The Arkansas Times
is out with an expose on Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris with shocking revelations that he and his wife gave their adopted 6-year-old and 3-year-old daughters to Eric Cameron Francis, a man who worked as a teacher at their Christian preschool and was fired after only three months on the job.
For reasons still unclear, the Harrises gave the girls away, first to Francis and his wife, and then to another unnamed family. But, not before Francis did the unthinkable:
"On the afternoon of March 28, 2014, the CID was asked by the commander of the Crimes Against Children Division to assist in determining where two minor age children might be, who had been adopted," said Bill Sadler, spokesman for the State Police. "By sometime late in the afternoon, CID had told CACD that the girls were accounted for — at the home of a family who appeared not to be the custodial parents of the girls." By the morning of Monday, March 31, the prosecutor documents indicate, the girls were interviewed by a CACD agent. During this interview, the 6-year-old disclosed the abuse by Francis, which Francis later told police occurred sometime in January 2014, while his wife was out of state.
Apparently the children weren't working out in the Harris home and they just gave them away. One of the surprises reporters Ben Harding and Leslie Peacock uncovered is that "rehoming" is far too common—and NOT illegal.
Head below the fold for more on this disturbing story.
If some readers are startled to learn that it's legal for adoptive parents to give their children to another family, they're in good company. As the State Police investigation unfolded last spring, one person kept apprised of its progress was then-Gov. Mike Beebe. Matt DeCample, Beebe's former spokesperson, said the governor was surprised as anyone to hear about the practice of "rehoming," as it's called in the adoption world. (DeCample said it was common practice for the State Police to alert the governor's office whenever it discovered a state elected official had an ancillary connection to a criminal investigation.)
"As we were briefed on the State Police investigation into Mr. Francis and the circumstances around that case, none of us in the office, including the governor, had ever dealt with the rehousing of children who had been adopted through DHS," DeCample recalled. "It's not something that had ever come up before, and, frankly, we didn't know that it was something that could happen, or why it would ever happen.
One positive that may come from this is a change in the law that allows adoptive children to simply be given away without notification to the Department of Human Services. There is enough outrage around this particular case that it may bring about change sooner than later. The lengthy article at the the Arkansas Times is a highly recommended read.
Rep. Harris gave a brief comment to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
"When our adoption became final, we went to the court, the whole family, exchanged teddy bears and everything -- and it was like a light bulb suddenly flipped on for the girls. They knew, suddenly knew, that this was their forever home, and they were no longer ever going back to Mom's house," Harris said. "There was anger and an instant behavior change."
Harris said he sought help for the girls and took them to counseling, but their behavior did not improve.
"We would have never knowingly put a child in harm's way, and anyone who knows us knows that," Harris said.
And what's the latest with Rep. Justin Harris? He's still working as a state representative. And he's still serving as the vice chair of the Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs, and Legislative Audit.
Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 5:48 AM PT: The Arkansas Times has a statement Rep. Harris released last night:
Rep. and Mrs. Harris have suffered a severe injustice. Due to threats of possible abandonment charges, they were unable to reach out to DHS for help with children who presented a serious risk of harm to other children in their home. Upon the advice of both a psychiatrist and a pediatrician, they were forced to move the children to the home of trusted friends, who had a lot of experience with children with reactive attachment disorder. Rep. and Mrs. Harris are devastated about the outcome of that decision, but faced with no good option, they did the best that they knew how.
Yes, they gave a 6-year-old girl, who'd previously been sexually abused, away to a man who'd been fired from their religious daycare service after only three months because he was so unreliable and THEY are the ones who've suffered injustice.