Special Reports

Born Addicted Part 2: Becoming a foster or adoptive parent

347 children in El Paso in need of a home

Born Addicted Part 2 Becoming a foster or adoptive parent

EL PASO, Texas - An ABC-7 special report on the youngest victims of the opioid crisis prompted several families to share their stories.

Edna Garcia and her husband Raul adopted two children from Edna's niece, who was addicted to heroin while she was pregnant.

"We tell people we're adopting and they were born with addiction, they right away think there are going to be a lot of problems," Raul said.

He and Edna were approached by Edna's niece about helping her get her 3-year-old daughter out of state care in 2016. Gracelyn had been in five foster homes before moving in with the Garcia family, who already had six children of their own at home. The adoption was finalized last November.

The Garcias said the biological mother wanted to drop off a present for Gracelyn on Christmas and ended up going into labor that evening, giving birth to Christopher on Dec. 26, 2016.

"CPS came later and they asked if we would be willing to take him," Raul said. "CPS said they would probably put him in a foster home (and) Gracelyn was asking if we were going to bring home her baby brother."

The Garcias spent every day in the neonatal ICU with Christopher for the six weeks it took for him to withdraw from heroin.

"Just seeing him go through it makes us appreciate our other kids a lot more because that didn't happen," Edna said. "That's not normal for (babies) to experience the tremors, to be on medication.

"We had to give him that emotional support and start building an emotional bond with them so that he could trust us," Edna added. "They don't have that trust when they're born like that because they've endured so much pain."

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says 34 percent of the 4,805 cases officers investigated in 2015 involved drugs or alcohol.

The crisis is not as dire in El Paso as it is in other parts of the nation, but state and local data show that the numbers of children being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, have climbed in the past decade.

Currently, 347 children in El Paso are in need of a permanent family. Nearly one out of four are forced to live outside the county because there aren't enough foster families to house them.

With November being National Adoption Awareness Month, officials with the Texas DFPS are urging families to consider fostering and adopting -- especially older children.

Melissa Telles, a DFPS foster and adoption development worker, told ABC-7 that for some families, "old" means 13 years. For others, even 6 years is too old.

"We try even up until the time that they're 17, about to be 18, to continue to try to find them a family that will adopt them and give them the legal status that families bring," Telles told ABC-7.

Those interested in becoming a foster parent can attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 501 Hawkins Boulevard. DFPS will discuss requirements and the process. Everyone is welcome, regardless of marital status. The main requirements are applicants must be 21 or older with a stable income.

"That kind of compassion goes pretty far and it's a beautiful thing. And a lot of families have said that," said Telles.

Edna and Raul never intended to adopt. Now, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've heard stories where people say, 'I don't want to adopt because I'm afraid of what I'm going to get,'" Edna said. "We have our own children, and we don't know what we're going to get, either."

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