Kingston case split DCFS, probe shows

Child advocate suggests transferring files

Even though state child welfare workers have been involved with a prominent polygamist family for more than five years, an independent investigation shows they were at odds over how to protect the children from abuse and neglect.

As a result, an independent child advocate is recommending the state transfer cases related to John Daniel Kingston to another geographical region or to a state administrator for oversight.

“I believe there needs to be a new perspective,” said Dianne Warner-Kearney, the state’s child protection ombudsman.

An abbreviated report by her office obtained Wednesday by the Deseret Morning News said “the (DCFS) team was divided” over what action to take regarding John Daniel Kingston in the abuse of a handful of his estimated 111 children.

Moreover, child welfare workers often did not know the history of the Kingstons when dealing with the case, the risk factor associated with the family or have knowledge of any of the previous intervention services given, the report said.

“An initial assessment of risk and other early assessments of risk were incomplete in that they did not appear to incorporate the prior history of referrals and previous services given nor did they appropriately use information from third parties,” the report said.

Sources close to the investigation have alleged the caseworker, Curtis Giles, was stymied in his efforts to pursue the abuse case against the Kingstons.

In her report, Warner-Kearney said even if the case should be transferred to a different region, Giles should remain on the case.

Over the last five years, there have been 77 cases in which state Division of Child and Family Services have been involved with Kingston and his 14 wives, the report said.

Still, the investigation concludes, “communication amongst (DCFS) team members was at times confusing, misunderstood, inadequate and conflictual. The decision-making process resulted in an impasse.”

The independent report was issued months after a request for a probe by DCFS director Richard Anderson, who said concerns were brought to him over administrative and communication problems related to how the Kingston case was handled.

Anderson was unavailable Wednesday for comment about the report.

In June, 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez ruled Kingston abused his children and said one of his wives, Heidi Mattingly, had failed to protect them from that abuse. The judge later ordered 10 of the couple’s 11 children into state custody, where they remain today.

The case first came to light after a February incident when Kingston threatened two of his teenage daughters for piercing their ears. The girls, ages 13 and 16, told police they were afraid of their father, who threatened to rip out their earrings for going against his wishes.

That incident led to further investigation of abuses in the home. Kingston’s 13-year-old daughter told police her father beat her, her mother and her siblings, and forced the children to eat spoiled food he dug out of the garbage.

In what was a departure from how child welfare cases are typically handled, an attorney with the guardian ad litem’s office petitioned the court seeking to prosecute Kingston and Mattingly for the abuse. Generally, such petitions are brought by DCFS, with a guardian ad litem appointed during the judicial process to represent the best interests of the children.

Even Anderson, after he made the request for the independent review, conceded there were irregularities in how the Kingston investigation was handled.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Deseret Morning News, USA
Dec. 2, 2004
Leigh Dethman and Amy Joi Bryson

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday December 2, 2004.
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