Rep. Harris speaks to Channel 7 on adoption controversy
(March 10, 2015)
Rep. Justin Harris spoke to Channel 7 News Tuesday, answering questions on his allegations against the Department of Human Services.
Since last Friday, Rep. Justin Harris has leveled serious accusations against the Department of Human Services, saying he was threatened with abandonment charges if he and his wife returned their adopted daughters. Harris said DHS hostility was the reason they "rehomed" their daughters with another home. Someone in that home, Eric Francis, was convicted of sexually assaulting one of those girls and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
DHS has repeatedly told Channel 7 News that it's not their policy to threaten abandonment and that parents can dissolve an adoption.
If DHS broke protocol as Harris claimed, Channel 7 News asked him Tuesday, why he didn't sound the alarm against DHS before the story of "rehoming" his adopted daughters came out?
Harris says he was already working on safe haven legislation for adoptive parents to return kids with no problem.
"I met with the friends of the court; they said this is already law. I said what are you talking about? And they said this is already law. It's in the bill of rights you should have gotten as adopted parents. And we weren't given a bill of rights," Harris said.
Harris said he then put his bill aside. The Arkansas Times reported when Harris was asked about the sexual abuse by his former employee Eric Francis, he failed to disclose the victim was his adopted daughter. But Harris says he was forthcoming with legislators about his struggle with "rehoming" his adopted children all along.
"None of this was secret. I mean this was something we were struggling with, we were dealing with, so this was something I was working on," Harris said.
Harris said they tried to seek help at the local level of DHS first.
"Then we would work our way up and the hostility went all the way to the top," said Harris.
A former DHS aide and volunteer driver, Connie Ramey, says she heard some of that hostility firsthand.
"I heard one of the workers behind me get real hateful with this person. I never even turned around and I said I don't know what you've done to them. And I when I turned around it was Marsha Harris," Ramey said.
Harris ended Channel 7 News short 10 minute interview by saying he supports a bill that would make what he did--rehoming of adopted children--a felony. He also says he agrees with Gov. Hutchinson's statement that DHS policies need to be reviewed. Harris would not answer the last question on if he thinks he should be legislating on matters related to DHS because he said would not take another question.