The previous foster parents of two girls who were adopted by an Arkansas GOP lawmaker and his wife, only to “rehome” them to a household where one of the girls, age 6, was raped, is disputing his statements blaming social service workers, reports Arkansas Times.
Craig and Cheryl Hart, who provided foster care for the girls prior to their adoption by Rep. Justin Harris and his wife Marsha, say they, along with local DHS staff, objected to the Harrises adopting the girls only to have their concerns overridden by the head of the Division of Children and Family Services, Cecile Blucker.
In a statement to the press on Friday, Harris blamed DHS staffers saying, “We were misled by DHS to believe that the youngest two [sisters] did not have any severe issues.”
According to Cheryl Hart, DHS employees attempted to talk Harris and his wife out of adopting the girls, citing their emotional needs, only to have their concerns dismissed.
“DHS attempted to talk to them about the girls’ issues, but I feel like they were in denial,” Hart said. “They were very defensive about it. They repeatedly told us they had degrees in Early Childhood Development, they had therapists there at their preschool, and they had God to help them through this.”
“In one meeting in particular, we each went around the room and tried to sort of put all our cards on the table and say why this was a bad idea,” she continued. “Everybody used strong terminology and tried to deter them, and [the Harrises] kept saying, ‘Yes we know, yes we know.’ I asked them point blank, ‘Why would you put your sons through that?’ Because the oldest one at the time was aggressive — that’s how she learned to get things in her life. And they knew [the middle girl] had been sexually assaulted, and she would have some anger issues.”
According to the Harts, Blucker interceded on behalf of Harris and his wife based upon a personal relationship they had with the department head.
“In most conversations with us, [Harris] would mention Cecile’s name. ‘Well, Cecile said this, Cecile said that.’ They were impatient for papers to be filed and did not want to wait for anything. They wanted it to happen faster than it did,” Hart recounted.
Asked by the Times if Blucker inserted herself into the adoption process, one DHS staffer said, “True.”
According to Craig Hart, Harris overstated how violent the girls were, while admitting that one of the girls had emotional issues as the result of being molested previously.
“Our friends, our neighbors, our church — we can get as many character witnesses as you want for those girls,” he said. “And also, they’re both small children for their age. Unless he gave them guns, they weren’t dangerous.”
While Harris has maintained that he and his wife received no help with the girls after realizing their issues, Cheryl Hart said their offer of help was rebuffed.
“We offered to provide respite care for them, to give them relief, to help out any way that we could because we’d been living with them for a year and a half. They never once called us.”