We Were Once a Family

by Roxanna Asgarian

Farrar, Straus, and Giraux, New York, 2023.
Amazon Hardcover $14.87, 294 pages

Jennifer and Sarah Hart were a White married couple, together since college, who adopted a set of three biracial siblings in 2006 and three black siblings two years later. All six adopted children — Ciera, Abigail, Jeremiah, Devonte, Hannah and Markis — came from the Texas foster-care system. For 10 years, Jen maintained a flamboyant Facebook presence, filled with adorable photos of the children, proclamations of Black allyship, and proud endorsements of meditation and vegetarianism. Many on social media bought into the image of devoted parents taking on a burden others would flinch at, providing a home for children who, in Jen’s telling, had been mistreated and forgotten before she and Sarah came along.

After Jennifer and Sarah Hart plunged themselves and their six children over a cliff in California, the media focused almost entirely on these two white mothers.  The stories of the black children they adopted, and later murdered were untold.

Journalist Roxanna Asgarian set out to learn more about where the children came from for her debut book. The result is “We Were Once a Family,” a harrowing account of what she discovered, along with a powerful critique of a foster care system “that directed the course of their short lives, a system that remained unaccountable for their deaths.”

This book exposes the unjust child welfare system that caused this to happen. All who deal with foster care, adoption, the courts, and child welfare need to read this sobering book.

As one person said, “This riveting book will raise public awareness of the urgent need to end our disastrous approach to struggling families by radically reimagining child welfare policies and building community-based supports that truly keep children safe.”