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Adoption Tragedy Highlights a Failure to Protect Children

In March of 2018, California Highway Patrol discovered a GMC Yukon driven by Jennifer Hart had plunged off a cliff with her wife Sarah and their six adopted children inside. All were either confirmed or presumed dead. After a yearlong investigation officials have identified a troubling trend in Oregon’s child welfare agencies.

Social media photos of the family engaged in a variety of wholesome activities appeared to contradict allegations of abuse and/or neglect that continued to surface. Just days prior to the road trip, a Woodland neighbor had called Child Protective Services. Internal documents showed that during their residence in Oregon, CPS was aware that the Hart family had been investigated for child abuse back in Minnesota. Nevertheless, DHS closed the investigation, concluding they were unable to determine if abuse or neglect had taken place.

This was not an uncommon conclusion. According to a federal survey, officials in Oregon were closing one in every five child welfare investigations as inconclusive. Case workers sometimes felt pressure not to report allegations of abuse because they felt the sanctions were too harsh. “We put kids in peril, because there was just a big push to make sure we didn’t take kids into custody.”

Possible Preaching Angles: Children are precious in the sight of God. When our mechanisms to protect children fail, God is grieved.

Molly Young, “Uncertain conclusions: Hart children came to Oregon child welfare system’s attention at a time of widespread indecision,” OregonLive.Com (3-24-19)

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