By Ashleigh / Jan 20, 2023
He paused as he heard what they had said. Did he heard that right? In all of his years as a police officer, he had never encountered anything like this before.
It started off as a normal day but he soon realized that this encounter was unlike any one he has ever had. This one simple encounter was about to set off a chain of events that would change his life forever, and he didn’t even know it yet. But now he had to decide if he was up for the challenge.
Officer On The Beat
It had all started as a normal day on the job for officer Jesse Whitten. As a 10-year veteran in the Santa Rosa Police Department, he thought nothing could surprise him anymore. But he was about to be proved wrong.
Facebook/Santa Rosa Police Department
On a spring day in 2017, Jesse was responding to an emergency call of a homeless woman. When he arrived at the scene, it was very clear to him that this woman had addiction issues. But then he realized something even more heartbreaking.
A Terrible Situation
While he was helping the woman, she told Jesse that she was pregnant. His heart sunk at the thought of a baby being born in such a difficult situation. As a father of three daughters, he couldn’t bear the thought of any child suffering.
So he made it his mission to help this woman and give her unborn baby a fighting chance. The first thing he did was to try and get her to a safe place.
Doing The Best He Could
Jesse drove the woman to a shelter and told her to call him if she ever needed anything. Then he went home and told his wife, Ashley, about the incident, saying he wished he could have done more.
Ashley suggested he could keep an eye on the woman on his daily patrols, and he did — after all, the homeless population in Santa Rosa is very minimal and she was not hard to find. But what he saw in the following months only made him worry even more.
Forging A Connection
Every time he spotted the woman, Jesse stopped to chat with her and make sure she was ok. The pair started to get to know each other. One day, the woman told him about her two other children, saying they were in foster care and how much she missed them.
It turned out the officer had met these children before when he volunteered at a camp for foster children. That only made him care more for the woman’s plight.
Meeting His Wife
“I knew her [other] two children from the camp I had worked at for foster youth,” recalls Jesse. “When she started talking about them, I had an immediate connection with her just by knowing who her wonderful children were.”
This made him even more determined to try and help her. Then one day in August, his wife Ashley was on a ride-along with him when they encountered the woman. The two women struck up a conversation about motherhood and its challenges. Then, something unbelievable happened.
The woman took Ashley’s hand and placed it on her womb to let her feel the baby. It was a heartwarming moment that deepened the connection between the woman and the couple.
Ashley felt proud of her husband for trying to take care of this woman and improve her circumstances. But then one day, something happened that made them both worry if it had all been for nothing.
The Stark Reality
One day, Jesse found the woman in very bad shape. It was clear that she had relapsed, so he drove her to a detox and rehabilitation facility.
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It broke his heart to see her like that, but he knew how hard it was for a person in her situation to get clean. After he dropped her off, he didn’t see or hear from her for months. He hoped she was staying on track. Then in February, he got an unexpected call.
The Call That Changed Everything
On February 9th, Jesse and Ashley were at a Valentine’s Day party when he got a call from county officials. They told him the homeless woman was at the hospital and had just given birth.
They said she had asked for him. Surprised and intrigued, Jesse and Ashley drove to the hospital, where the woman told the officer why she had called for him.
She Chose Him
At the hospital, county officials told Jesse the woman’s baby qualified for emergency placement in foster care given that the woman was homeless and the baby had been born with substances in her system.
YouTube/Good Morning America
But when the woman was asked if this was what she wanted, she instead asked them to call Jesse. It appeared she wanted him and Ashley to adopt the child. And when he went in to talk to her, she confirmed it.
A Better Life For Her Daughter
“I knew you had daughters. I knew you were firm, but you were fair,” the woman told Jesse. He was blindsided, but he continued to listen to her.
“She had this vision of her daughter playing in tutus with her sisters. That’s what she said she wanted,” he explains. It was a big decision for him and Ashley to make. But when they met the baby, the answer was clear.
“She’s so adorable,” said Jesse of the newborn girl. “She will cry if she needs something, obviously as babies do, but as soon as we would touch her, she’d immediately stop crying. She knew right away that she was safe.”
It was clear from that moment that this was meant to be, so they accepted the woman’s request to adopt the child. But the transition would not be easy.
Given that she had been born with substances in her system, the baby had to stay in the hospital for weeks while she overcame a series of health challenges. But she was strong, and she was able to recover.
YouTube/Good Morning America
The next hurdle would be to make the adoption official. It took months of paperwork and court appearances but finally, in August of this year, the baby became a Whitten. But that didn’t mean her birth mother was forgotten.
Nothing But Love
The baby girl was named Harlow Maisey Whitten. Her middle name was chosen by her birth mother. “This is to say, ‘She loved you and we loved you and we both named you,’” said Jesse.
They also visited the woman several times throughout the adoption process. “We were talking and –– I was saying to her — ‘You made this choice for her and that we are so grateful,’” remembers Ashley. “And she said — ‘You’re her mother now.’” And the Whittens hope to help more children in the future.
Leading By Example
Although they have no plans to adopt any more children, Jesse and Ashley want to continue working with and advocating for foster children. “Through our experience, we are so sure that no child is broken and they don’t need us to fix them,” said Ashley. “They just need love.”
YouTube/Good Morning America
Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa Police Department congratulated the family on their Facebook page. “Ofc. Whitten, the proud father of three girls already, opened his heart and his home to this baby. And now it’s official!” they wrote. But would the poor homeless woman’s circumstances improve?
Happy Baby Girl
For six months, Harlow thrived in her new home. She was loved and cherished by her new family, and she brought so much joy and happiness to their lives.
Jessie and his wife felt they had made a difference in the world. They shared all their daughter’s toys with Harlow. Harlow fit right in with them
But then, one day, the worst possible thing happened. Amanda came to the police station, asking for her baby back. The papers had not been finalized yet.
Amanda said that she had changed her mind. She wanted her baby back, and she wanted it now. The Whites were mortified. How could she do this to them?
No Take Backs
The Whites were angry and confused. They couldn’t understand why Amanda would want to take Harlow away from them. They had given her a loving home, and they had always planned on raising her as their own.
They were devastated when Amanda left with Harlow, and they knew that they had to fight for her.
Used and Abused
Jessie and his wife were angry at Amanda for using them. They felt like they had been betrayed, and they didn’t understand why Amanda would do something like this.
They felt like they had lost a part of their family and didn’t know how to cope with the loss. Was Amanda playing a dirty game with them?
The Whites hired a lawyer and fought for custody of Harlow. They argued that Amanda was an unfit mother and that Harlow would be better off with them. Amanda argued that she had changed and that she was capable of taking care of her baby.
The case went to court, and the Whites were heartbroken when the judge ruled in Amanda’s favor.
Jessie and his wife fought tooth and nail to keep Harlow, but Amanda was determined to take her baby back. She had changed her mind, and she wanted her baby back. Jessie and his wife had no choice but to hand Harlow back to Amanda.
But Jessie wasn’t going to lose lying down; he had a plan.
The Whites were devastated when Harlow was taken away from them. They knew that Amanda was still drinking and didn’t have a job. They feared Harlow would be neglected and mistreated, and they knew they had to do something.
They contacted child protective services and reported Amanda’s behavior. Jessie was serious and spoke with conviction, but was it enough to convince the counselor?
The Waiting Game
There wasn’t any further news from Social Services. They were still undergoing investigations and asked the family to be patient while they did so.
They were devastated. They had grown to love Harlow like their child and now had to give her up. They were heartbroken and felt like they had lost a part of their family.
Jessie and his wife tried to move on with their lives, but they couldn’t shake the feeling of loss. They felt like they had failed Harlow and couldn’t forgive Amanda for what she had done.
The distraught couple was not even allowed to visit baby Harlow. They had no idea where she was or if he alcoholic mother was taking good care of her. Jessie would break down every time she saw her favorite plush toy, a colorful unicorn.
Reality Sinks In
But as time passed, Jessie and his wife began to realize that they couldn’t change the past. They couldn’t change Amanda’s mind, and they couldn’t change what had happened.
They had to accept that Harlow was gone, and they had to move on with their lives. Perhaps they would find some fulfillment by knowing they helped her when they could.
At The Very Least
They knew that Harlow would always have a special place in their hearts, and they would always remember the love and joy she had brought into their lives. They would always be grateful for the time they had with her, and they would always cherish the memories.
But even though they did all the right things, they couldn’t forget the little girl.
Jessie and his wife learned that sometimes, even the best intentions couldn’t change how things turn out. But they also learned that love and compassion could make all the difference in the world.
Even though they were good people, this was not a good thing that happened to them. The heartbroken couple didn’t know that there would be a change in events that would be in their favor.
A Living Nightmare
Amanda’s neighbors had called social services when they heard horrifying screams from her house. It turns out that she was still drinking at night. Her neighbors heard her violent outbursts and called them immediately.
The Social worker handling her case got involved and took baby Harlow back into custody. They had made a mistake about Amanda’s character; she had not changed at all.
Child protective services investigated the case and found that Amanda was an unfit mother. They took Harlow away from her and placed her in foster care.
The Whites were heartbroken but knew it was for the best. They knew that Harlow would be safe and well-cared for, and they knew they could adopt her again.
In The Right Place
The Whites fought for Harlow’s custody again, and they won this time. They were overjoyed when they were finally able to bring her home. Harlow was happy and healthy and excited to be back with her family and sisters.
Baby Harlow has been through a terrible ordeal. The Whites are definitely her future family but will her alcoholic mother leave her be? We can only hope that Amanda lets her daughter have a better life than her.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.