Event Replay

This conversation with author Roxanna Asgarian was hosted by the upEND Movement at the University of Houston.



We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America is one of 2023’s most anticipated books and 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 children—with fateful consequences.


We Were Once a Family is a revelation of vulnerable lives; it is also a shattering exposé of the foster care and adoption systems that produced this tragedy. The result is a riveting narrative and a deeply reported indictment of a system that continues to fail America’s most vulnerable children while upending the lives of their families.


At upEND, we are committed to building a society where children are safe and protected in their families and communities, a society where children and families have everything they need to thrive, and a society where the tragedy documented in We Were Once a Family would never occur. Join us for a conversation not only about a failed system and the lives that system destroyed, but also a hope for a different future where children are safe and protected, rather than surveilled and separated.


Roxanna Asgarian is a Texas-based journalist who writes about courts and the law for The Texas Tribune. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, New York, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. She received the 2022 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for We Were Once a Family.