Sunday, March 08, 2015
My Sunday Feeling
For those of you outside the State of Arkansas, or without Internet access, this is State Representative Justin Harris of West Fork, Arkansas which is up in Northwest Arkansas. He is a Tea Party Republican and he and his wife own a Christian day-care center up there that is heavily subsidized by Arkansas Department of Human Services to the tune of about 800 grand a year depending on what you read. He is also in the big middle of one the tragic stories I've ever heard. Tragic in the sense that a small child was sexually assaulted while legally in the custody of he and his wife after they gave she and her sister to another family to care for.
The practice is called "rehoming." It is one that I had never heard of before the Arkansas Times broke this incredible story. Basically, rehoming is when an adoptive or custodial parent gives a child or children to someone else to raise. As you might imagine, not all adoptions work out. Rather than trying to work through DHS at these times some folks just basically give the kid to someone else who wants him. The new parents take the kid in without having to go through all the background checks and home visits that the law requires. Indeed, there are websites where people can find kids that adoptive parents want to get rid of. I have read that it is not unheard of for pedophiles to frequent these sites.
Obviously the practice of rehoming is a recipe for trouble of the worst sort. And trouble of the worst sort, the most sickening and heartbreaking sort, is precisely what happened here.
You can read the original Arkansas Times piece here: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/a-child-left-unprotected/Content?oid=3691164 . I will give Gentle Reader the Reader's Digest condensed version.
Rep. Harris and his wife, who were already the parents of 3 boys adopted the two girls in question. (They had adopted another girl which they subsequently prevailed upon DHS to take back.) The girls came from a background of abuse which is sadly not unheard of in the juvenile court system. It is common for parents who adopt difficult cases to receive a subsidy from the State as an incentive to adopt problem kids. According to what I have read the subsidy is to help defray the additional costs engendered by these children.
The girls in question had been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD. I have reasonably unfettered access to psychiatrists, which I concede I should probably take better advantage of, and they assure me that this is a real disorder. It is characterized by a failure of the child to bond with the new parents and can manifest itself in acting out behavior and even violence. Representative Harris received a legal monthly subsidy for this reason.
For whatever reason, things did not go well. The long and the short of it is that Harris wanted DHS to take the kids back. It is unclear as to what happened at that juncture. Harris says they threatened him with a charge of abandonment. DHS will not confirm or deny this allegation because the adoption process throughout is veiled in secrecy. And properly so.
Enter trouble of the worst sort. Rebuffed, so he says, by DHS, Harris sought to rehome the girls with a man named Eric Francis and his wife, who had adopted children through a foreign agency. Mr. Francis (who for God's sake should not be confused for 5 minutes with the local journalist of the same name) had worked briefly for Harris at the day care center owned by him until he was terminated for excessive absenteeism. Mrs. Francis-or the former Mrs. Francis I should say for reasons that will become clear shortly-was said to be friends with Mrs. Harris.
However we got to this juncture is murky. But this much is agreed on. DHS knew nothing about Harris rehoming the girls with the Francis family. Harris kept receiving the subsidy checks despite no longer having the girls in his care.
And Eric Francis raped one of the little girls for which he is now pulling 40 years.
In a news conference at the Capitol and in a subsequent interview with a local television station Harris blamed the alleged threats by DHS for his feeling as if he had no choice but to take the actions he did given the unruly behavior by the girls, behavior which he said escalated to threats of violence among other things. This story, along with questions of whether Mr. and Mrs. Harris were suitable to adopt these girls in the first place, are raised in another story put out today by the Times. You can read it here: http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2015/03/07/foster-family-disputes-key-staments-from-justin-harris
I spent my career chasing down money and getting it back for the government. Government money comes with strings. The recipient has to dot every i and cross every t. Or as the old SCOTUS case I always cited said "men must cut square corners" when they do business with the government. And thus we come to the easy part of the case against Mr. Harris.
In a subsequent news conference, Harris claimed that he can prove that he gave the subsidy checks to Mr. Francis. Doesn't matter. The subsidies in question were for the specific use of Mr. Harris for the care of the girls based on his having satisfied exceedingly stringent conditions precedent. Mr. Francis was no more entitled to those checks than I was. Harris had no authority to disburse that money in any fashion other than what the law allowed. Further, once he rehomed the girls how on Earth was he still an eligible payee?
In the interview he defended the decision to rehome the girls with Francis-a man that he had terminated from his day care center-because he had a "pristine" police record, one which we may candidly state is now decidedly less pristine.
Doesn't matter. First of all, it was not Justin Harris's call to make. That authority is vested in DHS. Secondly, a clean police record is not the standard for adoption.
In the past 18 months or so, I have passed 2 police background checks and hold a VIRTUS certification from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. My record with the cops is as pristine as Mr. Francis's was. This just means that I am a fit candidate for taking pictures for Girls On The Run and for yelling at guys at Catholic High. It does not mean that sending a kid to live with me is in the best interests of a particular kid. No matter how great a guy I am or how much I love the kid. The best interests of the kid is the standard. Not lack of a criminal record or what is in the best interests of Justin Harris.
So you may ask why wouldn't an elected official work within a system he took an oath to uphold? Good question. Harris is a powerful guy. Why did he jump through all these hoops when he could just threaten to defund DHS and haul the Director in for a browbeating? Why didn't he hire a lawyer to challenge the threat to charge him with child abandonment? If indeed one was made.
There is the likely Tea Party reflexive response that he wasn't gonna let some pointy headed government bureaucrat dictate how he was going to run his family. So he took matters into his hand as a sovereign citizen or the other foolishness I have seen in my day. As for me, it has always been my practice to try to work with the folks that give me money. But then again I don't have much of a sense of entitlement.
But here's my theory, speaking of the money. It's all about the money. And not the subsidy checks. That's chump change. I'm guessing that a DHS finding that Harris had abandoned the kids, if upheld, would adversely impact his license to-duh- run a daycare. Which you and me are pretty much subsidizing. So for this reason he decided to game the system that was jamming him up.
Which resulted in a child getting raped.
Rehoming is not illegal in Arkansas. But it may soon be. A bill was introduced the other day that would make it so. Governor Hutchinson says he is concerned about this issue. Former Governor Beebe says he never heard of rehoming until he was leaving office. I fully believe both men. I fully believe that what happened was a failure of a system that allowed Harris to adopt these kids in the first place.
I fully believe that Justin Harris is sick unto death about what happened to that girl. I fully believe that he would have never knowingly placed that child in harm's way. That is the only undeniable truth he has uttered about this whole sordid transaction.
I also fully believe that his response to this is firestorm reveals him to be a gold plated narcissist. He, and he alone, is completely responsible for what happened to that child. He neglected a child in his custody. It resulted in her being violated at the tender age of 6. She is the only victim here.
Which leads me to the next question.
What the hell does it take to get a day care license revoked in this state anyway?