Judge: Drug "Epidemic" Produces Jump In Foster Children

The number of Smith County children in foster care is nearly doubling every year.

That's according to a judge who hears child custody cases every day.

Judge Carole Clark says a big part of the problem is parents hooked on drugs. That is the case with two East Texas children, who took years to finally find a new family.

Kayla, 6, has been living with Jackie and Michelle Stevens for almost four years. Before that, Kayla was in a foster home. When her brother, 19-month-old Alex was born, he was taken in by the Stevens as well. Child advocates say he had crack and meth in his system.

"I want kids to go home," Judge Clark said. "I don't want kids in foster care. But if they can't go home, I want them to have an adoptive home, too. I want them to have a permanent home."

Judge Clark says, like other parents who endanger their children, these children's birth mother was given a year to clean up, but she did not. And she was not in court as her parental rights were taken away.

"There's no better place for these children than with Jackie and Michelle Stevens, in my opinion," a representative from CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) said.

"By the power vested in me in the state of Texas, I hereby grant this adoption," Judge Clark pronounced.

"Everybody says that the kids are lucky that we took them in, but I think we're luckier that we have them," Michelle, the children's adoptive mother, said.

It has not been an easy process.

"There's a few times, it's gut-wrenching," Jackie, the children's adoptive father, said. "You don't know what to really expect. But I mean, like I said, we went through it, and it was a long, dragged-out deal. And it's worked out for its best."

The best for this new family of four.

In this family's case, baby Alex spent six weeks in the hospital after he was born premature. His adoptive mother says he has suffered gastric reflux, sleep apnea, and other medical problems. Fortunately, now, he is doing better and getting stronger every day.

Julie Tam, reporting. jtam@kltv.com