SAN ANTONIO – Foster parents Bill and Kathy Friend have taken in 31 infants over the past 19 years, born with their mothers’ addictions.
“Whether it’s heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or a combination,” Kathy Friend said the withdrawals can be lengthy and painful. “They can cry for months, for hours at a time."
She said those suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome have a distinctive, piercing cry.
The couple said that after being born, many of the infants spent time at the neonatal intensive care unit at University Hospital.
The Friends said they began fostering babies for the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio in 1997 as their way of giving back to the community and to teach their own children real-life lessons.
Kathy Friend said besides, she’d always loved babies.
“When a baby comes into our home, they are part of our family. They’re no different than anyone else in our family,” Bill Friend said. “Whatever we can do to help, we’re there.”
The Friends said the shelter’s ongoing training has taught them a great deal, although at first, as a mother, Kathy Friend thought she was prepared.
“I knew it all. I was a mom. Look at my kids. They were doing fantastic,” she said.
As the primary caregiver prior to her husband’s retirement, Kathy Friend said at first she believed, “I could help these birth parents, help them get on the right track.”
She said if anything, “I’m more humble. I have much more empathy. I have much more sympathy for the families, for the babies, for everyone involved.”
Kathy Friend said she often asks herself as she walks and cuddles infants in pain, “How does this happen? How can someone do this?”
She said the classes they take have given her a greater understanding of what their mothers are going through.
Web Extra: How fostering has changed Kathy Friend
“If their infant is having a hard time withdrawing, what must it be like for them?” Kathy Friend said.
She said as a result, “I have much more empathy, I have much more sympathy for the families, for the babies.”
Kathy Friend said she asked a mother why she kept getting pregnant if the babies were being taken from her at birth.
She was told, “I need somebody to love me.”
Although she tries to explain they must first learn to love themselves and find the right man, “They don’t get it or choose not to get it.”
Despite those realities, the Friends said they have no regrets. They said they’ve seen little positive change, if anything, addictions have grown worse.
“I don’t know what the answer is. Prayer? We pray all the time,” Kathy Friend said.