Pregnant and addicted: How one woman and her son beat the odds

Pregnant and addicted

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of drug addicts have babies in Louisiana every year. The newborns, through no fault of their own, are often born addicted.

There are rehab programs to help drug-using mothers turn their lives around, but in most cases the state relies on the kindness of strangers to bridge the gap.

When Charlotte Metzler gave birth to her son Stephen on April 21,  she was addicted to heroin.

"I probably used drugs five time a day," she said.

She'd been shooting up for months before she knew Stephen was growing inside her.

"I weened myself down to four times a day, then three, then two," Metzler said. "I'd buy Suboxone off the street. It's an opiate blocker. It was making me not sick. When I came in the hospital and told them I was a drug user they tested his placenta. It was still in his placenta, and that's why they took him," she said, tearing up.

Charlotte had very little family support.

"I had a boyfriend who was a drug dealer."

Her son was placed in the custody of the state.

"I sat there and I cried and I apologized to him and I apologized," she said.

Michelle Faust, a regional administrator with the office of Children and Family Services, said part of the state's responsibility is to help mothers get in recovery and become sober. She said Stephen is one of 1,400 children born to addicts in 2015. That's double the number from 2010.

"If we are unable to maintain the child in the family home, the mother's home, we can take custody," Faust said. "We get a court order and place the child in foster care to another loving family."

The state's goal is to reunify mothers like Charlotte with their babies. Mothers are given a year to get clean and prove they can provide a stable life for their children. In Charlotte's case, it was even more complicated.

"They took him April 29 and I went to jail April 30," she said.

She was arrested on a parole violation and spent the first three months after her baby was born in OPP. She had been released from St. Gabriel in 2013 after serving time for possession of stolen property. Her baby was placed with Amanda and Jeremy Lang, foster parents on the North Shore.

"We were very supportive of her once we got to know her and form a relationship with her, " Lang said. "I felt pretty comfortable she was going to get better. She was very determined."

"They were very nice people," Charlotte said of the Langs. "I didn't worry because they took good care of him."

"That is our biggest need right now, to find the foster families who can become adoptive families," Faust said.

She said when foster parents receive a drug-affected newborn, the child will be going through withdrawals.

"The child may have withdrawals of shaking, a startling cry, they may not eat - just a multitude of problems," Faust said.

Stephen was not born addicted, but Charlotte had to kick her habit to get him back.

"You can't eat, you can't sleep, hot and cold flashes, throwing up," she said explaining the withdrawal symptoms.

But she completed the substance abuse program,and got a psychiatric evaluation.

"I got a job, I never missed a court date or visit with him. I spent Christmas with him, I did everything I was supposed to do for him," Charlotte said.

Stephen left foster care to live with Charlotte in March. Her aunt welcomed them into her home. He celebrated his first birthday under his mom's care, a milestone many children of addicts never experience.

"I lost my dad at 19. He was a heroin addict," Charlotte said.

Both of her parents died of drug overdoses. She wants to give Stephen the chance she never had.

"It's possible. It's very possible. You have to be determined to give it your all and don't give up. Sometimes you'll feel like it's hard and you're not able to do it, but God works miracles," Charlotte said. "I believe in that."

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