If you need a reminder of what “family” truly means — or what undying love and support truly look like — read on.
This is a story about compassion, love, and the stars aligning to bring a baby home. It’s also a story about a man who used to be a father to three girls, but is now the proud daddy of four.
Officer Jesse Whitten of the Santa Rosa, California police department tells Babble that he met a woman while on patrol in the summer of 2017 — a woman who would, a few months later, change his life.
“She was homeless and struggling with heroin and methamphetamine addiction,” Whitten says. “She and I began to talk, and she told me about her other children that she had lost to foster care. I recognized the names of the children as kids that I had the pleasure of counseling and getting to know at a foster youth camp called Royal Family Kids. My wife and I both volunteered and thought that this woman’s kids were just so amazing.”
Whitten says that he saw the woman several more times, once with his wife alongside him. His wife noticed that the woman was pregnant, so Whitten immediately began encouraging her to seek prenatal care. She eventually did in December of that year.
The next time he saw her, Whitten says, she showed him an ultrasound image of her baby, telling him it was a girl.
“She cut off one of the ultrasounds and asked if I would keep it and show it to my wife,” he says.
Then, what happened next was extraordinary.
“In February, while at a Valentine’s Day party, my wife and I were called by the county of Sonoma advising us that the birth mother had delivered a baby girl and had asked for her to be placed with us,” Whitten says. “She stated that she wanted us to be Harlow’s parents forever.”
The couple, already parents to three little girls, were surprised, but immediately went to the hospital to meet their new daughter.
“We immediately loved her,” Whitten tells Babble.
What a true example of compassion and kindness for a mother who had already lost her babies because of her illness. I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to fight the unrelenting claws of addiction while simultaneously missing your children — and then to realize there’s another on the way. However, because Jesse and his wife showed her such kindness and compassion, I think she may have known: These are my baby’s parents. This is who I want to raise her. This is the kind of home I want her to grow up in, where kids are taught to treat everyone with love, empathy, and dignity.
Jesse shares with Babble that his three older daughters were thrilled at the thought of a new sister, and immediately welcomed her into their hearts. While she officially was adopted on August 30, Whitten says she lived as a part of their family since she was released from the hospital.
Whitten says that this experience has definitely changed him and his family.
“It’s given us an appreciation for how love can always grow,” says Whitten. “There’s always enough of it.”
He says it has also given him a sharper perspective on how we approach children in need.
“These children in need through foster care don’t need us to fix them,” he says. “They aren’t broken. They need us to show up and love them.”
Thank you, Officer Whitten and family, for showing up for Harlow — and for her mother and siblings as well. This world is a better place because of you.