An Arkansas Republican state representative is facing serious scrutiny after he apparently “rehomed” his adopted daughters to a household where one of the girls, age 6, was raped by the father. Furthermore, Rep. Justin Harris is accused of continuing to take state funds intended for the girls’ care even after his family had given them away.
When the Times asked Harris why he handed over his adopted daughter to a sexual predator without ever consulting state authorities or the foster care system, the legislator quoted the Christian Bible’s Book of Isaiah, saying, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”
He then said, “You don’t know what we’ve been through this past year. You have no idea what my family has been through. I don’t care what the people of Arkansas think about me. I don’t care if I lose my position. I care what my wife thinks about me, and I care what my three sons think about me.”
The situation has reopened scrutiny of the Harris family’s Christian daycare center, Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool. The pre-kindergarten has run afoul of authorities in the past for taking state and federal subsidies intended for non-religious institutions. Now, as some in Arkansas are pointing out, Harris is making headlines for trying to eliminate government benefits to immigrants, benefits that his preschool heavily relies on.
It appears, the Times said, that Harris and his wife Marsha took in two little girls in September of 2012. The girls were sisters and in foster care because a male relative had sexually abused the older girl and left her traumatized.
The Harrises formally adopted the girls six months later in March, 2013. By October of 2013, something had gone seriously wrong in the home. The Harrises — who had three older biological sons — handed off the two girls to Eric and Stacey Francis, essentially abandoning them.
Court documents say that the older of the two girls was raped by Eric Francis in January of 2014, when his wife was out of state. Francis confessed to the sexual assault and is currently serving a 40-year sentence.
The Francis family — who had three older adopted children — gave the two girls up to a third family, and it was in that household that Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) finally found the girls in 2014 and learned that Francis had sexually abused the older girl.
Francis was a teacher for a time at Growing God’s Kingdom, but was fired, Harris claims, for excessive work absences. The girls were in Francis’ custody at the time, and it is apparent that Harris left the girls with Francis even after he fired him.
The practice of “rehoming” adopted children is not expressly illegal in Arkansas. There is no specific law against the practice, and the Times uncovered nine instances of the practice in the last two years.
Earlier this year, Times columnist Max Brantley tore into Harris as a “small government” hypocrite whose family business, the preschool, depends almost entirely on government subsidy money.
Calling Harris “(t)he poster child for conservative Republican hypocrisy,” Brantley pointed out that while Harris was making news for his proposal to bar all government services to anyone in the state who cannot produce proof of citizenship, the legislator and his family make a comfortable living on public money.
“Harris’ business operates on almost $900,000 a year and serves about 150 kids. Of that, all but about 6 percent comes in the form of state and federal dollars in a program aimed at developmentally disabled and poor children. The money provides Harris and his wife almost $60,000 a year in salary and benefits. It also covers the mortgage on his privately owned building and rent payments to the Harrises,” reported Brantley.
“So the government spending hawk lives on government spending, a double dip of payroll, perks and rent payments,” he said. “An anti-tax, anti-government-spending, anti-illegal-alien legislator is living off a government program that includes payments for kids who haven’t produced proof of citizenship.”
Watch Harris’ “Meet the Rep” video from the Arkansas House, embedded below: