When you’re pregnant, alone, and living on the streets, meeting a stable and loving family can change anything.
Jesse Whitten is a police officer in Santa Rosa, California. While he was on the job, he encountered a young homeless woman who had fallen victim to drug addiction. The two met several times over a few months and formed a unique friendship. One day when Jesse’s wife Ashley was riding along, Ashley got to meet the young woman as well.
“We developed sort of a friendship in a strange sort of way,” Jesse explained. “Whenever I saw her on patrol and dealt with her, we’d have a conversation.”
“I mentioned—‘Oh, you are pregnant’—and she said—‘Oh yea’—and placed my hand on her womb,” Ashley recalled. Jesse says he and the young woman often talked about his family, and she was happy to learn that he and Ashley have three young daughters together.
A few months later, Jesse received a surprising call from the local hospital. The homeless woman had given birth to a daughter. Although the baby had heroin in her system at birth, she was expected to make a full recovery. Incredibly, the woman had asked that the hospital summon Jesse and Ashley specifically because she wanted them to adopt her baby.
“She said, ‘I knew you had daughters. I knew you were firm, but you were fair,’” said Jesse. “She had this vision of her daughters playing in tutus with her sisters. That’s what she said she wanted.”
The Whittens looked at the helpless infant lying in the hospital crib and knew they could, and would, open their heart to another little girl. They began the adoption process that very day
Ashley and Jesse’s three daughters, aged 7, 5, and 3, also welcomed their 6-month old sister, Harlow Maisey Whitten, with open arms.
“It’s weird to live in the tension of joy and heartbreak like this story is,” Ashley said. “It’s wonderful at the same time.”
Both Ashley and Jesse feel that they did the only thing they could do — the human thing. When that young, scared mother looked into their eyes and asked them to include this baby in the life they have worked hard to create, they simply knew it was the right thing to do.
“The foster care system needs people to show up, and when she called us, we showed up,” Ashley said. Jesse echoed his wife’s sentiments, explaining that anyone can go through the process of becoming a foster parent so they too can make a quantifiable difference in a child’s life.
“This is something anybody can do and my hope is people might see this and realize they can do this too,” he said.
Now the Whitten family has four beautiful daughters, and Harlow’s birth mother can rest easy knowing that she made the right choice for her daughter. Giving up a baby is the most difficult and selfless decision a person can make, but she clearly did it for all the right reasons. Congratulations to the Whitten family, and thank you, Officer, for all that you do.
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