HOUSTON - Officials with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed Monday that the six children killed when their mother intentionally drove the family's SUV off a Northern California cliff last month were adopted out of foster care in Colorado and Harris Counties.
Here are five things to know about the latest developments in the case:
1.) Texas DFPS says Jennifer Jean Hart and her wife, Melissa, adopted Abigail, Hannah and Markis in 2006 from Colorado County, and Sierra, Jeremiah and Devonte from Harris County in 2009.
2.) Before the Harris County adoption was approved, the Harts were accused of child abuse -- leading some child welfare advocates to wonder why the state allowed the couple to adopt more children.
"Do I place a kid in a home where there are special circumstances that maybe are suspicious, or do I keep them in the system? In almost every instance, they're going to choose to put them in a home," said Dr. Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children At Risk, a nonprofit organization that has studied the Texas welfare system.
In a statement to Channel 2, Patrick Crimmins, a spokesperson for DFPS, said the agency couldn't comment on specific cases but that "... an allegation is not a confirmation. Adoptions are approved or denied by a judge ... The judge takes all of the information collected in a case and makes a decision whether or not to approve an adoption."
Dr. Sanborn said Texas and other states with tens of thousands of kids in foster care are often desperate to get them out of the system.
DFPS said the couple went through the standard home study, which includes a criminal background check.
3.) Records show since 2009, the state had paid more than $276,000 to a woman named Jennifer Jean Hart for the care of children, but the Texas Comptroller's Office said it could not confirm it was the same Jennifer Jean Hart who adopted the six children from Colorado and Harris counties.
DFPS said adoption subsidies range from $400 to $545 per month per child until at least age 18.
4) There were more abuse allegations just before the deadly crash, which investigators say was intentional. Neighbors reported one of the children, Devonte, coming by for food several times a day.
5) The state's foster care system is already under federal scrutiny. In January, a U.S. district judge ruled Texas would remain under the watch of a special master, saying the system remains broken.
The chart below shows the number of Houston out-of-state adoptions consummated for the last several years:
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