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We Were Once a Family
We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America | Roxanna Asgarian
14 posts | 16 read | 25 to read
The shocking, deeply reported story of a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of six childrenand a searing indictment of the American foster care system. On March 26, 2018, rescue workers discovered a crumpled SUV and the bodies of two women and several children at the bottom of a cliff beside the Pacific Coast Highway. Investigators soon concluded that the crash was a murder-suicide, but there was more to the story: Jennifer and Sarah Hart, it turned out, were a white married couple who had adopted the six Black children from two different Texas families in 2006 and 2008. Behind the family's loving facade, however, was a pattern of abuse and neglect that went ignored as the couple withdrew the children from school and moved across the country. It soon became apparent that the State of Texas knew very little about the two individuals to whom it had given custody of six childrenwith fateful consequences. In the manner of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family and other classic works of investigative journalism, Roxanna Asgarians We Were Once a Family is a revelation of vulnerable lives; it is also a shattering expos of the foster care and adoption systems that produced this tragedy. As a journalist in Houston, Asgarian became the first reporter to put the childrens birth families at the center of the story. We follow the author as she runs up against the intransigence of a state agency that removes tens of thousands of kids from homes each year in the name of child welfare, while often failing to consider alternatives. Her reporting uncovers persistent racial biases and corruption as children of color are separated from birth parents without proper cause. The result is a riveting narrative and a deeply reported indictment of a system that continues to fail Americas most vulnerable children while upending the lives of their families.
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review
Suet624
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I‘ve written 3 reviews and deleted them. I‘m so angry and want to point fingers at one state in the US that seems particularly heartless - looking at you, Texas - but I‘m sure the fate of foster kids is abysmal everywhere. This is a look at racism in fostering choices and a system that cannot see its way to help families rather than destroy them. It‘s a book worth reading but it‘s a tough one.

BarbaraBB Love your review 🤍 4mo
Suet624 @BarbaraBB thank you for always being my cheerleader. 💕💕 4mo
Reggie A friend just finished reading this one and she said she was so devastated. So many failures on so many levels. 4mo
Suet624 @Reggie I agree with her. I was really shaken by what the state did to these families. Just terrible. 4mo
BarbaraBB Honestly! 4mo
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Suet624
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I‘m listening to the very disturbing tagged book while also reading a book about Buchenwald concentration camp. Suddenly I had had enough. Too much pain. So I drove an hour to see my granddaughter, Charley. I‘m so close to the end of each book that I‘ll finish them tomorrow but today I was fortunate to play with a sweet little girl and count my blessings.

Ruthiella Good idea. ❤️ 4mo
Suet624 @Ruthiella not sure how I get myself into these depressing book overloads! 4mo
TheBookHippie ♥️ 4mo
See All 23 Comments
sarahbarnes ♥️♥️ 4mo
Gissy 💖 4mo
Tamra 😘 4mo
LeahBergen Aww! ❤️❤️❤️ 4mo
KathyWheeler Sounds like you made an excellent decision! 4mo
BarbaraBB You were right to do so ❤️ 4mo
batsy How sweet 💕 4mo
Hooked_on_books Those books sound so heavy, but look at that hair! 4mo
squirrelbrain Aw, she‘s a cutie! 🥰 4mo
quietlycuriouskate Good medicine, right there! ❤️ 4mo
Cathythoughts Yes ♥️ I count my blessings too. Grandchildren bring such joy. 4mo
Cuilin Smart choice!! ❤️ 4mo
CarolynM 😍 Gorgeous photo! Cuddling a little cutie like that sounds like the perfect antidote to those books. 4mo
dabbe To your gorgeous photo: 🤩💙🤩 4mo
Suet624 @dabbe 💕💕💕 4mo
Suet624 @CarolynM definitely. So glad I was able to do it. 4mo
Suet624 @Cathythoughts they sure do. Three out of five of my grandkids are very close by and I‘m so fortunate to be able to drop in when I need a squeeze. 😊😊 4mo
RohitSawant How adorable! 💖 4mo
Suet624 @RohitSawant she‘s a cutie. 💕 4mo
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Deblovestoread
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It took me a bit to get into this one but another important read that links with poverty, racism, classism, etc. Asgarian shines a light on children removed from their home to “protect” them. It shines a light on failed systems and the ongoing devastation these systems create. I‘ve had many clients who‘ve aged out of the system with nothing. None of this is pretty and all of it should be changed. #AuldLangSpine @monalyisha

Deblovestoread @christine Another important and fascinating read from your list. Thank you! 6mo
Aimeesue @TheBookHippie That is beautiful. It‘s such a heartless system sometimes. 6mo
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Deblovestoread @thebookhippie Love this. 💜💜💜 We have a local organization Jackson Street Youth Services that does amazing work for this population. I wish the need was less and more was done earlier so the need could be less. 6mo
Christine @Deblovestoread I'm so glad you found this one worthwhile! It has certainly stuck with me and made me want to learn much more about the foster system. 6mo
Christine @TheBookHippie Wow, wonderful! Thanks for sharing that link. 6mo
55 likes7 comments
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DocBrown
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First 1/3 felt rushed, but then the author digs in and finds herself part of the story about the foster care system and how it creates more problems than it solves. And that it‘s just one more way to undermine the lives and families of people of color. I‘m not sure what the answer is, but in its current form child welfare is perpetuating generational harm on innocent people. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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ncsufoxes
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I listened to this one of audio but need to get a physical copy. So heartbreaking but so well done. Asgarian spent 10 years investigating this story. She spent numerous hours with the birth family of the 6 children. She did a deep dive into the foster care system (particularly Texas where the children were from). The systems of CPS, foster care & adoption continue to be rooted in racism. Children & families face insurmountable obstacles in a

ncsufoxes system that is unfair & unjust. The story sheds light on a system that has long been broken & needs a major revamp. Asgarian humanized the experience of birth mothers & what happens to them after a child is taken away. As well as the affect that has on the rest of the family. So many emotions listening to this book. Definitely makes you view foster care & adoption differently. Hoping that there will be changes in policy to help children & families 6mo
ncsufoxes #bookspin #Nonfiction2024 prompt: Born a Crime (unfortunately most children that go through the foster system age out & become part of the prison system, as well as the continued impacts of racism on families) 6mo
TheAromaofBooks Great progress!! 6mo
Suet624 Great review of this infuriating and extremely sad story. 4mo
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jlhammar
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Excellent work of investigative journalism. A harrowing and heartbreaking listen.

Chrissyreadit this sounds like a devastating read. 6mo
ncsufoxes I just started listening to this over audio. Interesting but so sad & frustrating (I was at the airport trying to not scream & shake my head constantly all the while thinking WTF)…those poor kids 6mo
batsy I have this on my list! Sounds like it would be harrowing 😟 6mo
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jdiehr
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Remember hearing on the news that a mom and her wife drove their van off a cliff, killing themselves and their six adopted children?

This is about that tragic event and so much more. We learn about their birth families and CPS.

These kids were born to drug addicts and mentally ill people, but they were never starved or abused like they were (allegedly) by their adoptive moms.

It is all so very sad, but important to hear and learn about.

tpixie So sad 😞 7mo
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Chelsea.Poole
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A deep dive into the tragic event featured in news cycles from a few years ago: an SUV, full of a family, crashed off a cliff with no survivors. At first believed to be a horrible accident, the evidence left behind soon led the investigators to realize this was a murder-suicide. The children were adopted and were victims of their adoptive mothers. Readers learn about their lives, how the system failed them, and their birth families. Very well done

SamAnne The outside-of-the-box TV series Atlanta did a great episode based on this story. 9mo
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Hooked_on_books
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I‘ve heard Tracy on The Stacks podcast absolutely rave about this book, and I see why. It‘s a scathing indictment of the US foster care system that shows how much it fails kids and birth parents (largely poor and black/brown) while giving far too much leeway to foster parents. It is absolutely eye-opening. Anyone who is setting policy that impacts families needs to read this.

Megabooks This seems very good but quite dark. My library has it and I don‘t know if I have the bandwidth atm. Great review! 11mo
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bio_chem06
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This was a heartbreaking but wonderful read. I love the perspective this book takes and it‘s so important to the story. I chose to edit the adoptive parents because like most of these stories, the victims shouldn‘t be overshadowed.

TheBookHippie Sadly this is mostly how it is and not unusual… foster care is so broken. 13mo
Aimeesue I remember this vividly from news reports at the time. Absolutely heartbreaking. 13mo
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bio_chem06
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I don‘t mean to keep doing this to myself but here we go. #depressing

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Cortg
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I remember the news story of the SUV that was driven off the cliff in California. This is a journalistic approach to this incident. Jennifer and Sarah adopted two sets of siblings for a total of 6 kids. We learn the stories of both sets of families whose children were adopted as well as Jennifer and Sarah‘s story, and the time with these children. Such a sad story all around and an eye opener to the issues with the foster system\CPS in America. 💔

SamAnne If you are interested, the TV show Atlanta did a creepy and brilliant episode take on this story. So sad. On my TBR. I followed the unfolding of this story. 14mo
Cortg @SamAnne Thanks! I rarely watch TV, so this series is new to me. I might check out this episode :) 14mo
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Floresj
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Very solid journalism. This one tells the backstory of the Hart family (birth parents of the 6 adopted children and the two mothers) that mothers drove them off a cliff into the ocean. The death is salacious, but the majority of this book is about foster care, adoption, and struggle. There has got to be a better way to protect children from abusive parents and allow families to stay together. I don‘t know what it is, but this system isn‘t working.

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Christine
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Was hesitant to read more about this awful tragedy but very glad I pressed play on this audiobook, as it was remarkable. Incredible writing, gives voice to the birth families of the children, and gets one thinking about all sorts of issues, from judgments about parenting to journalistic ethics. I most appreciated what I learned about the U.S. child welfare system and have bumped a few of the books referenced up on my TBR (tagged in comments).

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