When doors shut in his face, Francisco Garcia kept his courage up and his heart open for his family
“Are these your foster children?”
The five children of Francisco (Paco) and April Garcia—three Hispanic boys, a white teenaged girl, and a black little girl—were playing with friends at the church the family was visiting. The stranger bustled over to the couple after the service ended to ask the question they had heard many times.
“Whose children are they?”
“They’re ours,” April said. “We adopted them.”
Eleven-year-old Amora noticed the conversation and cautiously approached her parents. She used sign language to tell her parents that the woman had stared at her throughout the service, scaring her. “Is she asking about me?” Amora signed.
“No,” April said. “She is asking about adoption.”
The girl, reassured, returned to playing.
Later, as the family walked to their Suburban, Francisco got his children’s attention and told them, “I’m your dad, this is your mom, and it doesn’t matter if we have different skin color.”
Skin color, however, isn’t the only thing that draws attention to the Garcia family when they go out. Not only are four of April and Francisco’s five kids adopted, but three are hard of hearing or deaf. In addition, Francisco himself is deaf. People naturally stare at this close-knit family in which “everyone is signing,” April says.
Beneath that flurry of signing fingers and facial expressions is something people can’t see: Francisco, who immigrated to Texas from Mexico as a child, has overcome many obstacles to make sure his family thrives—and that others like them can thrive as well.
The Only Deaf Kid in Town
Francisco grew up in a small Mexican town called Miacatlan. Born deaf, he was not diagnosed until he was several years old, when his mother noticed that his Spanish was not developing.
Francisco lived next door to a large orphanage, where he spent most of his time. He played soccer and other games with the kids, attended their school, and sometimes stayed nights. “I wasn’t supposed to do that,” Francisco says, “but because I was the only deaf kid in town, they embraced me.”
Francisco’s mother moved his family to Houston when he was in grade school because Miacatlan didn’t have programs for deaf students. She worked two jobs to put food on the table while Francisco attended a public school with a program for deaf students and, after he turned twelve, worked at roofing with his uncle to help support his mother.
Fostering a Family
Years later, Francisco and his mother moved to Georgetown, where he met April, who was working as a certified sign language interpreter.
“The deaf community is small,” April says. “We met originally in a professional setting. Then, [we] met again in the deaf community, and he asked me to dinner. Things progressed from there, and six short months later, we were married!” April, who is not deaf, knew fluent sign language because her parents were born deaf.
They wanted to start a family right away. But to her devastation, April miscarried twice. Physicians told the couple it would be nearly impossible to get pregnant because April produced fertile eggs only about once a year.
Soon after the second miscarriage, a family friend asked April and Francisco to foster a ten-year-old hearing girl who was at Dell Children’s Hospital. The child had suffered severe abuse. The couple agreed to foster her and, a year later, adopted her.
When Francisco was growing up in Mexico, his best friends were orphans who “did not get a bedtime story read to them or get tucked in at night.” He saw firsthand how orphaned children longed to be adopted by someone who could provide that nurturing. Francisco and April agreed that they wanted to supply the love and care that such children needed.
So they looked into adopting again and, over time, adopted three more children: a deaf girl, Amora, and two brothers, Joziah, who is deaf, and Jozef, who is hearing.
The day after the adoption for their boys was completed, the Garcias received a shock. April was pregnant. Within two years, their family had grown from no children to five.
Making Ends Meet
When the Garcias were in the process of adopting Amora, Francisco experienced a setback. He lost his job at a department store because, he says, the company wouldn’t accommodate his deafness.
“I couldn’t communicate over the phone, and they said that they needed me to do that,” Francisco says.
He found that his former employer was not the only business that regarded his deafness as a serious impediment to work. “I applied everywhere, but everybody was really concerned about me not being able to hear,” Francisco says.
Desperate, he put flyers up advertising his availability to do roofing and yard work. “I was really afraid, and I did face some discrimination when I started,” he says.
When Francisco went to potential clients’ homes, some said, “Oh, never mind. We decided we don’t want to do the job,” after learning that he was deaf. Francisco used a notepad to communicate; after reading customers’ lips, he would write down an estimate to show them.
Francisco didn’t give up. Some clients hired him to undertake small jobs, such as leaf blowing or weeding, but those clients gave the bigger jobs, such as roofing, to others. Francisco’s work ethic demonstrated, however, that he was worth hiring. They began offering him bigger jobs and recommending him to their friends.
Eventually, Francisco started a full-time construction and odd-jobs business called Sordos Helping Hands, which he still operates today. Sordos means “deaf” in Spanish.
Sordos keeps Francisco so busy that most weeks he doesn’t have a day off. His job allows him the flexibility to attend his children’s field trips and school events and to help April when she or the kids are sick. This flexibility has been helpful this past year because April is expecting again—another happy surprise for the family.
Signs of Love
Being a working father of a large family is challenging, but Francisco faces the extra hurdle of communicating his love without being able to speak it. Telling tales about his childhood—or simply telling a bedtime story—isn’t easy for him, despite his desire to share his life experiences with his kids.
When Francisco was a child, his inability to hear excluded him from some family activities. His family had difficulty learning to use American Sign Language, so he missed out on many family conversations.
“A ten-minute story would be condensed into one or two sentences when explained to him—this is typical of non-signing families,” April explains. “So when we had our kids, he thought that was the norm. It took some time for him to learn how to have actual in-depth conversations with the kids.”
April helped Francisco learn to communicate more fully by using more than simple commands. She also encouraged him to share his family history with her and the kids. “Now, he talks too much,” April says, smiling. “He always tells the kids these long, in-depth stories.”
And from those stories comes wisdom to help his kids cope in a world that, as Francisco well knows, shuts doors in the faces of people who are different. When one of his sons struggled in school, for example, Francisco related stories about how difficult it was for him, a deaf, twelve-year-old Mexican boy, to attend school in Texas and work in roofing at the same time to help support his mother.
He then told his son, “If I could do that and make good grades, then you can, too!”
The Future for the Garcia Family
The Garcias have purchased twenty acres of land, intending to build a group foster home called Hope’s Lighthouse for children with disabilities and their siblings. “We want to help foster children have a sense of family while waiting to find their forever homes,” April says.
They hope their foster home will also make the Georgetown community more aware of the need for adoption. If any of their foster children are not adopted, Francisco says, “We want them to know that we who are in Christ chose them and that they are loved.”
With five children, a baby on the way, and big dreams on the horizon, the Garcia family has much to look forward to.
“If I can help make a difference in a child’s life and help them feel loved and feel safe, then it’s all worth it in the end,” Francisco says.
If you would like more information or would like to donate to the Garcias’ dream foster home, email Francisco or April.