Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets told CNN he was shocked when he spotted a pregnant, homeless woman using heroin with her companion outside a convenience store in the New Mexico city on September 23. Little did he know the struggles that woman, 35-year-old Crystal Champ, had gone through for decades … or that he'd soon adopt her baby.
Bodycam footage shows Holets scolding Champ and her becoming visibly upset. "You're going to kill your baby," Holets is heard saying in the video. "Why do you have to be doing that stuff? It's going to ruin your baby."
"I was like, 'How dare you judge me? You have no idea how hard this is,' " Champ told CNN. "I know what a horrible person I am and what a horrible situation I'm in."
Champ is pro-choice but said abortion was never an option for her. She has been battling addictions to heroin and crystal meth since her teenage years. She has been homeless for two years now and currently lives in a tent. And she has tried to get sober multiple times.
"I did give up. I just decided this was going to be my life," she told CNN. "It just keeps coming back and ruining my life."
During that encounter, Champ told Holets she was desperately hoping someone would adopt her unborn child. And in that moment, he "became a human being instead of a police officer," she said. Holets showed her a photo of his wife and four children… and then offered to adopt her baby.
"I was led by God to take the chance," Ryan said. "God brought us all together. I really don't have any other way to explain it."
Incredulous, Champ looked at Holets to "make sure his eyes were genuine and that I could see his soul." Then she said yes.
Holets hadn't even broached the topic with his wife, Rebecca Holets, but he was sure they were on the same page. "He already knew my heart on the issue, and he knew that I would be totally onboard with it," she told CNN.
Baby Hope was born on October 12, and Rebecca took Crystal to see her baby one last time. "She turns to me and says, 'Take care of her for me,' " Rebecca recalled. "And I said, 'I will take good care of her, and you take good care of yourself.' It was super emotional."
The number of babies born after being exposed to opioid abuse in the womb tripled between 1999 and 2013, a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found. A baby suffering from opioid withdrawal is born every 25 minutes in the United States, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse estimate. These babies typically need weeks of detox and face future developmental problems.
Now Baby Hope is home with the Holets, receiving medical attention … and Champ is grateful for that outcome. "We did not give her up because we didn't want her," she told CNN. "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."
She called her chance encounter with Holets "serendipity."
"There needs to be more people like Ryan and his wife and their family in this world," she added.
For their part, the Holets still feel connected to Champ and want her to have a place in their life. "Whatever struggles she has, we'll be there and we'll work through it," Ryan said. "And that makes me happy."