Justin Harris heaps more blame on DHS for his adoption decision
By Max Brantley
Rep. Justin Harris, who turned over two adopted children to the family of a child molester, has added a second attack on the Department of Human Services in the matter.
Friday, he said he'd turned over the 3- and 5-year-old girls to Eric Francis, now serving a 40-year sentence for molesting the older child after assuming custody, because DHS had threatened to pursue abandonment charges against them if he asked the state to rescind the adoption, which it can and will do. The state won't comment on specifics (because it says it can't under the law), but has generally denied that it would threaten abandonment against someone seeking help.
Harris also said Friday that the little girls presented a danger to his older sons, though the oldest was five and the children are described as small for their age.
Today, Harris added a new dimension to his story. In an interview with KTHV he said Cecile Blucker, the director of the DHS Division of Children and Family Services, was aware of his handoff of the children to Francis but didn't report it to other authorities. DHS still won't comment.
It's unclear what Blucker could have reported. Arkansas law doesn't prohibit rehoming — or a parent turning children over to another family. The state has a rigorous adoption process only for children that are wards of the state.
The latest from Harris is another curiosity. He's said he supports legislation that has been introduced to prohibit rehoming without an approval process. In other words, he'd like to see a felony made of action he took himself. He's also now blaming DHS for not doing something about his decision-making.
Harris will not submit to interviews with Benji Hardy, who broke this story for the Times and who has a much greater command of the circumstances. His most recent reporting was on the foster family that cared for the little girls before Harris adopted them. They said he'd been warned the children weren't a good fit for his home, but that he'd pressured the state to let him adopt them.
The Times' numerous sources on this story substantiate a portion of what Harris' said. They say Blucker was made aware of the rehoming several days before an anonymous complaint was made to a state hotline.
Be sure to look for the next edition of this story on-line tonight or later this week in the print edition. It has new material you'll want to read.