Sarah Brian says her two children were stolen by her own parents—with help from the state of Texas.
As a 25-year-old woman who’d grown convinced that her parents were trying to control her, Sarah saw her arrest and her daughter’s removal as stark displays of just how little power she had in her hometown. The court order mandated she was allowed to be with Zoe only if one of her parents supervised. But they fell gradually back into their old routines, Sarah making Zoe’s organic baby food in the kitchen and taking her daughter out for walks. Sarah and her parents often had heated fights over parenting questions—like whether the girl should eat peanut butter—letting Sarah’s father decide.
She placated her parents, they later claimed, by scheduling an evaluation with a doctor in Shreveport, Louisiana, later in 2007, but secretly she planned her escape. On the computer at home, while she watched her daughter and her mother watched her, Sarah discreetly researched other cities—weather, support networks, work prospects—and settled on Flagstaff, Arizona. Pictures of its forests and hills even reminded her a little of home.