Brian Zach is a lieutenant of the Kingman Police Department in Kingman, Arizona. In March 2018, he was on duty as patrol sergeant one night when his team got a call. He and his team followed up on a welfare check where they were directed to a house that had done other welfare checks.
Upon arrival, Officer Zach saw a toddler who had injuries that pointed to an unsafe home environment. He was assigned to help the little girl who needed protection. Little did he know just how large of an impact that this child would have on his life from the first time they sat with each other.
One evening in late March 2018, Officer Brian Zach was at the beginning of his night shift at the Police Department in Kingman, Arizona. While out on patrol, Officer Zach suddenly received a call. He was being called in for a welfare check, and all that he knew was that a child was involved.
When he was making his way to the house, they shared with him that this house has had a few other calls for welfare checks in the past. There was also believed to be a young child on the premise that was being neglected.
After arriving at the scene of the house in question, Officer Zach searched the scene and found the toddler, a two-year-old girl named Kaila. Officer Zach remembers how that during their inspection of her person, it was clear that Kaila had injuries that were consistent with victims of abuse.
Beyond the physical evidence that they were able to see on Kaila, police officers had been called to Kaila’s house and perform welfare checks twice before Officer Zach got involved. Surely after three calls, this toddler wouldn’t be left in such an awful environment for any more time.
After assessing the scene and finishing an initial investigation, Officer Zach refused to let this toddler stay in a hostile environment like this. Instead, he decided to bring her back to the police station, where the two waited for the arrival of Arizona’s Department of Child Safety (DCS).
Officer Zach and Kaila had to wait for more than five hours before DCS arrived at the police station, so that gave the two of them plenty of time to create a bond. Officer Zach’s parental instincts and made sure she felt comfortable, safe and kept her preoccupied with activities.
Officer Zach noticed that Kaila didn’t speak that much and that she came off very shy. He also picked up on the fact that she was pretty skilled when it came to working on an iPad. From when they arrived to the moment DCS showed up, the two of them hung out together.
The pair spent all those hours together eating snacks, coloring pictures, and watching “Wreck-It Ralph” on the iPad. Through their time together, Kaila would sit close to Officer Zach and behave really well. Officer Zach already started incessantly worrying about what would happen to this adorable child.
Even though that shift was the first time they had ever met, the heartwarming connection between Kaila and Officer Zach was obvious to everyone who saw them that night. After only knowing each other for a few hours, the pair quickly became quite comfortable around each other.
Officer Zach recalled that while they were spending time together back at the station, she wouldn’t leave his side and held onto his hand almost the entire night. He remembers just how cute she was despite everything she had experienced. After a few hours, DCS representatives got to the station.
After hours of trying to keep Kaila entertained, DCS detectives finally arrived at the police station. Once they were briefed on the case, the detectives took over responsibility for Kaila and what would happen to her. They drove her from the station to the nearest hospital to take care of her wounds.
She was quickly seen by nurses and a doctor, all of whom confirmed that she was perfectly healthy, physically at least. Detectives were relieved but still left with one crucial question – where would this little girl live since her home had been labeled as an unsafe environment?
Child protective services began an exhaustive search for a suitable place that Kaila could stay. Though they spent hours on the phone and following every lead they could find, child protective services weren’t successful in locating any family members who could host Kalia.
Though she was out of sight, she wasn’t out of Officer Zach’s mind. He called the DCS to receive an update on Kaila but was very upset to learn that she was spending the night alone in her hospital bed. Once learning that news, Officer Zach couldn’t get Kaila out of his head.
When his shift was over, and he was on his way home, Officer Zach kept replaying what DCS had told him about Kaila. Once he walked into his house, he immediately told his wife Cierra about the cute little girl with whom he had forged a strong bond that night.
In his personal life, Officer Zach was a father of two children. He was especially concerned for Kaila’s well-being, even saying how he should have had Kaila sleep at his family’s home that night. Someone had to step up and help this defenseless little girl.
Luckily, it was during Officer Zach’s guilt-ridden spiral that he got a phone call from DCS. Because of how short notice this case was, they weren’t able to find an acceptable foster family. DCS thought that since Officer Zach and Kaila had built such a nice connection at the station, he might be a great last resort.
The DCS agent wanted to know if Officer Zach and his family could step in a placement family for Kaila until they could find a suitable alternative for long-term housing. Though his instinct was to accept the offer right away, he knew that his whole family also had to agree.
While Officer Zach’s initial instinct was to go pick up Kaila from the hospital right away to bring her home with him, he knew that his primary responsibility was his family. He had to take into account their feelings and if they’d even be comfortable with having an unfamiliar girl stay with them.
Besides his wife Cierra, he also had two kids from his first marriage —Reina, his seventeen-year-old daughter, and Trevin, his fifteen-year-old son. Right after getting the offer from DCS, Officer Zach called a family meeting to discuss the matter at hand.
With the whole family assembled together in their home, Officer Zach showed them a photo of Kaila. He told them exactly what the little girl had gone through. He was also very adamant about explaining how the family would have to take care of her should they agree that she come stay with them.
Officer Zach knew that fostering a child is tough enough, only made tougher if that child has survived hardships. Despite the potential challenges they might run into, every single Zach family member was enthusiastic, but Officer Zach started having his own anxieties about it.
The DCS pulled up outside their home with the defenseless little girl a couple of days after the Zach family enthusiastically agreed to have Kaila come stay with them. DCS was relieved to have found a short-term placement for her and hoped that she would like this family.
All of a sudden, Officer Zach was overcome with stress as his confidence was wavering about if Kaila would feel comfortable in his house or if she would even remember who he was. He didn’t have too long to dwell on his doubts as he opened the car door and saw her.
A lot was leading up to this moment as he opened the door to show the little girl where she would be staying for the time being. Officer Zach was nervous – Would she remember him out of uniform? Was that whole night too much for her to remember him at all?
Officer Zach was relieved to see that Kaila did remember him. When he opened the car door, the young girl reached out for him with an astonished look on her face. Instinctually, Kaila reached her hand out and held onto the policeman as he took her inside the house.
While the Zach family was excited to have Kaila in their home, they were prepared that her adjustment would be tough, even if it were just for a short time. All of a sudden, the Zach family had to purchase a bed, toilet, and highchair to ensure she had everything she needed.
Keep in mind; the toddler had been neglected for the majority of her life. So, the only possessions that Kaila had arrived with were a bag of clothes that didn’t really fit her and one sippy cup. But that was only one challenge they’d have to confront.
As Kaila walked into the Zachs’ house, Officer Zach figured it might be a nice idea to ease her into their home by putting something on the TV. As an ode to the night that they spent at the station together, he put on “Wreck-It Ralph,” and the two of them watched it on the couch.
The toddler rarely spoke, and when she did, she had an extremely minimal vocabulary, with her most used words being “milk,” “no,” and “choccy.” During her second day with the family, Kaila would add another word to her vocabulary that would leave everyone shocked.
In the most surprising of circumstances, she instinctively said “mom” when she was calling for Cierra. The family didn’t know how to react but knew that they didn’t want to do something that might make it worse for Kaila. They decided to ask friends who had also fostered kids in their homes.
When they asked these family friends about what to do with this new situation, they suggested that it’s best to go with the flow on this one to make sure that they avoided making Kaila feel rejected. And that’s precisely how they moved forward.
With Kaila calling Cierra “mom” and the kids getting along with her, it was clear that she was becoming more comfortable with the family. Just as “mom” was surprising, Kaila’s name for Officer Zach was surprisingly odd = she referred to him as “guy.”
Once she began attending preschool, she started to see other children get picked up by their dads. Being the bright girl she was, she quickly picked up on this pattern, and soon she started eagerly pointing out Officer Zach to the kids in her class and yelled, “That’s my dad!”
While Kaila fit in well with the Zach family right away, she was still coping with several challenges that no children should have to deal with. Oftentimes, nightmares would wake her up in the middle of the night, and she would have to be comforted for hours falling back to sleep.
It was a lot for anyone to deal with, never mind a family that wasn’t related to her but was taking care of her because they were kind. But even with her past traumas, the Zach family knew that Kaila would be staying with them for a bit longer.
Without a second thought, Officer Zach and Cierra applied for their license to become official foster parents. The next several months saw Kaila become an essential member of the family, with the group traveling to inspiring excursions like a family trip to Disneyland and a Hawaiian vacation.
All of the trips together made the love between Kaila and the Zach families grew exponentially stronger. They felt like a complete family. With their bond with Kaila strengthening each day, having her as a temporary foster child just wasn’t an option anymore.
After many family meetings and hours of discussion, the Zach family understood there was only one conclusion that made sense – Kaila was going to become part of the family officially. Two and a half years after Kaila had first arrived at the Zachs’ home, she was officially adopted by Officer Zach and Cierra.
Officer Zach had no idea that his job would fulfill both his professional life and now his personal one. On the day of Kaila’s adoption, everyone was emotional as Officer Zach shared that the best part of 2020 was their family’s new addition – the perfect Christmas gift!
Adoption day was full of happiness and smiles as Kaila officially became a member of the family that showered her in love and attention. Kaila shared how much she loved Officer Zach and the entire family when she was asked how she felt about them.
All members of the family agreed that with Kaila’s official joining of their family, it felt much more complete. The story is a heartwarming one, and Officer Zach drew lots of attention for his selflessness. Some who heard of this story went so far as to label him as a hero.
Uniformed officers tend to get a reputation that they’re rigid and overly disciplined. Though Officer Zach took his job seriously, he mentioned that civilians don’t realize how emotionally invested police officers actually are. In a northern district police station, there was a similar story.
Officer Jesse Whitten is a cop with a similar story to Officer Zach. As it turned out, Officer Zach was very open about saying that Officer Whitten had been one of his inspirations from the start of his journey with Kaila. Glad to know that there are other cops going above and beyond the job description!
As a uniformed officer on the police force, Jesse Whitten was often driving around on patrol in the streets of Santa Rosa, California. Whitten was a cop who took his oath to serve and protect very seriously, especially since he was a father to three kids who happened to live in his patrol zone.
He was diligent in his patrols to make sure that his wife, Ashley, and their daughters could feel safe in their own neighborhood. Most of these patrols resulted in minimal action if any, but there was one interaction in a parking lot that would change everything.
A seasoned officer, Whitten tended to stay on the same routes throughout the neighborhood to make sure that he was doing a thorough drive-through. Along his regular route, he typically passed by Coddingtown Mall. It was the place to shop for families in the area.
As any neighborhood shopping facility is, there are always hundreds of people passing through every day. To remember a single person there means that this person was beyond memorable. Well, Whitten frequently drove by a young woman that he would see day in and day out.
This young woman was at the shopping mall every day when Whitten was doing his patrol because that’s where she was living. Her name was Maisey, and partially due to her struggle with addiction, she was homeless. During one patrol, Whitten and Maisey started a conversation.
After their initial conversation, the unlikely pair became pretty friendly. Yet, in addition to her blatant troubles, there was another piece of the puzzle concerning Maisey’s situation that left Whitten with persistent concerns. She was one of the things that he made sure to check on while on duty.
Not only was Maisey dealing with being homeless and struggling to live with addiction, but she was also expecting a baby. Whitten recalled that was something that struck him when they first began chatting since it’s a pretty unusual occurrence to see someone who is pregnant AND living on the street.
His priority on patrol is to search for, identify, and stop any dangerous people. Instead, found a young woman who just needed someone to help and support her. As a police officer, Whitten had seen numerous difficult situations, but as a dad, he felt for Maisey’s struggle.
Whenever his patrol took him past the mall, Whitten would always stop for a few minutes to speak with Maisey. After a number of different conversations, he was able to hear about her life and how she got to where she was. He was able to learn more about her history and personal information.
From their talks, Whitten came to the realization that he had actually met Maisey’s two other kids from a foster youth camp that the city put on every year. This recently discovered connection encouraged his sense of duty to support her through her tough circumstances.
After getting to know about Maisey, Whitten took it upon himself to transport her to numerous shelters and drug rehab facilities to make sure that she was taken care of. He wanted to ensure that she had the option of a bed for her to sleep in and safely detox.
But for Whitten, that still wasn’t enough. He felt compelled to help even more than what he had already done. To continue his pattern of selflessness, he drove Maisey to a medical center for a checkup to check on the baby with an ultrasound.
When he took her to the hospital for the ultrasound, Whitten was allowed to sit in for it. Maisey was over the moon to be given the help to make these appointments possible. She was literally glowing when she found out that she was going to have a baby girl.
As a way to show how much she appreciated all of his help with everything, Maisey saved one of the ultrasound images and gifted it to Whitten for him to keep. She always remembered his open-mindedness and genuine kindness. He had her full trust.
Whitten’s interventions came from the best of intentions, but for anyone battling addiction, that kind of motivation has to come from the individual rather than outside sources for any treatment plans to work. Maisey wasn’t looking for help when Whitten first started talking to her and began offering his help.
Despite his best efforts, Maisey’s battle with addiction was harsh and not ending anytime soon. She stayed on the streets throughout the time she was pregnant. He made an extra effort to check in on her every time he saw her during one of his patrols.
The only thing that Whitten was more dedicated to than his job was his wife and kids. Throughout all of his efforts with Maisey, he confided in his wife Ashley about her progress. There was one night during the summer of 2017 when Whitten brought his wife Ashley along for his patrol ride.
During their patrol together, they saw Maisey in her regular spot near the mall. Whitten had shared his concerns with Ashley about the young homeless woman, so when they spotted her during the patrol, they were compelled to swing by and check-in with her.
Maisey was so excited to see Officer Whitten and was even more ecstatic to finally meet Ashley in person after only hearing about Ashley from her conversations with Whitten. The Whittens asked how she was feeling and if she needed anything that night like food or water.
Ashley vividly recalls putting her hand on Maisey’s belly and feeling the movements of the baby girl in the womb. She was so worried and truly hoped that the little girl still had a chance at a good life. Little did they know how sentimental that moment would become.
Officer Whitten and his wife Ashley left their visit with Maisey, happy that she was doing alright but nervous for that unborn baby girl. A few months after that meeting, on February 14, 2018, Ashley got a phone call concerning an update about Maisey, and she was unprepared for what they had to say.
Ashley picked up the phone to hear a representative for the county. They called the Whitten house because Maisey had given birth to her baby girl! The tone quickly shifted when they informed Ashley that the child was going to be placed in emergency foster care.
As we talked about earlier, addiction is a tough beast to confront and overcome. Maisey had been battling it for years, and despite Whitten’s positive influence, she hadn’t made much progress when it came to stopping her drug use. Even during her pregnancy.
Whitten knew Maisey tried numerous times to overcome her addiction, but the results came back positive that the baby had been born with drugs in her system. Together with her homelessness, the county had no other option but to move forward with finding foster placement for the newborn.
Though Maisey’s parental rights were being forfeited due to the fact that she wasn’t in a place to care for a child, the county still asked Maisey if she could think of anyone who could fill in as the foster family for her baby, she asserted that the Whitten family was the ideal choice.
Shocked was one way to describe what the Whittens were feeling. Whitten recalled Maisey casually asking if he would think about taking care of her newborn, but he just thought that she was making conversation – How was he supposed to know she was serious?!
Desperately trying to pull themselves together and get things in order, the Whittens called their pastor to ask him to come over and watch their three daughters, Kendall, Reese, Stella. He agreed and showed up right as Officer Whitten and Ashley were ready to go.
With their girls at home in good hands, Officer Whitten and Ashley left to go talk with Maisey at the hospital. Choosing them as the foster parents made her decision all the more unexpected. They hadn’t discussed the logistics of taking on another child between the two of them, so there was a lot to talk about.
When Officer Whitten and Ashley arrived at the hospital, they ran straight for the room that Maisey was staying in. Once in the room with her, the Whittens asked her how she had come to choose them as her first choice for foster parents. They were both a bit taken aback by her answer.
Officer Whitten recalled that Maisey had told him that day about how she could tell that he was someone who was fair but firm. Maisey had had a vision of her newborn play with sisters, wearing tutus – a vision that she wanted to make a reality.
It was a much more profound answer than either of them was expecting. Though it was a powerful sentiment, Officer Whitten and Ashley still wanted to make sure that Maisey was whole with her decision. They wondered, “Is she asking us to foster, or is this a forever arrangement?”
When they double, triple, and quadruple checked with Maisey, she continuously and consistently gave them the same answer. She confidently insisted she wanted the best for her baby girl, and that meant for her to be loved and surrounded by kind people.
Officer Whitten and Ashley looked at each other and knew that if anyone could give this newborn the type of life that Maisey was describing, it was them and their family. When they got to meet their new daughter, it was a joyous and emotional first meeting.
The moment Officer Whitten held the newborn in his arms; he was overwhelmed by the instantaneous love that filled him. It was then that the Whittens knew the baby girl was intended to be part of their family. She was destined to be a Whitten.
Six months after Maisey welcomed her newborn into the world, the baby girl became an official member of the Whitten family. In August of 2018, the entire Whitten family, including their newest addition, went to adoption court to make her place in their family legally official.
The judge who was presiding over this adoption hearing in Sonoma County asked the three biological Whitten daughters if they were interested in getting a brand-new sister. All three of them gave a roaring “Yes!” Finally, the former family of five was able to claim their sixth member legally.
With an unconventional adoption like theirs, the Whittens wanted to give their new addition a name that had meaning and was connected to her birth story. The Whittens told the judge that they were going with the name Harlow Maisey for their now seven-month-old.
The name bore a lot of meaning for multiple reasons. First, and most obvious, is her middle name. Her birth mother chose it, and the Whittens wanted to keep it in honor of her loving sacrifice. Her first name went well with her sisters’ names – a formal way for her to feel part of the family.
The Whittens had three wonderful children and were quite content with their family of five. With baby Harlow unexpectedly coming into their lives, Officer Whitten and Ashley felt motivated to encourage others to think about fostering children or adoption.
The addition of Harlow only expanded their hearts and ability to love. Now that she’s part of their family, they couldn’t picture life without her. Becoming foster parents wasn’t something that they had been trying to for a while, but they felt compelled to show up when they got the call.
This story had all the key components for a viral story: happy family, dedicated parents, adorable children, and unimaginable sacrifice. So, it came to no one’s surprise when this story was reported on and became the next big heartwarming story.
The family appeared in a television interview that focused on Officer Whitten, Ashley, and baby Harlow Maisey. During the interview, Ashley offered her biggest takeaway from their process, “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.”