In March 2018 Jennifer Hart and her wife Sarah intentionally drove their gold Yukon SUV off a cliff in California, killing themselves and their six adopted children. The children, ranging from ages 12 to 19, were two sibling groups from Texas the Harts had adopted from a foster to adopt program. The media frenzy that followed focused on the disturbing history of the Hart family and barely mentioned the children’s biological families. In We Were Once a Family journalist Roxanna Asgarian tells the untold story of the birth families’ heartbreak and loss.
The whole story of the Hart children begins in Texas where two different families struggled with the challenges of drug abuse, mental illness and poverty. Although the children were neither neglected nor abused, the family court system acted quickly to remove the children from foster care in Texas and place the mixed-race and Black siblings with the white Hart family in Minnesota. The children fell victim to a broken, racist system that equated poverty with neglect, allowing them to be adopted by a white family that truly was abusive.
We Were Once a Family is not only a powerful cry for action to fix the broken child welfare system in America, but also a moving personal narrative of a tragedy. Consider this: there was an older brother, Dontay, in one of the sibling groups who was not adopted because of behavioral issues. For years young Dontay dreamed of the day he would be reunited with his family, only to learn the terrible truth of their murder.