Bighearted cop adopts opioid-addicted newborn from homeless mother

A routine call ended with an unexpected twist for an Albuquerque police officer.

Officer Ryan Holets was responding to reports of a robbery at a convenience store. It was after investigating that he walked out behind the building and found Crystal Champ, 35, getting ready to inject heroin.

Holets turned on his bodycam and approached Champ and her companion. When he realized Champ was pregnant, he began scolding her. “You’re going to kill your baby,” Holets is heard saying on the bodycam footage. “Why do you have to be doing that stuff? It’s going to ruin your baby.” Champ then breaks down in tears.

“I know how bad my situation is,” she later told CNN in an interview. “I know what a horrible person I am.” Champ has battled addiction to heroin and crystal meth since she was a teenager. She now lives in a tent among the brush beside a highway.

“It’s not every day I see a sight like that,” said Holets. “It just made me really sad.” It was in that moment that Holets decided he would offer to adopt Champ’s child. He feels that God was telling him to do it “because you can,” Holets told CNN.

There was only one problem. Holets, a father of four, hadn’t discussed the decision with his wife yet. Their youngest child was only 10 months old.

Holets got in his squad car and drove out to where his wife was attending a going-away party for a friend. He went right up to her and told her everything that had happened. The couple had discussed adopting but originally had wanted to wait till their youngest was a bit older.

“He already knew my heart on the issue, and he knew that I would be totally onboard with it,” Holets’s wife, Rebecca, told CNN.

Three weeks later, Champ gave birth to a baby girl, Hope. Due to her mother’s drug abuse, Hope was born addicted to opioids. The medical term for it is neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. It’s a drug-withdrawal condition that can cause irritability, autonomic overreactivity, and gastrointestinal tract dysfunction in the child.

There’s also the risk of developmental disorders for children affected by NAS as they grow older. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a child with NAS is born every 25 minutes in the U.S.

Treatment for NAS can include methadone and morphine to help the child detox. The withdrawal symptoms can be as intense for infants as they are for adults.

“She needs to have a safe environment and a stable life and be able to grow and be nurtured and be safe and secure and all of these things I can’t give her right now,” said Champ. “There needs to be more people like Ryan and his wife and their family in this world.”

The Holetses say that when the time is right, they will tell Hope about the circumstances of her adoption. Champ herself was adopted at an early age.

After giving birth, with the Holetses at the hospital, she gave the couple her child and said goodbye. “She turns to me and says, ‘Take care of her for me.’ And I said, ‘I will take good care of her, and you take good care of yourself.’ It was super emotional,” said Rebecca.

The opioid crisis continues to grip the nation, with rates of addiction to prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin continuing to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 15,000 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses from opioids in 2015 alone.

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