WHAT THE HARRISES HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT: Political pressure and evil spirits figure in new reporting on the adoption by Justin and Marsha Harris, now a cause of state controversy.
If you haven't noticed already, Benji Hardy has written for this week's Times another deeply reported account
of the circumstances of the adoption of three children by Rep. Justin Harris,
two of whom he found difficult and placed in the home of a man who later molested one of them. The third child also had problems and didn't stay in the Harris home long after an initial placement.
The further reporting illustrates the inevitable difficulties in placement of children from difficult situations. It is a process, as this story shows, that can go wrong despite good intentions. It involves human beings, judgment calls and, in the Harris case, a healthy dose of political pressure from him.
The story also includes a look at how personal religion can influence adoption cases and treatment of children. Benji Hardy details witnesses' accounts of the Harris belief that the tiny 3- and 5-year-old girls they got rid of were demonically possessed, despite efforts to exorcise the evil spirits and the unusual steps they took to cope with the girls. The Harrises, who refuse to talk to the Times,
dispute a belief in demonic possession through their lawyer.
Benji's new reporting does lend some credence to Justin Harris' assertion that high DHS officials were aware of the family's move of the children. And it produces many others involved in the case who had criticism of DHS actions, particularly responding to Harris' pressure to approve an adoption that several involved believed was not a good idea.
What the Harrises can't dispute is that they have demonized small girls in the course of building a defense for their actions at news conferences and in TV interviews. Those words have prompted a strong reaction from the family that has now adopted the two youngest girls and report to Benji that they are doing well. I reprint those words here, because they appear well along in Benji's extensive reporting:
Although they still decline to share the full circumstances of their adoption, the parents said they felt compelled to respond to the statements Justin Harris has made this past week that portray the girls as dangerous and violent.
"We are aware of the very public conversation going on about events pertaining to our daughters," they said in an email to the Times. "We are deeply grieved over Justin Harris' accusations toward our daughters in order to self-protect; it is inexcusable. Like the Harts, we also have two small dogs and the girls have only been gentle towards them. These girls are happy, healthy children who have gone through things no child should ever have to endure. Since they have been home with us, they have adjusted beautifully and are thriving in our home with unconditional love and patience. We are truly amazed at our daughters' ability to love and bond with us, given all they have experienced. They are both extremely protective toward each other and love each other with all their hearts. They are a beautiful example to us of God's amazing grace and the power of love to heal the broken heart. Our daughters are a precious gift from God and truly a blessing to each one of our lives and our extended family and friends. We love them deeply and are committed to do everything we can to help them live healthy, happy lives.
"We choose to forgive the Harrises and hope they will truly follow Christ in humility and repentance for the mistakes they made in our daughters' lives. Due to the sensitivity of our daughters' story, and out of respect for them, we are asking the public for privacy during this time."