By Elaine Magliaro
David Ferguson of Raw Story reported on a truly troubling tale out of Arkansas yesterday. Justin Harris, a Republican state representative, is said to be “facing serious scrutiny after he apparently ‘rehomed’ his adopted daughters to a household where one of the girls, age 6, was sexually abused by the father.” The father–a 38-year-old resident of Bella Vista named Eric Cameron Francis–was arrested by State Police on April 4, 2014, for the rape of the 6-year-old girl who was in his temporary care. The rape occurred in January of 2014, when Francis’s wife was out of state. Francis, who confessed to the sexual assault, is currently serving a 40-year sentence.
Rep. Harris and his wife Marsha run Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool–the Christian pre-school where Francis had been employed for a short period of time.
According to the Arkansas Times, Harris and his wife adopted the young girls through the state Department of Human Services in March 2013. The two girls ended up in the care of Francis who sexually abused the six-year-old just six months later. Harris said he was “devastated and sickened” by news of the abuse. Last April, the state lawmaker told the Arkansas Times that Francis had been in his employ for approximately three months, from November 2013 to January 2014, before being fired for poor work attendance. Harris’s adopted daughters “were in Francis’ custody at the time, and it is apparent that Harris left the girls with Francis even after he fired him.”
Harris claimed that Francis “came with a pristine record.” He noted that “Francis was also a youth pastor at a church and had worked previously in early childhood education for the Bentonville School District and with a Head Start program.” Harris added that he was confident that “nothing had happened to any of the children at Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool, because of strict security protocols (the classroom contains a continuously operating camera that generates a permanent record).” The Arkansas Times reported that no “further charges against Francis resulted from subsequent State Police interviews of families at the preschool, although investigators uncovered at least two other incidents of sexual abuse of children in the community outside of the school.”
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.”
What Harris did not publicly disclose last spring, however, is how Francis came into contact with the 6-year-old victim. In prosecutor documents recently obtained by the Arkansas Times, state police investigators and multiple witnesses concur that the child was in fact the legally adopted daughter of Justin and Marsha Harris.
…The couple also has three biological sons who are older than the girls.
The Times reported that the “sexual abuse of the 6-year-old girl came to light only because of a call placed to the state’s child maltreatment hotline on Friday, March 28, from an unidentified caller who said the Harrises ‘gave their adoptive children to a family’ and ‘that family in turn gave the children to another family’ and that they had ‘continued to accept adoption subsidy money even after giving the children away.'”
The Francis family gave the two girls up to a third family. It was in the third family’s household that the “Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) finally found the girls in 2014 and learned that Francis had sexually abused the older girl.”
Ferguson said that the situation had “reopened scrutiny of the Harris family’s Christian daycare center…” He noted that the pre-kindergarten had “run afoul of authorities in the past for taking state and federal subsidies intended for non-religious institutions.”
A child left unprotected: State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted a young girl through the state Department of Human Services. How did she, six months later, end up in the care of a man who sexually abused her? (Arkansas Times)