And now a big family is exactly what the mother and father of six have.
“It seems like it is a party every day,” Efrain said. “It is a blessing to have a big family.”
A big family is not something they have always had though. An adoption went through on Jan. 15 that granted the Ibarras legal guardianship of four additional children: Joey, Kevin, Kandi and Karmela, who they met through church more than five years ago.
The Ibarras had previously found out they were unable to have any more children, so they assumed their own two were all they would ever have.
Their biological daughter, Stephanie, met the other two girls at church in 2007 and invited them to come over to play.
The girls were dropped off, along with their brothers, at the Ibarras’ home to play. At the end of the play date, their mother didn’t come back, and it was eight months before she returned again.
In the meantime, the Ibarras opened their home and their hearts to the four children.
The children were enrolled in school, and everyone adjusted to living with a few extra people in the house.
Everything was blissful until Efrain returned home one day to find Efrain Jr. in tears. The lost mother had returned and taken her four children away.
The Ibarras’ house became very quiet after that.
Efrain said he became depressed for several months, and his kids were sad at the sudden loss of their friends.
One day, Efrain’s phone rang, and it was Kevin. He said they were living in Earth, Texas.
The Ibarras went to visit the four children they had grown so close to and bought them new clothes for the school year, but the children’s situation did not appear to be the best.
After contacting the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, an investigation began.
The Ibarras were contacted and told by DFPS that they could go and get the kids and bring them back to Beeville while the investigation continued. However, there was a catch — the Ibarras had to become licensed foster parents.
There was no hesitation on their part. They started attending the necessary classes in Kingsville.
“We had our backgrounds checked; we had our home checked, and we had our water well tested,” Efrain said. “Finally, it all passed.”
Becoming foster parents was just the first step in the process. The Ibarras not only wanted to be foster parents, they wanted to adopt the four siblings who they had grown to know and love as their children.
“The word ‘love’ – anybody can use it, but there have to be actions behind it for it to be love,” Efrain said. “We walked the extra mile for these kids.”
Now, more than two years later, the adoption is final. Efrain and Vanessa are parents to six children.
“I think this is good, because I have always wanted a brother to hang out with,” Efrain Jr. said.
The family agreed there was an adjustment period of about six months that included establishing a budget; eight is a lot of mouths to feed. But now, everybody is settled in.
The three girls share a bedroom; the two oldest boys share a bedroom, and Joey (the youngest in the family) has a room all to himself.
The only thing the family needs now is a second bathroom in their house, but that is already in the plans.
While the adopted children now have new people to call mom and dad, Efrain and Vanessa don’t want them to forget about their previous mom.
“I’ve told the mother the doors are open, but she hasn’t come down yet,” Efrain said.
As the patriarch of the family, he said it is important to remind his family to be humble.
“I am a firm believer we are God’s hands and feet, and we need to use them,” Efrain said.
He and his family regularly do volunteer work to help people in need.
“I always tell my kids to be nice to people,” Efrain said. “Never think you are better than anyone else, because you aren’t.”
The Ibarras are living a happy life with their six children, but if asked to open their home to more as certified foster parents, they would not hesitate.
Efrain said it takes a special kind of person to be a foster parent.
“It has to be in you, and it’s not for everyone,” he said.
Going through the program was an enlightening experience for Efrain and Vanessa to learn the number of kids out there who need homes, even if it is only a temporary foster home.
“I want to challenge other families to stand up and foster,” he said.
According to the DFPS website, “6,388 children in the care of the state of Texas were legally available for adoption as of Sept. 30, 2012.”
Information on becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent can be found on the DFPS website.
Christina Rowland is the regional editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 119, or at regional@mySouTex.com.