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Former foster mother sues Utah child-welfare officials

SHARE Former foster mother sues Utah child-welfare officials

A former foster mother who says state officials refused to place children in her home after she spoke to the media is suing two child welfare officials.

Lyn Templeton was a foster parent in Utah for 10 years, caring for children with special needs. In her "structured" home, Templeton's foster parenting was a full-time job, extending to nearly 100 children over the past decade.She also was president of the Davis County Foster Parent Association and spoke publicly, and sometimes critically, about the Division of Child and Family Services and child welfare practices in the state.

Templeton's attorney, Alyson Draper Snider, said DCFS was looking for a way to get rid of Templeton when officials accused her of stealing money from her foster daughters last year. After the allegations, children were removed from her Clinton home and never returned.

Templeton was cleared of the allegation by an administrative law judge and asked the division to again place children in her home. After several months, she was given a letter from Katy Larsen, the northern region director of DCFS, in a meeting.

In the April 13 letter, Larsen said there were two reasons children were not being placed in Templeton's home, despite years of "excellent service."

"Negative public comments made by you regarding the Division have seriously compromised our staff's willingness to work with you in the future," Larsen said. She added that while the administrative law judge had cleared Templeton, "we continue to have concerns about the circumstances" of that incident.

Snider, who was in the meeting, said she immediately questioned the officials' assertions.

"I said `What are you thinking? You just handed her a First Amendment lawsuit,' " Snider said. "The government is the reason we have the First Amendment, so people can speak against the government and not fear reprisal."

But Ken Patterson, DCFS director, says Templeton's rights were not violated. There were just too many bad feelings on both sides for children to thrive in Templeton's home, he said.

Patterson said just because someone has a license doesn't mean the division is required to place children with them, nor should the failure to place children in a home constitute a deprivation of livelihood. He said Templeton could probably provide "some good care" for children if she contracted with another agency instead of directly with the state.

"She became so publicly critical of the division that there was a loss of confidence - she clearly in us and we clearly in her," Patterson said. "Relationships can become so strained that it's counterproductive for children."

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday, Larsen and Cindy Lundquist, northern region clinical consultant for DCFS, violated Templeton's rights to free speech and due process.

Snider said she asked the Attorney General's Office to settle the case by giving Templeton back pay and placing children in her home again, but officials refused.

"She is such a sweet lady, and they accused her of something she didn't do and she has suffered so much for it," Snider said. "She has basically been very vocal in discussing policies that didn't really help kids. She has brought the weaknesses of the DCFS system to the press."

Templeton is asking for $250,000 for loss of income and physical, mental and emotional injuries she suffered. She is also asking for the plaintiffs to pay for her attorneys' fees.