Arizona policeman Officer Brian Zach was called to the line of duty on one fateful evening in March 2018. Tasked with assisting a toddler in dire need of protection, he had no clue as to the impact that this little girl would have on his life from the moment their eyes first met.
One spring evening, Officer Brian Zach was working the night shift at the Kingman police department when suddenly a call came in. He was told to check on the house where it was believed that a toddler was being neglected. As he arrived on the scene, he investigated the caller’s concerns.
After arriving at the house, Officer Zach stumbled upon the toddler, a two-year-old girl named Kaila. Officer Zach recalled how Kaila had injuries that indicated that she had been a victim of abuse. What’s more, this was the third time that Kaila’s household had been reported to the authorities. Surely, this child couldn’t be left in such a hostile environment any longer?
Refusing to allow this young girl to remain in an abusive home, Officer Zach decided to take her back to the police station, where the pair waited for the Department of Child Safety (DCS) to arrive. Over the next five hours, Officer Zach and Kaila bonded.
While Kaila didn’t talk very much, Officer Zach noticed that she somehow had a knack for working an iPad. The duo spent the next few hours eating snacks, coloring, and watching Wreck-It Ralph on the tablet. Officer Zach already couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen to this young girl.
Despite having just met, the bond between Officer Zach and Kaila was undeniable. “She held my hand, and she was just this cute little thing,” Zach recalled. Soon enough, the DCS arrived at the station.
As soon as the DCS detectives arrived, they transported Kaila to the hospital so that her wounds could be attended to. While she was confirmed to be healthy, there was one question that remained — where would Kaila go now that the only home that she had ever known was deemed unsafe?
No matter how hard they tried, the child protective services were unable to locate any family members who could shelter Kalia. Upon calling the DCS to check up on Kaila, Officer Zach was distraught to learn that the girl was spending the night alone in her hospital bed. From that moment on, Officer Zach couldn’t get Kaila out of his mind.
As he returned home, Officer Zach told his wife Cierra about the adorable little girl that he encountered that night. As a father of two, Officer Zach was incredibly concerned for Kaila’s well-being, even stating how he wished that Kaila could have stayed with his family that night. Something had to be done to help this vulnerable child.
Miraculously, it was during Officer Zach’s moment of anxiety that the DCS phoned. Unable to find a suitable foster family at such short notice, the agent on the line wanted to know if the Zach family could act as a placement family for Kaila until a suitable alternative arrangement could be made. But before he could say yes, the entire family had to be on board.
While Officer Zach’s first instinct was to take Kaila in, he had his own family to think about. In addition to his wife Cierra, he also had two children from a previous marriage — a 17-year-old daughter Reina and a 15-year-old son Trevin. Immediately, Officer Zach called a family conference.
With the entire family gathered together, Officer Zach showed them a picture of Kaila. He explained exactly what the young girl had gone through as well as how the family would have to care for her should she come live with them. Even with the potential challenges in mind, the entire Zach family was ecstatic, but the patriarch started having fears of his own.
A few days after the Zach family agreed to house Kaila, the DCS arrived outside their home with the neglected little girl. Suddenly, Brian was overcome with nerves as he was unsure if Kaila would be comfortable in his home or if she would even recognize him. Soon enough, he opened the car door and discovered the answer to his questions.
While unsure whether it was his uniform or perhaps Kaila’s memory, Officer Zach was relieved to learn that Kaila indeed remembered him. As soon as he opened the car door, the little girl reached out for him with a surprised look on her face. Instinctively, Kaila reached her arm out and held onto the policeman as he led her inside.
While the Zach family was thrilled to welcome Kaila into their home, they knew that her adjustment wouldn’t be easy, even if it was just short-term. Suddenly, the Zachs had to buy her a bed, potty, and high chair. After all, the only possessions that the mistreated Kaila had were a bag of ill-fitting clothes and a sippy cup. But that wasn’t the only challenge.
As Kaila entered the house, Officer Zach decided to put on Wreck-It Ralph, which the pair watched on the couch together. The toddler had a very limited vocabulary, with her main words being “no,” “milk,” and “choccy.” On her second day with the family, Kaila would say another word that would leave the Zachs in utter shock.
In the most unexpected of circumstances, she instinctively called Cierra “mom.” When asking family friends who also foster children what to do about this new development, they said it’s best to go with it so as to avoid rejection. And that’s exactly what they did.
While Kaila called Cierra “mom,” her name for Officer Zach was most peculiar — she called him “guy.” Once she started attending preschool and watching other children get fetched by their fathers, she would excitedly point out Brian to her classmates and proclaim, “That’s my dad!”
While Kaila fit in with the Zachs almost immediately, she was still dealing with some challenges that no small child should have to face. She would often wake up in the middle of the night because of nightmares and would have to be consoled for hours before returning to sleep. But even with her difficulties, the Zach family knew that Kaila would be sticking around a little longer.
Without any hesitation, Officer Zach and Cierra applied for their foster license. The next few months saw Kaila become an integral member of the family, with the group going on exciting excursions such as a trip to Disneyland and a big family vacation to Hawaii. With their love for Kaila growing each day, fostering her temporarily was no longer an option.
Thirty months after Kaila had first set foot in the Zachs’ home, she was officially adopted by Officer Zach and Cierra. “The best thing to come out of 2020 is the fact that we gained an official member of our family. That was my Christmas present,” Officer Zach emotionally declared.
“I love him‚ I love him so much,” Kaila answered when asked about her feelings for Officer Zach. While the family agreed they felt complete with Kalia now officially a part of it, Officer Zach got a lot of attention and was even praised as a hero.
Officer Zach noted that people often don’t realize how soft cops really are. In a precinct up north from his Officer Jesse Whitten pulled off a pretty similar deed. In fact, Zach went so far as to say that Officer Whitten has been his inspiration from the beginning.
As a police officer, Jesse Whitten was often behind the wheel patrolling the streets of Santa Rosa, California. A father raising his three daughters in the community, Jesse took his role to protect and serve seriously. Soon, however, a chance encounter in a parking lot would upend his entire life.
On his route, he usually passed Coddingtown Mall, a local shopping facility. There, Jesse frequently came across a young woman that he couldn’t get out of his mind.
The woman, Maisey, was homeless and struggling with addiction. One day, Jesse struck up a conversation with her, and the two became friendly. Yet despite her obvious troubles, there was something else about Maisey’s situation that left Jesse with lingering concerns.
Maisey was also expecting a child. “It’s not every day you see someone who’s homeless and pregnant,” Jesse recalled. As a cop, he’d seen many difficult situations, but as a father, he sympathized with Maisey’s struggle.
After learning more about her life, Jesse realized he knew Maisey’s two other children from a foster youth camp. This newfound connection furthered his sense of duty to help her through her difficult circumstances.
Jesse brought Maisey to several shelters and drug rehabilitation centers so she could have a warm bed, and detox safely. But, he still felt compelled to do more, so he took Maisey to a hospital for a prenatal checkup and ultrasound.
Glowing with joy, Maisey learned she was expecting a baby girl. As a token of appreciation, she gave the ultrasound image to Jesse to keep. She never forgot his lack of judgment and unconditional kindness. She trusted him.
Despite Jesse’s attempts at intervention, Maisey continued to battle her addiction and remained on the streets throughout her pregnancy. He made efforts to check on her whenever he saw her while on patrol.
One summer night in 2017, Jesse took his wife Ashley along on his patrol ride when they spotted Maisey. He had confided in Ashley his concerns for the young homeless woman, so naturally, they stopped to check in on her.
Ashley remembered vividly placing her hand on Maisey’s belly and feeling the baby girl in the womb. She hoped the little girl still had a chance. Little did they know how meaningful that moment would become…
Because on Valentines Day 2018, Ashley answered a phone call and heard some powerful news she never quite expected. The county was calling because Maisey had given birth and her child had to be placed in emergency foster care.
Jesse knew Maisey attempted many times to overcome her addiction, but ultimately the baby was born with drugs in her system. Coupled with her homelessness, the county had no choice but to seek foster placement.
When Maisey was asked if she had anyone who could care for her baby, she insisted that the Whittens were the best choice. Stunned, Jesse remembered Maisey offhandedly asking if he would consider taking her baby in, but he assumed she wasn’t serious!
Frantically, the Whittens called their pastor to come to babysit their three daughters, Reese, Kendall, and Stella. Ashley and Jesse rushed to speak with Maisey about her decision at the hospital.
“I knew you had daughters. I knew you were firm, but you were fair,” Jesse remembered Maisey telling him that day. “She had this vision of her daughter playing in a tutu with her sisters. That’s what she said she wanted.”
Still, Ashley and Jesse wanted Maisey to be sure. They wondered, “Are you asking us to keep her forever?” She firmly insisted she wanted her daughter to be raised and loved by kind people.
The moment Jesse held the infant in his arms, he was flooded with love. They knew the baby girl was destined to be part of their family. She was the perfect match.
In August of 2018, the new baby girl officially became part of their family. A Sonoma County judge asked the three biological Whitten daughters if they wanted a new sister. Together they gave a resounding, “Yes!”
The Whittens told the judge that the now seven-month-old’s name was Harlow Maisey. Her birth mother chose her middle name, and they kept it to honor her and the sacrifice she made out of love.
Baby Harlow coming into their lives empowered Ashley and Jesse to encourage others to consider adoption or fostering children. They hadn’t set out to become fosters, but when the call came, “we showed up.”
Ashley shared in a television interview, “Through our experience, we are so sure that no child is broken and they don’t need us to fix them. They just need love.”