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Polygamous community resident says he’s a fit foster parent

KINGMAN, Ariz. – A resident of the polygamous community of Colorado City says he is offended by criticism he is unfit to be a foster father.

Dan Wayman, who is taking care of three boys as a foster parent, responded to Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, who said no children should be placed in the northern Arizona border community.

Johnson said women and children there are systematically abused by the poly­gamous culture promoted by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

He issued statements Jan. 10 blasting Arizona Child Protective Services for placing foster children in the isolated enclave about 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Johnson is taking up the cause of an 11-year-old boy from Lake Havasu City who is under the care of Wayman, an Arizona licensed foster father who is also caring for a 9-year-old boy from Kingman and a 15-year-old boy from Bullhead City.

Johnson said he has also contacted Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne, telling them that the state is placing children in a culture he deems unfit and backward.

Johnson said foster kids are doomed to fail in a community where they can’t go to the mall or movie theater.

“B.S.” Wayman said. “I take my kids to the movies all the time … We just went last week and some of the boys went and saw ‘The Hobbit.’ It’s 15 minutes away in Hurricane (nearby Utah).”

Wayman said his foster kids play laser tag, enjoy sports and spend time on computers, activities traditionally frowned upon by the polygamous church.

Arlene Sansevero said she is concerned that her 11-year-old grandson has been placed in Colorado City with Wayman. The New York resident in her mid-70s said she can’t care for the boy or his 13- and 15-year-old brothers who are in foster care in Prescott, Ariz.

Sansevero said her son is a mental health patient and that the boys’ mother wants to care for the kids but has battled alcohol problems and lacks adequate housing.

She said she’s terrified that the youngest grandson lives in a community where underage girls have been assigned to older men in “celestial” polygamous marriages arranged by imprisoned church prophet Warren Jeffs.

“I don’t believe any child should be sent to Colorado City,” Sansevero said. “It is a cult commune. It’s not a good place.”

Wayman, 54, said he was married to Warren Jeffs’ sister and another woman and that they bore him 20 children during their time as an FLDS family. He said Jeffs stripped him of his wives and children nine years ago this month.

Jeffs is serving a life prison sentence in Texas where he was convicted of sexually assaulting girls 12 and 15 years of age.

Johnson questioned whether Wayman or any former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can rid themselves of church belief and obedience. “You don’t live in Colorado City unless you follow the tenets of the FLDS,” Johnson said.

“That’s an absolute lie,” Wayman fumed. “I have nothing to do with them. I do not endorse them and I despise what they stand for.”

Wayman said he has spent years rebuilding his life after being removed from his family and property. The machinist who works in the nearby community of Centennial Park said he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology last year to help him be a better father and that he endured vigorous investigation before state authorities granted him a license to be a foster parent.

“Believe me, they do a real good, thorough, thorough check on you. I mean background checks, fingerprint clearance, the whole works,” Wayman said. “I’m what’s called a foster-adopt home and I look for kids more that I would be willing to adopt.”

Johnson implied Wayman’s interest in foster-fathering and adopting kids was possibly motivated by need of “building a workforce” in a community where child labor law violation allegations have been investigated in the past.

“Absolutely not,” Wayman responded, denying that his interest is anything beyond providing a good home for children in need. He said he honed parenting skills as the oldest child in a family with 11 siblings and that serving as a foster father helps him cope with the natural children he lost through church edict.

“I love the kids,” Wayman said, noting one of his former foster children telephoned Sunday after learning about Johnson’s comments.

“He called me when he heard about this and he says ‘Dad, I don’t know what they’re talking about.’ He says ‘Colorado City was the best foster placement I ever had.’ He says ‘I was happier there than I’ve ever been in my life’ and he’s been in foster care since he was 7,” Wayman said.

Sansevero said she has communicated with Child Protective Services workers and been told that Wayman is a highly rated foster father. But she still blames the agency for trying to move kids to foster homes far from the communities they call home.

“CPS, I think, is the biggest offender,” Sansevero said. “They’re just looking to empty their records of certain children because they’ve been on the books too long and that was said to me. ‘They’ve been here too long. We have to move them along.’ I mean let’s think of these kids.”

Presiding Mohave County Superior Court Judge Charles Gurtler said checks and balances protecting the kids are built into the system. He noted that there are lawyers and advocates appointed to represent the best interests of foster children and petition the court to intervene when necessary.

Judge Gurtler said children advocates and Child Protective Services staffers have primary authority and that courts don’t normally become involved in placement issues and squabbles, unless parties petition for an evidentiary hearing.

“The fact of the matter is that we have so few foster care homes, especially for children that are in their teens, that some of these placements are a long ways away and difficult,” Gurtler said. He said contested child dependency matters are confidential and closed to the public and that case files are sealed.

Brewer in recent years has called for child welfare reforms and additional resources for Child Protective Services. In her State of the State address at the opening of Arizona’s 2013 legislative session in Phoenix on Jan. 14, she said her new budget proposal will include funding for 150 additional staffers for the child care agency.

The Child Protective Services officer who Sansevero said was handling her grandson’s case said she was not at liberty to comment and she directed inquiry to her supervisor.

Sherri Michel-Singer, the agency’s assistant program manager for Mohave County, said Tuesday she can’t comment on individual cases or cases in general.

Michel-Singer said she could not indicate how many other kids have been placed in foster care in Colorado City in recent years.

Wayman said he understands there are a couple of other foster homes in the community.

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