Foster gets last chance with kids

Court: A judge lets her have extended visits with most of her children

Heidi Mattingly Foster will get a final chance to show she can be a good parent to her children with polygamist John Daniel Kingston.

Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez agreed Wednesday to let Foster have expanded visits with eight of the 11 children she had with Kingston. (She already has custody of an infant.) It is the first step in possibly reuniting the family – a move state attorneys and the Division of Child and Family Services oppose.

Guardian ad Litem Anthony Ferdon argued that Foster, 33, has failed repeatedly to provide a clean home, supervise her children or to protect them from Kingston, 49.

“It is not our position that every child in The Order is living in squalor or being abused,” Ferdon said. “It is her.”

The time has come to terminate her parental rights, he said, adding adoption would be “better than the situation they’ve been in. At some point we have to throw in the towel and say this is ongoing danger.”

But during the 3 1/2 -hour hearing, Valdez said Foster deserves “a chance to succeed or fail” on her own now that she has isolated herself from Kingston and members of The Order, as the organization founded by his family is known.

“I don’t know if we will ever get you to the point you denounce anyone,” Valdez told Foster. “What I am interested in is getting you to the point you act on behalf of your children.”

For now, Foster will get supervised visits with the children that will likely increase from several hours a week to overnight and weekend stays – provided she complies with the judge’s other mandates.

Those include working with two domestic violence counselors who Valdez believes can help her recognize she is a victim of abuse. She will receive “housekeeping services” to help her provide the children with a safe, clean home. She also must not hit the children or criticize their foster homes.

After the hearing, a tearful Foster made a single comment: “I love my children very much and I miss them very much.”

Valdez will review Foster’s progress on Dec. 15.

The judge removed the children, who range in age from 2 to 15, from Foster’s home three weeks ago after state attorneys alleged she and Kingston were being uncooperative with a caseworker and not complying with Valdez’s orders. He left a 4-month-old girl in Foster’s care. Valdez had previously taken two older girls, whose confrontation with the couple over ear-piercing in February brought the case to court, from Foster’s home.

In an Oct. 21 deal proposed by her attorney Russ Pietryga, Foster left her home and job – both supplied by The Order – and agreed to cut off contact with Kingston and the group. After a brief stay in a domestic violence shelter, Foster bought and moved into a home.

On Wednesday, as she has in the past, Foster testily denied being abused by Kingston when called to the witness stand by Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Nichols.

Instead, she said “members of this court” were abusing her, specifically naming Kristen Brewer and Shawna Blacksher, the aunt who now has permanent custody of Foster’s 13-year-old daughter.

Nichols peppered Foster with questions about her viewsof polygamy, Kingston and her life with him.

“You’re perfectly happy cohabitating with him and you think that’s a good example for [the children]?” Nichols asked Foster.

“Yes,” she answered.

Nichols said Foster had not provided the children with adequate dental or medical care and they are “awestruck” at aspects of life in their new foster homes – from getting help dressing to second helpings at meals.

Nichols recounted three investigations by DCFS in which the agency found squalid living conditions in Foster’s home and children left to fend for themselves while she worked.

“She’s received services and still there is no change,” said Curtis Giles, the DCFS caseworker working with the family. “I see her as not having the ability to understandthe needs of her children.”

But Pietryga said the reality is Foster has made a break with Kingston and is now complying with every request made of her.

“She’s got to make steps and she’s done that,” he said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Nov. 11, 2004
Brooke Adams

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 11, 2004.
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