Thursday, March 12, 2015

Family values, Arkansas GOP-style -- we're not going to hold that exorcism against these good Christian folk, are we?


"[C]ounty DHS workers warned the Harrises not to foster and adopt any of [the three sisters they wanted to take in], because they weren't a good match for these little girls. But the Harrises pulled strings, got the head of DHS to overrule them, and got the girls anyway. It lasted 14 months, at the most."
-- from a DailyKos post by Buckeye BattleCry

by Ken

If you too are just coming to this horrifying story an Arkansas state representative, his wife, and three troubled girls who had the misfortune to come under their care, come on in! Even though there is a certain core of sort-of-established fact, it's an ongoing story that can therefore be joined at most any point. As DailyKos's Buckeye BattleCry notes:
The Arkansas Times is all over this story. Every couple of days some new information comes to light that directly contradicts the Harrises.
The basic story, if you haven't already encountered it, involves Arkansas state Rep. Justin Harris and his wife Marsha, who on the present evidence shouldn't be allowed to be in the same room with unprotected children, let alone have any sort of guardianship rights. And yet Representative Harris apparently strong-armed his way into taking three troubled young sisters into his home for foster care, subsequently adopting the two younger ones (now six and three), whom he proceeded to give away, not once but twice, in an insane practice that seems to have some sort of sanction in Arkansas called "rehoming" -- meaning that he simply dumped them off on other people, without the formality of, you know, paperwork of any kind, let alone any sort of approval of the new de facto custodians.

As you wade into this story, this "rehoming" business can begin to smack of the Seinfeld adventure in "regifting." Except that the objects of "rehoming" are human beings.

Now the Harrises aren't saying you should be able to return any kids you take in as long as you still have your receipt. That would be unfeeling. No, it's true that they returned the oldest of the three sisters they originally took into foster care, apparently before the issue came to adoption, apparently on the principle that a supplier always has to accept returns on defective goods. As for the two younger sisters, the ones they apparently actually did adopt, it's not as if the Harrises just dumped them in a doorway someplace, or a Dumpster. Apparentlyl they were told that if they simply dumped them on DHS's doorstep, they would be charged with abandonment. So they found a better way. They "rehomed" them -- not once, but twice.

Here the story turns really ugly, because, as a matter of fact, the older of the two remaining girls was raped in one of the homes to which she and her younger sister were "rehomed," that of an employee of a Christian day-care center, a preschool called Growing God's Kingdom, operated by none other than the Harrises! (Why sure, with their deep Christian values and their deep insight into the problems of child-rearing, these people seem naturals for a Christian day-care center.)

The rapist, rather awkwardly, was the very employee to whom Harris had, er, entrusted the two girls. Oh my!

This indeed created a furor of sorts, and the alleged rapist was fired, presumably amid much righteous indignation. Somehow, though, the Right Righteous Representative Harris managed not to mention that the two girls in question were in fact his own legally adopted daughters. My guess is it was just an oversight. Or maybe nobody asked.

I apologize for not having all the details down right; each account seems to differ slightly, but the overall shape of events seems pretty consistent, except as regards the very different accounts of the Harrises and DHS regarding their interactions. Anyway, I think it was the first "rehome" that the rape occurred, in which case the Harrises' response was simply to re-rehome the little troublemakers. But the sequence could be the opposite. Alarmingly, this wouldn't change the situation all that much.

When Harris finally felt obliged to comment publicly, he laid it all off on DHS, though the record seems pretty clear that the Harrises were warned by DHS about the three girls' serious emotional problems (including some prior sexual abuse of at least one of them). Rather amazingly, Harris claimed that he and his wife are the victims here. This was, as nearly all observers seem to have observed, a stupefyingly, revoltingly ill-framed claim -- even in the unlikely case that every word he said about DHS was true. Is there really any lack of clarity as to who the victims here are?

As noted above, it seems to be the case that the Harrises were not only apprised by DHS of these girls' emotional difficulties but were advised that they were not a good match for the girls even as prospective foster parents. The Arkansas Times reports, with corroboration as indicated from "a former DHS employee familiar with the proceedings:
Cheryl and Craig Hart, an experienced foster couple who housed Mary and Annie for a year and a half before their adoption by the Harrises, said they tried to talk the Harrises out of adopting the sisters. The Harts said that a local team working on the adoption — including themselves, DHS caseworkers, adoption specialists, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and therapists from Ozark Guidance, a mental health provider — made the Harrises fully aware of the girls' history of neglect and sexual abuse and cautioned them that they were unprepared to handle children from such a background, especially considering their home included young boys. The former DHS employee confirmed this account.
However, the Harrises seem to have had enough pull to bully and string-pull their way to what they wanted.
The Harts also said the adoption was allowed to proceed despite their objections because of the direct intervention of Cecile Blucker, head of the Division of Children and Family Services, the arm of DHS responsible for child welfare. They say Blucker exerted pressure on the Washington County DHS office on behalf of Justin Harris to facilitate the adoption. The former DHS employee confirmed this information as well.
At any rate, the adoption is what the Harrises wanted at that particular moment. Which was before they discovered that the girls were, well, devil-children.


Okay, it's my term, but I think you'll agree that it accords well enough with the facts as we know them. And now we come to information the Times gathered from Chelsey Goldsborough, "who regularly babysat for the Harrises. According to Chelsea:
Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an "exorcism" on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said.

The Harrises, we're told, deny the claims about demonic possession, but: "Multiple sources who interacted with the family confirmed Goldsborough's account that the Harrises believed the children were possessed, and another source close to the family said that Marsha Harris spoke openly about the supposed demonic possession."

Buckeye BattleCry provides likes for the whole Arkansas Times series, saying, "I think it's important to read all of these articles to have a good understanding of just what happened here," which I confess I haven't done. The quick understanding I've gotten is pretty horrible, though.

Buckeye BC makes an interesting and poignant near-final observation:
I'm having a hard time right this minute understanding people who deny their own belief system. If you're the type of Christian who believes in demonic possession and exorcism, why would you deny it publicly? Perhaps he has a good grasp on the fact that most people just aren't going to approve of exorcisms in children? I just don't get it.


There's the matter of the monthly payments DHS was making to the Harrises. In the clip up top we hear Justin say that he had legal advice to go right on depositing the checks to his own account and the same day write out a check to . . . well, to whoever was actually keeping the little girls. And if he says that's what he did (he does say that he actually did it, not just that he was so advised, doesn't he?), I believe him, don't you?

Justin also says that he was told by someone at DHS: "This is your money. You can do with it what you want."

I'm not going to say baldly that I don't believe this. What I do believe is that if someone actually described money intended for care of those children this way, he just surely have responded, "What are you, nuts? It's not my money."


Oh, you guessed?

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At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prediction: Harris will not vacate his seat in the legislature and he will be re-elected in a massive landslide in the next election.

Is this the first time the Harris's have dealt with the DHS? That is, are they first-time or repeat human traffickers?

Is there any hint of an investigation of, much less charges against, these monsters?

John Puma


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