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Lawmaker won't comment on 'rehoming', abuse of adopted daughters

Rep. Justin Harris

(March 4, 2015)

State representative Justin Harris' adopted child was put in the care of another home and then later abused by someone in that home.

The story was first reported by the Arkansas Times.

Documents from an Arkansas State Police investigation, obtained by Channel 7 News show that two children "had been adopted by Marsha and Justin Harris through the Department of Human Services" and "placed the girls into the care of Eric Francis and his wife Stacy Francis in October of 2013."

The report stating: "It was later reported to the Department of Human Services that Mr. and Mrs. Harris had left the children with another family and basically abandoned them."

Eric Francis was convicted of sexually assaulting one of those girls and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Transferring adopted children to other homes is known as "rehoming." A spokesperson for DHS, Amy Webb, says they are aware of 9 cases of "rehoming" within the last two years.

"It's giving that child to another family basically without vetting that family or going through an official court process," said Webb.

Parents wanting to adopt a child from the Department of Human Services must go through hours of training, criminal background checks and a six month trial period. But if the parents decide they want to give that child to another home, without any kind of oversight at all, there's no state or federal law stopping it.

"We don't want it to be an option. What we would tell folks who adopt from us, if you're having difficulties or troubles with a child you adopted from us, reach out to us, we have resources that can help families," said Webb.

There are cases where families can return the child to DHS with no repercussions as a last resort, but even that number is low. Webb says only 67 kids from 4,000 adoptions since 2006 have resulted in a dissolved adoption.

DHS is concerned about "rehoming" because those person to person transfers are untracked. On Wednesday evening, Rep. Greg Leding filed a bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit private transfers of adopted children, except to family.

Channel 7 News made multiple efforts to contact Rep. Justin Harris for comment, even waiting outside of the legislative session when he was in attendance, but he did not comment on the report.

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