Every single time their shifts start, police officers know they might not make it home alive. Still, they get tough and put themselves on the line to keep us safe. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have softer sides, too: to be a cop also means being deeply compassionate.
A police officer in California made a series of compassionate choices to help a woman in desperate need. Little did he know his small gestures would lead to a single phone call that would leave him with a serious, family-defining choice to make…
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.
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.
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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.
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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.” Ashley and Jesse are an inspiration to us all.