"If Not Us, Who?"
Hi, I'm Ariel Casten Jonathan Strickland and together, we're going to tell you the stories behind some of the biggest triumphs and failures and business. That's right. We're going to explore situations that tested the medal of entrepreneurs pivotal moments required. Making tough decisions. We'll be talking about some big companies that everybody knows like Disney LEGO and Harley Davidson and together we try to answer the question. What do you do when you find yourself at the brink? Listen and subscribe at apple podcasts or on the iheartradio app or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Me a heart kids as they appeared online. This is a family sing along gen posted to YouTube back in two thousand thirteen devante is on the Bongo drum Abigail is holding a guitar but not playing and Jeremiah is shaking Morocco while Hannah dances off to the side there in a sunny room with a gleaming wood floor and the shelves behind them are packed with neatly stacked picture books. Happy times. Right. It certainly looks that way. Especially when devante pauses to give Hannah a hug is it spontaneous. Whereas the person behind the camera prompting him with his stern glance. We'll never know. We don't know when Jenin Sarah Hart decided they wanted children. Maybe they always wanted to be moms or maybe they just felt like kids were the next logical step years after they adopted six children Sarah would tell colleague that she wished she'd known. It wasn't mandatory to have a big family. She was the oldest of four kids. Jen was the oldest of three. We're piecing together the events that led Jenin Sarah from the early days together all the way to the edge of that one hundred foot cliff in California. How did they go from being just the two of them living in Minnesota working at a department store to a family of eight in less than three years? From glamour and how stuff works. This is broken hearts. I'm just eat Harmon. And I'm Liz Egan. We've been looking into the story of the Hart family for the past six months in public and on Facebook. They looked like the perfect family fun loving joyful and wacky in the best way. But as we've learned sometimes perfect is the perfect cover up. In two thousand four when Jenin Sarah were in their mid twenties. Still living in Alexandria, still working at Herberger 's they took an fifteen year old foster daughter just to give some context this was the same year. Minnesota state Senator Michelle Bachmann, laid the groundwork for her twenty twelve presidential run on an anti gay platform, calling homosexuality personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement when thousands gathered on the steps the capital to rally for same sex marriage. She spoke out to a Christian television network or something that's happening in our schools. One of the reasons why I felt like I was called take up. This issue is because of the profound impact that this would have on every man every woman every child in the state of Minnesota because everyone thought this would only impact that one point three percent of our population that is a same sex individual again. Don't misunderstand. And I am not here. Bashing people who are homosexuals for lesbians who were by sexual who are transgender we need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with a very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life. It's not funny. It's sad. It's part of Satan. I think say this is gay. It's anything but gay. So this is the backdrop for the world in which the heart started to build their family. You already met Jordan Smith. She was only nineteen when she worked with Jen, and Sarah and her berkers our field reporter, Lawrence Miley talk to Smith about Jen. And Sarah's first foray into parenthood. They were one of my early role models for what like non traditional family could look like I was nineteen at the time the foster child he was probably fifteen. I remember one of them sharing with me a lot of like this girl is so difficult. She's awful. And that she was eating on the garbage is not like mean girl gossip, you know, like us. She's the worst. It didn't feel like they really had interest in developing her as a person and giving her the tools, she needed to be a successful adult. And I just felt so sorry for the girl. I wasn't really old enough to realize that lake either shooting parents. But even at the time, I just kinda was like this is a child she struggling like something's not right about this. Like is it your job to make her feel more confident than encourage her to have healthy habits? But you know, I also grew up in the midwest where I didn't see a lot of like rate, parental model happening. A girl were people still hit their kid in the nineties like. In the mid west and Minnesota, you became parents. I like twenty one, and let's be honest. You're you're immature like, okay. My brain's still developing in July twenty eight and now I have to develop this other human instead of focusing my energy on, you know, becoming adults I need to become. Herberger would have this like friends and family sale? And all to make counters were feeling the book with a lot of makeover for like from more business, and so Sarah in gen buying their foster daughter for one of the makeovers as kind of oh, let's bring you into our world a little bit, you know, late. Maybe this is something she would want to learn about. I was the only teenager working the counters. They wouldn't be fun to have her go if another teenage girl, so I did her makeover. And you know, I'd say like she had really pretty skin which she did. I remember that for some reason, and she was hunched over like holding herself in. I could tell she did not want to be there. I remember Jen and thera- mostly giant, interrupting an answering question or being like, she doesn't talk much. I remember being both very annoyed with the situation lake. We came into Wor on a day. We're not working and we're doing this nice thing and our author daughters being difficult and annoying. I don't remember her being difficult or annoying. I remember her being very insecure and unsure of herself and giant being very intimidating. I didn't feel a lot of empathy coming through like I remember that very clearly in being like. I feel sorry for this girl. After Channon Sara died in March. Their former foster daughter told the Seattle times that she never ate out of the garbage. She remembered the makeover she said, she was a tomboy back then and never were makeup. Which would explain her slouched posture that day with Jordan, the former foster daughter now in her twenties and preferring to remain. Anonymous also told the Seattle times has she remembers jet in Sarah, showing her pictures of the three young children. They were planning to adopt. She was thrilled Jenin Sarah had told her she was going to stay with them until she turned eighteen and now she's going to be a big sister. But that's not what happened. They were applying for the children the first three they had gone and visited them. And I remember being really excited. I didn't apply. A lot of critical thinking to the situation at the time. I mean, like if I had my now I'd be like you don't seem very excited with the child. You have how do you want three more? But mostly I remember hearing it like after I left Herberger. I'd here that like their Jen. They got their three kids like they're so happy. I remember vaguely hearing that they dropped the foster daughter off and like just abandoned her. I remember being like fuck cold blooded. Oh, gee excitement about getting adopted kids. Did you get this? They really wanted to be moms, or I got the sense that they wanted the validation being a foster parent didn't have the clout of having children, Mike. They wanna be like we have children that are ours versus a child here watching and do you mean validation as in? We're a real couple. We're a real, you know, where real family. Serial killers. Don't make any effort to involve the media or investigators. They're very secretive. They don't want to tension. They almost want their crimes to go on notice. But the idea of committing a crime, and then calling the police and bragging about it. That's a whole 'nother level of terror. Dear editor, this is only expecting if you do not print the cipher by the afternoon of Friday. First of August. I will go on a kill rampage Friday night L cruise around all weekend killing people in the night and move on to kill again. The best part of it is that when I die be reborn in paradise. And all that I have killed will become my slates. The creators of Atlanta monster come season two. This is monster zodiac killer. Listen and subscribe at apple podcasts or on the iheartradio app. Jennen Sarah dropped their foster daughter at therapist office and never return. She never heard from them. Again. She was moved to a different foster home. Her belongings were already there. She would not become a big sister. After all she told the Seattle times, she remembers feeling abandoned devastated. Two years later in two thousand six jet, and Sarah officially adopted those three siblings from the Texas foster system, Marcus than seven Hannah four and Abigail two on December twenty six twenty fifteen in a Facebook post, celebrating Abigail or abbey's twelfth birthday Jen wrote. She was the first of my children I ever held in my arms, not only is today her birthday. But it also marks the day. Sarah, I became mothers we flew to Houston, Texas, ten years ago on Christmas day to meet our first trio of children due to a plethora of issues that came up with our flight. And then finding the hotel had burned down. We wouldn't beat the children until the next day December twenty six two thousand five. We walked into the foster home a bundle of nerves and excitement. The foster mother called Abby from the upper level. This dainty little peanut walked out grabs. The railing walked down the stairs stood right at my feet and held out her arms as a gesture to be picked up lifted her and she mmediately nestled her head right into my chest with her tiny arms. Gripped around me genuine love boozed out of every pore of my body. I will never know what it's like to Bertha child or the feeling of holding your new board for the first time. But I imagine the feeling is much like what I experienced with Abby. We'll get more into the adoption process leader, but just to give you some quick background Marcus Hanna, an ABA gal fell into several categories that might have made them hard to please with the Dopp give families. They were black black children are over represented in foster care and less likely to be adopted out of it. And it can be more difficult to find him Leigh's willing to take on multiple siblings and Sarah had their work cut out for them. They were young they had no family in the area and overnight. They became mothers of three. Ten years later on the anniversary of the day. Jenin Sarah brought Marcus Hanna and Abigail home to Minnesota gen would revisit their first night as moms in a Facebook post. The post is accompanied by jen's profile picture Jannine, Sarah Hart, cheek-to-cheek their faces mostly hidden behind big sunglasses. Here's what she writes. And bear with us. This is long, but we want to give you a sense of how much Jen. Release shared on Facebook. A different kind of mother's day March third two thousand six with temperatures in the teens and in abundance of snow on the ground. I wondered what their reaction would be as we pay back and forth peering out the front windows, while clenching our phones in anticipation of their arrival. The three hour flight from Houston seemed like days nearly two years of our lives had been dedicated to making this moment reality, and then bam parenthood times three Jen continues. The lengthy post with rumination on their first day as parents all the challenges of a lesbian couple trying to break through barriers in a rural community in Minnesota just transformed into a story of hope and try out. The social worker pulled up in a silver sedan and out came three little humans that gifted us with motherhood. My heart pounded with pure love and the strength of a million drums as we embrace and welcomed them to their home for the first time to say, this was an unforgettable day would be an enormous understatement. It was unforgettable in all the ways we weren't expecting. We had no idea. What challenges we would be facing in the coming months years? I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like for child that had lived their entire life with inconsistency abuse and neglect to be swooped twelve hundred miles away to a new place with the promise of this time. It will be different. This is how the first twelve hours of motherhood was for us the youngest urinated anywhere, but the bathroom several times and fell down a flight of stairs, resulting in a bloody gash on her chin. The middle child pulled out chunks of hair and smeared feces on the wall and gorge yourself with food until she started choking and needed the Heimlich resulting in episodes of projectile vomiting. The oldest banged his head repetitively on a Rockwall until we were able to safely restrain him blood was involved. This was a result of not giving him a king size Tootsie roll that he requested at nine pm. It took hours to calm him and get him to a place where we could leave him in his room to sleep. We were physically and mentally obliterated by this time. We went to be absolutely terrified as a million thoughts. Ran through our minds as we drifted off to sleep. We were abruptly reminded that our day was far from over. Loud crashes. Banging in strange sounds slash voices. From above us resulted in us. Sprinting upstairs to find the eldest in a closet. He told us he was possessed by demons as he growled Claude and spoke in multiple voices while continuing to thrash bite and bang his head on the wall. My heart was breaking and I was terrified I was terrified for him. And it would be disingenuous if I didn't admit I was afraid of what he could do to others as well. Hours passed before we were able to get him to sleep that night. Just when it seemed like we could breathe again the youngest had an asthma attack in stopped breathing. A one AM ER visit followed. I didn't sleep at all for the first forty eight plus hours of parenthood. I cried a lot. What had we done? We had no experience with these kinds of things we question everything when the social worker called to check in after the first night, we relate everything the good the bad and ugly. Her response, just give them whatever they want. We were dumbfounded. That's it. That's the golden advice in that moment. I knew what to do. We could not give up on these kids before we were matched with these children. They were going to be separated and adopted into two different families with the oldest place in a residential treatment facility. How can a child even know what they want when they haven't ever been gifted with what they need if not us who. At twenty five years old. We didn't have any parenting experience under our belts. But we had boatloads of love compassion intelligence and the natural instincts to navigate these wild. And uncharted waters. There was no way on earth. We were going to toss these children back into an incredibly broken and abysmal foster care system. Here. We are one decade and three more kids later ten years ago today, we became mothers and began the grandest adventure of our lives. Through the spectrum of despair and utter joy, I give thanks to all of us who have joined this journey of the hearts, look what love can do com. Assist. In writing the next chapter with us. Love love love. Hi, I'm Ariel Casten Jonathan Strickland and together we're going to tell you the stories behind some of the biggest triumphs in failures in business. That's right. We're going to explore situations that tested the medal of entrepreneurs pivotal moments required making decisions we'll be talking about some big companies that everybody knows like Disney LEGO and Harley Davidson and together we try to answer the question. What do you do when you find yourself at the brink? Listen and subscribe at apple podcasts or on the iheartradio app or wherever you listen to your podcasts. The adoption records for Marcus Hanna and Abigail sealed. So it's hard to fact, check dens claims of health or behavioral issues, but there is no evidence that Abigail the youngest had asthma. We also can't verify whether Marcus was going to be placed in residential treatment. The sibling. Jen was referring to here may have been the older brother of the Davis's the second set of siblings adopted by the hearts kids. Sara Jen hadn't even heard of back in two thousand six. Maybe Jen ten years later was just getting the kids mixed up. There were six of them. After all every mom calls. Her kids another kids name at some point. But the night was so momentous for her one can't help but wonder if she was going for drama over truth. Can you imagine? If your mom posted something like this about you on Facebook. Remember at this point the heart kids were teenagers. Marcus was seventeen Hannah was fourteen and Abigail was thirteen. Maybe they never saw their mom's Facebook posts. But if they did they would have been old enough to be completely mortified. Janet, Sarah must have gotten into the groove because not long after they welcomed their first three kids a picture of their new family of five appeared on an adoption agency website they were smiling. Everyone looked happy. This time Jenin Sarah were seeking up to three more kids of any ethnicity up to eight years old two years later in the spring of two thousand eight they took in three more foster kids five year old devante and his younger siblings. Jeremiah four and Sierra three Davis siblings were also from Texas and they'd been removed from their mother's home in Houston. According to court records, she was a crack cocaine abuser and was forbidden contact with the kids the records show that Jeremiah had tested positive for cocaine at birth and the kids mom had tested positive for cocaine after Sierra was bored. They'd been living with their paternal aunt Priscilla solicited for five months. She'd moved from three. Room apartment to a five bedroom place to make room for them. But then one day a CPS worker made a spontaneous visit to their aunt's home and found their mom babysitting. The consequences were swift. Devante Jeremiah and Sierra were removed from their aunt's home and put into foster care Shawna. Jones sell esteems attorney Sela Stein had been called into work for an extra shift and needed childcare in a pinch. She's trying to keep her job. So she scrambled for childcare called their mom who she says was clean at the time Jones met the family ten years ago. But she still remembers their case, here's how she described it to Lauren. The father's rights terminated because he had alcohol problems and the mother had drug problems. And so that's why their rights were terminated which I don't take she with that. That instance, that was the prudent thing to do by always take issue with this case is the harsh manner in a way that they dealt with Masella scene. There was nothing in her background whatsoever. Probably never even had as much as driving ticket. And to this day. It just seems so strays I don't what is the rush. I do think that race plays a part thing. Absolute ethnic racist playing apart. You know, people are sitting in the audience thinking that okay? Why does the judges rule that way? I would think if I was trying to stop the kid, and you had a family member that wanted to adopt them. I personally with think that's great. Why should I try to interfere with family members adoption of their family? Right. That's kind of like the ACLU right then. And there that this is a person you've don't they can operate in the best interest. Let's pause here for a second on that point. Devante Jeremiah and Sierra headed aunt who wanted them she really wanted them. But instead they were sent to live with Jen, and Sarah Hart who were soon to be under investigation for child abuse. Yes. You heard that? Right. We'll get into more on that later. But first we want you to know a little more about the heart children who they really were as best as we can piece it together from Jin's Facebook posts and our conversations with people who knew them. I there was Marcus the one with the big floppy hair. He loved to read and devoured twilight in one sitting. He wanted to change the world one Christmas, according to his mom, he asked for a world without cancer. Hannah was the spunky one with a closed mouth smile. Her front teeth were missing jen's Facebook post described as dancing and singing once she told her mom she couldn't concentrate on subtraction. Because she had a song stuck in her head. She must have been a courageous kid too. Because she would later jump out of her bedroom window and run to the neighbor's house task for help next up. Devante whose face you might remember from a photo that went viral in two thousand fourteen devante was the boy hugging cop tears streaming down his face. He was known for wearing a free hug sign wherever he went. He loved animals and hated Donald Trump. He appeared to have a special bond with Jen. He may have gotten special treatment as a result. Abigail known as abbey had big Brown eyes more glasses. She loved lime green yoga and exploring the wilderness. She had homemade strawberry shortcake on her birthday, all the heart kids were arrestingly beautiful. But when you look at pictures of Abigail face, you feel like you can see the elegant woman, she might have grown up to be. Jeremiah war glasses too. They called him the J man, he was stoic a survivor. Jen said he wasn't expected to live more than a few days when he was born what with all the drugs coursing through his system. Instead he made it to fourteen and last, but not least there was Sierra. She was another animal lover she adored her kittens Sebastian and pulled him around the house in a cardboard box in one of jen's final. Facebook pictures, we see her holding one of her brothers hands backs to the camera. She's wearing a bathing suit and her shoulder blades are so pronounced. They look like little wings. In the past several months seen, and I have seen hundreds of pictures of the heart kids, but we only have a handful of recordings of their voices. Here's one from two thousand twelve you can hear the kids giggling in the background and jen's voice as she hands. Jeremiah, an earthworm. Yes. E. I did. Can you try not to throw him time? He's turning kits me. Remember moves you. Up next time on broken hearts. Them the right over his head. It doesn't look like it. But that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace. Noble war. Nice. That Jen was good. She was good at the time. We're thinking while phenomenal parenting. You're not exploiting your children. We learned now that there was some abuse charges in Minnesota or fleeing to Oregon, so there's probably more of a reason why she didn't want to go on national TV you seen jen's Facebook. Gen loves Sarah to insane degree. Broken hearts is a joint production between glamour and how stuff works with new episodes dropping every Tuesday broken hearts is co hosted and co written by Justin Harman and Elizabeth Egan and edited by Wendy alkyl, Lawrence Miley is our field. Reporter Samantha berry is glamorous editor in chief, Julie shed and Deanna buckman head up the business side of this partnership. Joyce Pendle, Pat singer and Luke Celeski our research team Jason Hoke is executive producer on behalf of how stuff works along with producers, Julian Weller, Ben key, brick and Josh theme special. Thanks, jen. Lance have questions for us about this podcast reach us on Twitter at glamour MAG for access to exclusive photos and videos and documents about the case visit glamour dot com slash broken hearts. If you like what you heard. Leave us a review. If you haven't checked out my new series the end of the world with Josh Clark. The now's a great time to start the holidays are over the doldrums of winter had begun. And there's no better time to explore existentialist dread than right now. But wait, there's more to the end of the world in that. Yes. The series is about existential risks. But it's also about hope the threats that are coming our way that could wipe humans right out of existence. Could also be just the thing that makes us band together. In a way that humanity never has before in the end of the world. I take you on a journey across time and space from the moment and asteroid collided with earth and set off a chain of events that wiped out the dinosaurs to the post biological future where we live in a digital format. If we don't already we'll explore big questions like whether we're alone in the universe and exactly how artificial intelligence could take control of our world from us. It also has beautiful score. In cinematic sound design. So it's an adventure for your mind. Which is just the thing to snap. You out of the winter blahs all ten of the end of the world with Josh Clark are available for you to binge now on apple podcasts the iheartradio app or wherever you get podcasts.