MANCHESTER, NH – Beyond the crushing headlines pleading for help in finding Harmony Montgomery, 7, a child who has not been accounted for since the fall of 2019, there is a parallel universe; a world that promises love, safety and permanency for children caught up in the foster care system.
In this case, those worlds have collided for Blair and Johnathon Miller of Washington, D.C. In November of 2019, they adopted Harmony’s younger half-brother, Jamison through the Massachusetts foster care system.
Harmony was placed in foster care at age 4. She and Jamison were moved together and separately through the system, part of Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families. Their mother, Crystal Sorey, lost custody of both children in July of 2018 due to personal struggles with addiction. Harmony’s father, Adam Montgomery, was granted full custody by the state, despite his own addiction issues and past criminal history, one of many confounding facts of the case yet to be addressed by authorities.
Sorey has since found her way to sobriety.
Giving up her children was not an easy thing for her to accept. But it was also Sorey’s loss that led to the completion of the Millers’ family.
On Nov. 19, 2019, they adopted Jamison in an open adoption and have maintained a relationship with Sorey. In fact, Blair says it was Jamison’s recent struggle to process the absence of his sister that led the Millers to encourage Sorey to reinvigorate her search for Harmony.
“He asks for his sister and looks for her at playgrounds. We pushed her to help us figure out where she is so we can have a relationship with her,” says Blair.
Sorey believed her daughter to still be in the custody of Adam Montgomery. After trying with no luck to locate Montgomery in recent months based on the information she had, Sorey was finally able to get Manchester Police involved. A missing person investigation was launched November 18, 2021, and, weeks later NH DCYF informed police they could not account for Harmony’s whereabouts. Police Chief Allen Aldenberg immediately went public with the case on Dec. 31.
Adam Montgomery was arrested Jan. 4 by Manchester Police and charged with assault related to a July 2019 incident alleging he abused Harmony. Police found him living out of a car in Manchester with another woman. On Jan. 5 his estranged wife, Kayla Montgomery, was arrested and charged with Welfare fraud for cashing food stamps provided to them for Harmony between February 2019 and the present – even though both Adam and Kayla Montgomery made statements to police that Harmony had not lived with them since November of 2019.
When questioned on Dec. 31 Adam Montgomery initially told a detective Harmony was fine and he had seen her somewhat recently. Later, however, he said he hadn’t seen Harmony since Sorey came to pick her up in Manchester around Thanksgiving 2019, although Kayla Montgomery had already told police that he claimed to her that he had driven Harmony to her mother’s home in Massachusetts. On multiple occasions, Adam Montgomery stopped answering questions saying, “I have nothing else to say.”
The Millers, through their love for Jamison, have become part of this troubling story. As they wait for answers, their resolve to be a strong voice of advocacy for adoption has only been magnified.
From foster care to adoption in Massachusetts
When Blair and Johnathon Miller made the decision to adopt a third child it was more like a calling. They were living in Boston at the time. Blair was an anchor for WFXT Boston TV 25 News and Johnathon, a paramedic. They had already adopted two sons.
“Johnathon had a call where there was a baby that had been neglected or abandoned, they were trying to figure out what to do. We thought that we would love to help and so we made a call to find out what the next step would be. A few phone calls later we were told we needed all this certification in Boston. We were disappointed, which told us we weren’t done having kids,” says Miller, with a laugh.
In conversation with a friend who was also a judge at the time in family services, the idea of adopting through Massachusetts’ foster care system came up. And that is what led them to their third son, Jamison – half-brother of Harmony Montgomery.
Above: Blair and Johnathon Miller share their story on National Adoption Day 2019 in Boston.
After starting the process of fostering Jamison with the intention of adoption, they learned he had a sister. They inquired as to whether she, too, was eligible for adoption but were told she had been reunited with her father.
“There are a lot of questions and concerns about what’s happened in this case – and others like it. We’ll be part of that change and fight for it, through advocacy and change for the system to work. Right now that’s not our fight. We want to know where Harmony is and what happened to her and have answers for our son,” Blair says.
Only then can they refocus on the larger problems plaguing child protective services.
“Once we have the answers we need for our own family’s sake, then we’ll dive head-first into figuring out what happened, and the process, and how to change it and make it better for other kids,” Blair says.
When the Millers learned in December that authorities had become involved in the search for Harmony, they were already well aware of Crystal Sorey’s journey, and her attempts to find her daughter. In fact, when they adopted Jamison on Nov. 19, 2019, National Adoption Day, they would later learn that the last time anyone could pinpoint Harmony’s whereabouts was just two weeks later.
“We’re still trying to understand how (Harmony’s father) gained custody. Like many people out there, we don’t understand that, either. We assumed a lot when we were told that Harmony was reunited with her father, and the state (of Massachusetts) supported that. Thanksgiving was the last time people had seen Harmony. Going back through our own timeline, we adopted Jamison in a very public way the week before Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. It was on TV and it was out there. So we’re curious about that. It means a lot was going on for Harmony and Jamison at that time. We’re trying to see if there’s anything connected there,” Blair says.
Thursday night Blair reached out to Manchester Police after viewing a media interview with Christina Lubin, the mother of Kayla Montgomery, who was still married to Harmony’s father, Adam, in 2019. The hope was maybe there was some more information the Millers could provide that might help piece together the timeline of Harmony’s disappearance.
As for Jamison and Harmony’s mother, Blair acknowledges that there are many unanswered questions about the gap in time between when she last saw her daughter alive, via a Facetime conversation Easter weekend, April of 2019, and when Manchester Police acknowledge they had contact with Harmony in October of 2019, during a police call to a residence in Manchester where Harmony was living with her father, to the present.
“People have a lot of questions for Crystal, but they don’t understand her life story, either. I won’t speak for her and what she’s experienced, except to say she has love for her children. We’re trying to support her the best way we know how,” Blair says, which includes daily conversations with her of late, and allowing for Jamison and Crystal to have a relationship within the parameters of their open adoption, something the Millers have also maintained with the mothers of their other two sons.
When the couple first heard about Jamison as a child in need of adoption, his portfolio included information about his older sister, and that she had been reunited with her father.
“Keep in mind Jamison had been in and out of foster homes and there was time missing in that timeline, and he and Harmony had not always been together. We’re not sure to what extent they were kept together, but we had inquired about her and asked if there was anything we could do, or a situation in which her status could change. At the time we didn’t hear a lot of details,” Blair says. They began the process of adoption with Jamison in June of 2019, and met his mother about a month before the adoption was finalized.
“We said we wanted to know who his mom is and more about her. We already had open adoptions with our older sons, and even though social workers told us we could handle things any way we wanted to, we didn’t want to shield our sons from their truth,” Blair says.
“We’ve always said to their moms that we wanted them to have a relationship with their children. It’s the ultimate love, to give up a child knowing you can’t give them what they need. So it’s always been important to us to have open adoption, for our boys’ sake. We want them to know their stories. We don’t want it to be a mystery. Obviously, we didn’t give birth to them. And on Mother’s Day they can say ‘I have a mom,’ and also, a loving family, and we can celebrate all of that together.”
Holding onto the light while traveling a dark road
As a reporter who has covered similar cases professionally, Blair says he knows the darkness that seeps in when a child is missing and the search goes on without a break.
“It feels dark, yes. I’ve been on the other end, covering these stories and seeing how they end dark. We’re trying to block our minds from going too far down that road for a number of reasons,” says Blair. “We’re holding onto that optimism and hope she ended up somewhere, even though we know wherever she ended up it’s probably not a great situation.”
Part of the frustration is knowing that someone involved knows something.
“We have optimism and hope that she’s alive and someone knows something – in fact, someone does know something. It’s a matter of if they’re going to say it, and not just for our sake, but for our boy’s sake, for Jamison, who talks about his sister all the time and thinks he sees her out in public,” says Blair. “We’re hoping we can have that reunion we all hope for.”
On Friday Manchester Police announced the reward for information leading to Harmony Montgomery’s whereabouts had increased to $94,000.
“In the past 24 hours we received five pledges, one of which was a private donation from Bernice Thomas of Nashua for $15,000. Along with Ms. Thomas we have received a private offer of $10,000 from Jessica Popp of Vermont, $5,000 from NH Executive Councilor Janet Stevens of District 3, $3,000 from Alpha-Bits Learning Center of Manchester, and Harmony Psychiatric Services of Salem has pledged $1,000,” police said in a news brief. Tips can be made by calling 603-203-6060, a tip line dedicated to this case. It is manned 24/7 and can receive both calls and text messages.
Keeping children in the system safe
Blair acknowledges that it’s easy to focus on what went wrong, particularly when the facts of a case like Harmony Montgomery emerge and it appears she was failed by so many, including the system in place to protect her.
“So many of us are reactive, we all feel called to do something when something goes wrong but there are a lot of things that go right, a lot of amazing foster parents and great social workers that don’t get attention. We should be lifting them up and encouraging them, celebrating that and thanking them for being in that world,” Blair says.
He is on the board of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which is connected to New Hampshire through one of their programs, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids which is part of Bethany Christian Services here in Candia. The Millers often field questions from others who want to understand how fostering and adoption work. Blair recalls how their own journey began 10 years ago, when the idea of building a family became a reality.
“My husband was the driver of us having kids and getting married. I came from the mindset that it wasn’t possible for us, or because I’m on TV and can’t do this,” says Blair. “I was naive and sheltered a bit.”
That all changed while they were living in Charlotte, NC.
“We were attending a church called Watershed, and…,” Blair pauses mid-sentence to field an unexpected emotion that comes bubbling up. “We were surrounded by a church community that was supportive of us and of adoption. Some of our best friends at the time had adopted. We saw that and started to surround ourselves with people who’d been adopting. We were called to that and we started going down that road.”
He recalls waiting at an adoption agency and being asked what kind of baby they wanted.
“We said ‘Just one that needs love,’ and with that, we were off to the races. Initially, we went through a private adoption. Each one has been different, but that’s how it started. And it’s really Johnathon who keeps the relationship going with the moms. He’s got such a big heart. I get wrapped up with the day-to-day of my job, but he’s really good at cultivating those relationships and the reason we have our three beautiful sons,” says Blair.
And when it came time to grow their family, the Millers just knew that Jamison was for them.
“They were preparing to email us some cases and Jamison was one of the first – if not the first. They send you a photo and it just hits you in the gut. I’ll never forget seeing his picture and remember thinking, ‘That’s our son.’ I sent the picture to Johnathon and that was it,” Blair says.
In private adoption, there is the process of presenting yourself and being picked by a birth mother, and the feeling of whether you are “good enough” to be chosen. In the case of Jamison, it was knowing that there was a little boy in need of a loving family, and the Millers knew they had more love to give.
“The world is a messy place. There are a lot of children in need. Anybody out there who is thinking about adoption should start asking the questions. Just having the conversation is the right place to begin,” Blair says. “This world is busy and fast-paced, but when we can focus on positive things that surround this issue and try to understand the hurdles and barriers, only then can we do something to change it.”
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