Justin Harris used foster daughter in campaign materials, against DHS rules
By Lindsey Millar
State Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) used photos of a foster child his family was planning to adopt during his 2012 re-election campaign. The state Department of Human Services expressly prohibits the public use of photos or any other media that would compromise a foster child's anonymity.
Asked whether the Department of Human Services was aware Harris was using a foster child in campaign materials, DHS spokesperson Amy Webb said she couldn't comment specifically on Harris, but speaking generally, she said the agency would not allow such use.
"If we were made aware of a situation like you described, we would immediately call the foster or pre-adoptive parent and tell him to discontinue using the picture on any campaign material. We would not be comfortable with a foster child’s picture being used during a campaign. [DHS's Office of Policy and Legal Services, which according to department rules, has to approve public use of any media featuring a foster child] would not agree to that either."
It's hard to believe that no one in DHS was aware that Harris was using photos of a foster child during pre-adoption, considering these were campaign materials distributed in Harris' district and made available online.
The girl pictured is "Jeannette," as Benji Hardy called her in his recent cover story, the eldest of the three sisters who lived with the Harrises. She went to live with the Harrises in the summer of 2012 when she was around 6. She's the one who Harris described as screaming for 8 hours every day and threatening to kill every member of the family.
Within a few months of entering the household — Harris has said five months, although other sources say it was a shorter period — Jeannette was taken back into DHS custody and entered a hospital. The Harrises did not proceed with the adoption. Sources say she was later adopted by a therapeutic foster family, where she apparently is doing well.
The photos were on Harris' website as late as September 2013, months — possibly even a year — after Jeannette left the Harris home.