There are several questions surrounding Devonte Hart, his five siblings and his adoptive parents who were in an SUV that went off a cliff in Northern California on March 26. His adoptive parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, and three of the children, Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14, have all been reported dead. Their three other adopted children are still missing, identified as 16-year-old Hannah Hart, 12-year-old Sierra Hart and 15-year-old Devonte, who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a police officer in November 2014.
Three of the adoptions took place in Houston, Texas, even though they lived in Minnesota. In 2006, Abigail, Hannah and Markis, who are all siblings, were adopted. In 2009, another trio of siblings were adopted, Sierra, Jeremiah and Devonte — this means the Harts were able to adopt three more children even after police in Alexandria, Minnesota questioned them about child abuse. The Oregonian reports ,”An Alexandria police report obtained Tuesday also shows a different daughter told authorities in 2008 one of her mothers bruised her with a belt. Asked by police about the beating, Jennifer and Sarah Hart said the girl had fallen down the stairs days before, the report shows.”
It’s unclear if one or both parents adopted the siblings, but what also isn’t clear is why did the women adopt the children from Houston, Texas—which is over 1200 miles away from Alexandria, Minnesota. In addition, is there a reason they adopted Black children? Some reports claim adoption in Texas is less expensive than the national average and, sadly, adopting Black children is even less expensive. Ellen Yarrell, a Houston adoption attorney, told The Oregonian “state officials are first required to search for relatives who may be able to take in the children of parents whose rights were terminated. After a 90-day period, the state can then consider other placements, such as foster parents.” Foster care adoptions are closed, therefore, there is no way to know why the children were placed in foster care and if the rules were followed. However, it appears the system clearly failed these children.
We reached out to Tiffani Butler at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and were told they are no longer commenting on the case. She said, “All questions about the case must be directed to the authorities in California.”
Below is the famous photo of Devonte Hart.
Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We hope Devonte and his siblings are found.