A mother's love inspires non-profit for drug addicted babies

As a young girl, Tricia Hughes knew she wanted to be a mom. Not just any mom, either. She wanted a big family, ten kids in all; she told herself—the kind of mom with infinite patience and there for the first steps. A mom with the heart to pick up a drug-dependent newborn from the hospital in the middle of the night.

"It's just how I am, I kick in and do it. Of course, I'll take care of this baby," said Tricia.

For the past 18 years, Tricia and her husband have fostered 20 kids, many of them born addicted to heroin, meth, alcohol, and other substances. In addition to raising four biological kids, the couple adopted five kids as well.

"All from Spokane, all exposed to different levels of drugs. There are very few children in foster care that aren't exposed," said Tricia.

It can take weeks for a newborn baby to withdrawal from the drugs in their fragile bodies. A heartbreaking experience, Tricia, a nurse, experienced for the first time with her now-adopted daughter, Maddie.

"She was the first one I took through the withdrawal myself. Doctors told me it was the worst opiate baby they'd ever seen. I wore her in a Moby wrap for three months, 24/7. There's a very distinct high-pitched scream. Their body is a posture of stress, and they tremor. Maddie's head would shake at times," said Tricia.

The journey of withdrawal inspired Tricia to spearhead a non-profit called Maddie's Place—a safe and loving environment where babies born addicted will eventually be taken care of in a home-like atmosphere. The non-profit is on a mission to raise $1.5 million to purchase and renovate the former Vanessa Behan Nursery building in Spokane.

"Children don't ask to be born into this situation; they don't choose this. If their parents can't take care of them, we will. Just watching a baby suffer, makes my skin crawl, someone has to do it," said Tricia.

According to Maddie's Place, a drug-addicted baby is born every 15 hours in Spokane. While the NICU is an excellent first line of medical care for drug-addicted babies, it's often expensive and noisy, causing added stress. It's also expensive, with an average bill running about $90,000 per child.

At Maddie's Place, nurses, on-call neonatologists, social workers, and volunteers will be on staff to care for every baby. Tricia says when they open the doors, they will be the second treatment facility of its kind in the United States. The treatment will cost 80% less than hospital care.

Maddie's Place will also be a judgment-free space for moms to get treatment for their addiction and be involved with their baby's care if approved by CPS. There will be rooms for moms to stay for up to two weeks, and space to care for eight babies.

"We have to teach the baby they can trust—that's a huge foundation of attachment- meeting their needs with affection and comforting measures. When mom is involved, there is a 70% less need for morphine for babies, because of their presence," said Tricia.

With the help of a grant from the Avista Foundation, Maddie's Place is closer to becoming a reality. The non-profit hopes to be open and caring for babies by next year.

"The Avista Foundation gift is what we needed to believe that this can happen finally," said Tricia.

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