Arkansas State Representative Justin Harris and his wife have been facing extreme scrutiny and criticism after news went nationwide that they had allegedly given their two adopted daughters, 6-years-old and 3-years-old, away to a child molester.
According to the Inquisitr, the two girls were only in the Harris household for six months before they were “re-homed” to live with Eric Cameron Francis and his wife, Stacy. It was later discovered that the 6-year-old had been raped by Francis.
Justin Harris and his wife have three biological sons and were adopting for the first time with the two girls. According to the Arkansas Times, the girls were adopted through the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Harris publicly announced on social media that the adoption had been finalized on March 6, 2013.
Then, six months later, problems started to arise with the girls, and Harris felt that the girls may be a danger to the rest of his family, so he decided to send them to live with Francis.
“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. There was anger and an instant behavior change.”
Justin Harris and Eric Francis had a connection that some people may find surprising. Harris and his wife own a Christian pre-school in West Fork that Francis had previously been employed at. Francis was employed at the school from November 2013 to January 2014, but was eventually fired for a poor attendance record.
Representative Harris told the Arkansas Times that Francis came with a pristine record and was a youth pastor at a church. His previous experience included working for the Bentonville School District in their Head Start Program. Harris went on to add that he was confident nothing had happened to any of the children (not including his own) at God’s Growing Kingdom Pre-School because of strict security protocols.
On April 4, 2014, Eric Francis was arrested for the rape of a 6-year-old girl who was reportedly in his temporary care. During the state police investigation, it was discovered that no other incidents of abuse occurred at the pre-school. However, two other incidents were discovered in the community. Francis was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In an investigative report done by the Arkansas State Police dated April 3, 2014, Sgt. Kimberly A. Warren contacted Crimes Against Children Division Supervisor Terri Ward.
Ward explained the situation.
“Mr. and Mrs. Harris placed the girls into the care of Eric Francis and his wife Stacy [sic] Francis in October 2013.
“It was later reported to the Department of Human Services that Mr. and Mrs. Harris had left the children with another family and had basically abandoned them. This incident was reported to the child abuse hotline and the children were interviewed.”
Some people are taking issue with the fact that Harris had employed Francis and subsequently fired him, but still left his daughters in Francis’ care. Stacy Francis says that the two girls stayed with them until February or March of 2014, and then she placed them with another family. The Francis family reportedly still received the adoption subsidies for the girls even after they were gone.Investigators decided that the third home the girls went to was a safe place because they currently reside in that home.
Justin Harris and his attorney released a statement on Thursday evening after several days of media silence.
“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.”
Jennifer Wells, the attorney representing Harris, tells ABC KATV that a press conference is scheduled in Little Rock sometime Friday afternoon.
[Photo courtesy of Arkansas Online]