: On Tuesday, 3rd District Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez placed eight children of John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly Foster in state custody. Two older children, ages 13 and 16, have been in state custody since February, following a dispute with their parents over ear piercing. That case opened an investigation into allegations of ongoing abuse and neglect.
John Daniel Kingston talks to reporters after a hearing before Judge Andrew Valdez on Friday. The judge ordered Heidi Mattingly Foster, mother of 11 of Kingston’s children, to a domestic violence shelter.
The text of the statement released by Rachel Young, representing The Davis County Cooperative Society:
This is an outrage. The state of Utah has torn this family apart.
Heidi and John Daniel love each other and their children very much. Because Heidi and John Daniel are not married, the state has ruledthat for Heidi to get her children back she must not have contact with anyone in our community. They have stripped her of the most fundamental rights of citizenship.
The state will decide: where she will live; where she will go to church; who she can and can’t see and associate with; even where she can shop.
She will not even be able to see her own mother, her father or her brothers and sisters.
She is an adult and has the right to make this decision no matter how she believes.
It is wrong to hold children hostage to further a political agenda. How could this kind of prejudice and injustice still exist in America? Every United States citizen should be outraged and ashamed.
This is a very emotional time for the family, and the entire community.
We love Heidi and her children very much. We will not rest until this family is reunited.