The story of Justin Harris just keeps getting worse:
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.
More: Justin Harris Used Foster Daughter in Campaign Materials, Against DHS Rules
At the same time, they were subjecting the children to mental and physical abuse:
During the state police inquiry on Francis, the youngest of the girls, then 3 years old, told investigators that Marsha and Justin Harris had both spanked her.
Marsha Harris, according to the girl, used some sort of whip several times, while Justin Harris bent her over outside and hit her with a stick, court records said.
“She said that [parents are] not supposed to spank her,” state police investigators wrote. “[The girl] said it made her feel sad when Marsha [Harris] spanked her. It made her bottom hurt … [She said she is] not [living with the Harrises] anymore because [Justin Harris] spanked her and she cried really loud.”
The state police reports do not indicate when the spanking occurred.
DHS spokesman Amy Webb said corporal punishment is not condoned or permitted by DHS for children in DHS custody. She said all foster parents and foster-to-adoption parents undergo training and instruction on not using physical forms of discipline and are taught alternative disciplinary tactics.
“We feel like there are more appropriate ways to discipline and interact with children, especially children who’ve experienced traumatic situations,” Webb said.
Webb said the agency has no say over a parent’s disciplinary techniques once children are fully adopted, but she said her agency encourages adoptive parents to refrain from spanking.
The older of the two girls, who was 6 years old when she told state police that Francis had sexually assaulted her, did not mention spanking before asking to end the interview.
She did, however, tell investigators that she was often left isolated in her room while living with the Harris family.
“[She] said that they wouldn’t let her out of her room. She said she had to stay in her room; she said she had her books, but when they took away her books she had nothing in there, just her bed,” the investigator said. “When asked why she had to move away from Marsha’s house, she said ‘because I didn’t like it.’”
The Arkansas Times, the newspaper which has been the primary source for news on the case, is crowdfunding an investigation into the state’s child welfare services:
Beyond rehoming: crowdfunding an investigative project
Reports are now out there saying Harris would attempt to “exorcise” students at his pre-school, Growing God’s Kingdom
The former employee and mother of a student at the school wants to be named only as Amber. She says Justin and Marsha Harris would often try to pray the demons out of misbehaving students at their pre-school, Growing God’s Kingdom.
“If they got in too much trouble they would pray on the kids, do a circle around them, put their hands on their heads, saying, trying to rebuke demons.” Said former employee, Amber.
Amber was an employee at Growing God’s Kingdom for about five months in 2013. She says Justin Harris fired her after a difference in opinion on how to discipline students. Though she says she learned a lot about the Harris family during those five months.
“How did you learn about the fact that they were praying demons out of kids?” Lauren Conley asked Amber.
“Well, I had another teacher there that had me take a child down to the office and whenever I did, they did it right there in front of me.” Said Amber.