on the shelf
We Were One Family: A Story of Love, Death and Separation in America
By Roxanna Asgarian
FSG: 320 pages, $28
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almost five years ago Jennifer and Sarah Hart kills six of their adopted children — 12-year-old Sierra; Abigail and Jeremiah were both 14 years old; Devonte was 15; Hannah, 16 years old; and Marquis, age 19; He poisoned Benadryl and then deliberately drove off a cliff on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Hart is white, their children are black or racial. Devonte’s body was never found.
The title of Roxanna Asgarian’s new book about the case. “We used to be one family” doesn’t refer to the Harts, it refers directly and emphasizes the birth families of these two groups of children who were taken from their homes and communities by Child Protection Services in Texas where they were fostered. By Harts and fast-tracked to adoption, though family members are willing and able to bring the kids into their homes.
Shortly after the collision A lot of news has been revealed. The Hearts family has been accused of child abuse multiple times. Sarah received jail time in 2011. Teachers filed numerous complaints about the children’s welfare, Harts pulled them out of school. How does the system respond? by giving three more Hearts children
“Unlike many People who have investigated Hearts’ story I was not interested in the psychological motives of Jennifer and Sarah, ”wrote Asgarion. “What motivates me the most is seeing and sharing stories of unseen stories. That is the real, complex family these children come from, the children themselves.”
“Once We Were a Family” is a heartbreaking story about the failure of the child welfare system that directly led to the murder of six black children. In telling their story, Asgarian gives voice to the family. who stole their children in the most destructive ways imaginable. The author spoke to The Times about her five-year journey with the book. The interview from her home in Dallas has been edited for length and clarity.
When you hear about the murder Did you immediately realize that this was a story about a system failure?
I was amazed at the huge loss. So it took me a little time to process it. One follow-up story I read said that the three children were from Harris County and that was where I lived at the time. As soon as I started reporting I know it’s child welfare.
When did you clearly know that you would tell more about your birth family than the Hearts?
There have been several documentaries about the Hart family, and a lot of information about them came out after the plane crash. It felt like the family was almost wiped off the record. I’ve been there with them. and see their lives and sorrows Not seeing it in these stories really pisses me off.
No one called Tammy. The biological mother of the blood siblings to tell her what happened. Tammy goes to the police to give her a DNA sample, and they release a public press before they tell her she’s his soul mate. which is a fundamental failure of humanity. Family feels like an afterthought. Everyone was interested in what happened to these children. But not their family?
And all you ever read in the media is how kids come from abusive backgrounds.
Yes, and that’s Jen’s story on Facebook. All you read is Sherry, the biological mother of other siblings, addicted to cocaine. 75% of child welfare cases are due to neglect. not abuse Abandonment in a state of poverty mom has to go to work The child must be home alone. Power outages because bills cannot be paid. These are no parenting problems These are the problems with our society. someone told you “You can’t be a parent.”
I appreciate that you bring the history of Indigenous adoption and cross-racial adoption in this country.
Broken family is one of the UN’s definitions of genocide. It cuts deeply. I try to apply a lot of Native’s experience to the childcare welfare system. It clearly shows the impact between generations. We know racism is real. But we continue to ask: How could this happen? This has no difference in treatment.
when Two family members are working hard to adopt these children permanently. Their lawsuit was dismissed. Meanwhile, the Harts are going fast, ignoring their violations.
We talk a lot that the child care welfare system is overburdened. But we’re not talking about the time spent investigating families who did nothing wrong. There’s the idea that foster families are great. they sacrifice There has been a great deal of scrutiny about black parents trying to raise them. You let these people adopt 6 children from two family groups. which is very hard work Giving people accountability without conducting due diligence and follow-up is horrible.
What was the most emotionally challenging part of writing the book?
I think writing about Ye (Dontay’s son, Ciera’s only sibling, Jeremiah and Devonte not adopted), how he enters the foster system. That’s the hardest part. Ye is about nine months older than my son. And we’ll strap him to my son’s car seat to visit Don Tay in jail. I listen to it every time Just seeing it up close, I’m satisfied…
Is it difficult for you personally?
I stopped thinking about it the moment I finished writing it. I thought about the effect this book had on me. and you develop a relationship
Is there anything the Biden administration can do to prevent these from happening? Or does it make it harder for these cases to slip out of the cracks?
As Dorothy Roberts wrote in her book “Torn Apart,” you eventually enter an abolitionism because the system is irreparable. Totally need to demolish and rebuild. The punishing nature of the system is the fundamental nature of this system. And it’s not good for kids. If they can’t make the best of them at home. They will do their best with their family members. We give kinship money less than foster families. We don’t. parent money!
The child tax credit is huge. That makes a real and tangible difference. CPS only bullies poor children. We can increase legal protection for parents in relation to the child welfare system. There are issues with the quality of representation and when parents are appointed as attorneys. This system is downstream of the total failure to support people in housing matters. Medical treatment, drugs, mental health care This is all acceptable parts. There are many things we can do outside of the childcare system that will have a big effect.
What do you want your biological parents to know about their rights?
When faced with an investigation by Google, your status and your rights as a parent. It varies from state to state. There is a legal helpline you can call. I want all parents to know: No one is a perfect parent. There are many ways to feel guilty as a parent. If you participate in CPS, it does not impose anything on you as a parent. It’s not a fair system. People are mentally destroyed by this. family destroyed It’s not right.
I can spend a lot of time asking you questions like “How did this happen?” or “Why did we let this happen?” In my notes from the book there are many questions like this. Introductory scream exclamation mark
There is an unknown aspect to this story. It’s normal for humans to wonder how someone could do this. But you can’t answer that psychological question. because you are not them What we focus on tells us a lot about us. Tragedy is about children. They should be the focus.
Ferri is the owner of Womb House Books and most recently the author of “Silent Cities San Francisco.”