Supervised visits between plural wife Heidi Mattingly Foster and eight of her 11 children by John Daniel Kingston have so deteriorated that a social worker must act as a "baby sitter for both the children and the adults," 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez said Thursday.
Valdez ordered that a court-appointed "peer parent" must attend the two-hour, once-a-week visits with Mattingly Foster, and those visits now can involve only four children at a time.
The action came during a custody hearing for Mattingly Foster, who is accused of, but not criminally charged with, neglecting and abusing her children. Only her 6-month-old daughter remains in her care.
After reviewing a new report filed by a Division of Child and Family Services case worker, Valdez said in court that Mattingly Foster whispers manipulative messages into her children's ears and holds private conferences in the bathroom to turn them against DCFS, their foster families and the court.
A court-appointed attorney for the children said some of them have returned to their foster homes worried that they would be poisoned if they eat the food.
Valdez also said that if a decision to reunite Mattingly Foster with her children were based solely on these supervised visits, "her chance of getting these kids returned to her is getting slimmer and slimmer."
The family landed in court last February after a dispute between their parents and their two oldest daughters over ear piercing. Since then, Valdez has barred Kingston from seeing the children or Mattingly Foster, one of some 14 plural wives who have borne more than 100 of his children. He also has ordered Mattingly Foster to stay away from Kingston or anyone else in The Order, the Davis County Co-Operative Society founded by the polygamous Kingston clan.
Thursday's hearing was cut short when her defense attorney, Russ Pietryga, learned that one of Mattingly Foster's daughters has been interviewed in a separate child abuse investigation.
Officials with the Attorney General's Office told Valdez the criminal investigation had "little to nothing" to do with the child welfare case involving Mattingly Foster or Kingston.
Pietryga argued that he had a right to make that determination on his own and requested to view a videotaped interview with the child.
Valdez agreed, but ultimately decided that Judge Fredrick Oddone would view the tape to determine its relevance to the allegations against Mattingly Foster.
After the hearing, Mattingly Foster said she knew nothing about the criminal investigation and she called Valdez's description of her supervised visits a "mischaracterization."
She said the visits generally have gone well, except for a special Christmas Day gathering where Guardian ad Litem Kristen Brewer asked Salt Lake City police to check on the visit.
"Brewer asked that they basically crash the visit," Mattingly Foster said, displaying a police report that indicated Brewer was concerned that she would kidnap her children.
"What I had asked for was extra patrolling for the area because I believe there was a flight risk that day," Brewer said after the hearing. She said a secrecy order from the court barred her from elaborating.
The hearing is to continue on Wednesday with Mattingly Foster's attorney presenting his defense on the child abuse allegations.