Sunday Profile: Every day is Father’s Day for Edgar Niebla
Roaring Fork Valley man steps into fatherhood through fostering and adoption
“Can I call you dad?”
Edgar Niebla says even though his goal as a foster parent is not to become a “replacement father,” he has heard this question before and understands it’s sometimes inevitable.
“These kids deserve somebody to be attached to,” Edgar said. “And we are not trying to be a replacement but a support system while the parents are not available.”
After getting married in 2014, Edgar and his wife Erin were ready to start a family of their own, but their journey to parenthood was set back by fertility issues.
With the most common infertility treatments often being costly, and with success rates usually low, they looked toward other options, such as adoption from foreign countries. But the lengthy and complex process seemed too stressful for both the couples and the children, Edgar explained.
That’s when a spontaneous meeting outside of a Rifle coffee shop presented the Nieblas with a different and life-changing alternative.
It was there that, through a mutual friend, they met Susan Garcia — a foster care and adoption supervisor for the Garfield County Department of Human Services, and a mother of two adopted children.
In the coffee shop parking lot, Garcia popped the question that would change their lives.
“Hey, would you like to be a foster parent?”
Garcia said she felt comfortable asking because the couple had briefly opened up about their struggles with infertility — a feeling she could relate to, and the reason why she had adopted.
Twenty-seven hours of training later and within a month of meeting Garcia, the couple was certified to foster.
“They were one of the fastest people to get certified that I can remember,” said Garcia, who has assisted Garfield County’s foster care and adoption programs for almost 10 years.
Edgar and Erin have since fostered seven local kids — from newborns to 17-year-olds — in their Carbondale home. Some have lived with the couple for as long as 17 months.
After many years living in the Roaring Fork Valley, this summer, the couple is moving to Grand Junction, where they just bought their first home and plan to raise their two-year-old daughter Lilian, also known as Lily.
Lily has been part of the Niebla family since she was 24 days old, right after she entered Garfield County’s foster care system — a system in need of more people like the Nieblas.
Fostering in Garfield County
“We never had a single kid in our home that was not desperately loved by their biological parents,” Erin said. “But sometimes those parents are just not at a place where they can safely keep them.”
“It has opened our eyes to the many issues people face on a daily basis in this valley, involving either drugs, abuse or other circumstances that are not talked about much,” Edgar said.
According to Garcia, there are currently 52 kids in foster care from Carbondale to Parachute, and 12 available foster homes, plus 12 “kinship” foster families, which are relatives willing to foster a child.
Adding to the ongoing housing issues in the valley, the false perception that foster homes need to be big and beautiful contributes to the shortage of local foster homes.
“There are a lot of myths about who can foster,” Garcia said.
“We live in a trailer with some extra bedrooms and the willingness to do it,” Erin said, noting that owning a home is not necessary to qualify.
Single people, same-sex couples, renters and empty nesters are all welcome to apply, Garcia said, with certain skillsets being highly appreciated, such as being bilingual, experienced with mental or physical disabilities, and having room for multiple siblings.
For those considering becoming foster parents, Edgar has simple advice. “Just do it.
“If you spend too much time overthinking, you will find ways to talk yourself out of it,” he said. “It will have its challenges, but it will be so worth it.”
It takes a community
Born in Sinaloa, Mexico, Edgar was 6 years old when in 1990 his parents decided to move to the valley, looking for a safe place to live and work.
In 2000, he graduated from Basalt High School, the same school in which his wife Erin finished her 10th year teaching math this spring.
Edgar remembers that his parents initially had a hard time understanding the concept of foster parents.
“In Mexico, you either have your kids or you don’t,” Edgar said. “There’s no such thing as being a temporary parent.”
But he says that as soon as the first kids started rolling in, they have loved every single one of them.
“You need to have a support system of friends, family and caseworkers,” Edgar said. “It takes a community.”
It was with the help of this support system that the Nieblas officially adopted Lily in November 2018, after a year-long process.
The adoption was finalized a day before Erin’s birthday. “It was her birthday present,” Edgar said smiling.
“The best one yet,” she added.
“I was so happy for them,” Garcia said. “It was a beautiful day for Edgar and Erin.”
This Sunday, Lily will join Zoey and Bailey, the couple’s two dogs, in wishing Edgar a happy Father’s Day.
“To me, every day is Father’s Day,” Edgar said. “I’m a father every day.”
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