NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of drug addicts give birth to babies in Louisiana every year. Many of the children rely on the kindness of strangers for their future. A North Shore man read an ad in the paper after Katrina about the need for foster parents, and the phone call he made led to a life of joy he never imagined.
"Catherine is a girly girl, and Doug is the engineer of our family," said Tracy Deroche of his 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
"Three-year-old Luther is nonstop," he said.
He has raised them all from birth with a lot of family support
"It's kind of cool because I came from a family with all adopted children," said Catherine.
They share a bond beyond their father's love. They were all born to mothers hooked on heroin.
"I never knew my mom and I didn't really know - I knew she lived on the street, and I'd rather live with my family than on the street," Doug said.
He was two months old when he was placed in Tracy Deroche's home, addicted to heroin like his mother.
"When he came home he was going through withdrawals so bad he would literally shake. He'd be so tired of shaking, literally, he'd fall asleep," Deroche said.
He said Catherine came to him about 18 months later. Her withdrawals were fairly minor. Today she's a free spirit, thriving in school tennis and theater, surrounded by the only family she's ever known.
"I'm just glad my mom was willing to give me away so I'll have a good home. So I wouldn't have to stay in some children's home," she said.
Tracy Deroche said everything was fine - and then family services called him about his youngest child.
"I said, 'oh my gosh, three!'"
He welcomed Luther into the fold. He said the Luther's withdrawals were more severe, and the baby stayed in the hospital for a month.
Deroche has made a commitment to the kids who have become his heart. At the start, he was just another foster parent.
"You take an 11-week course, they do a background on you, fingerprinting and a huge inspection on your home," Deroche said.
"To care for children, three and four children born to heroin-addicted moms is admirable, and this family does a great job with these children," said Michelle Faust. "It's not just a baby with colic but a baby addicted to drugs."
The children have shown no side effects of the drugs they were exposed to as infants.
Deroche said the kids saved his life, too. He was turning 50 when Luther was placed in his home.
"My dad passed away at 55 and I said, 'I can't leave these kids at 5 years old. I lost 55 pounds and started taking care of myself," he said. "We go to Disney three times a year. Last year we went on a Disney cruise. Next month we're going on a Disney Alaska cruise."
Deroche is the owner of a successful business in the Bywater, which frees him up to be the dad these kids could only dream of. He said everybody says he spoils the children, but he says he imagines the life they could have had.
All three of the children are legally adopted, a rebirth signaling a permanent place in a loving home. And there's more: Christoper is the fourth heroin baby that Deroche has taken in. The adoption should be final soon.
"I'm very lucky," Deroche said "There's something there that just clicked."