Kate Drake and David Nicholson were homeless, addicted to drugs and had to give up their twin babies to foster care. With help from the foster parents who took in their kids, they fought for recovery. Today they have their twins back and they have their lives back.
Most parents would likely agree that children are a gift from God – but how many can call them literal lifesavers?
For Kate Drake and David Nicholson that is exactly what their soon-to-be three-year old twins, Patrick and Amilya, are.
Caught in a seemingly never-ending cycle of theft, drug use and destitution, the couple assumed their fate was sealed – that they were destined to live and die as homeless addicts, caught in the “soul stealing” hopelessness that had sadly become their normal.
“I never thought I would be anyplace else than on the street, stealing to survive – that way of life just takes everything from you,” Kate said. “We were IV drug users and alcoholics and would sleep in donation bins, on the street or in public bathrooms. I’d shoplift and if we found anything of value in the bins, we’d steal it to sell or trade for drugs.”
As a result of her shoplifting, Kate spent months in and out of jail and it was during one of these stints that she discovered she was pregnant.
“I was in jail and I really felt like I was going to die soon, so I looked into abortion. It was too expensive and besides I felt a bond with the baby, so I tried to get clean,” she said, enlisting the help of her mother in her journey towards sobriety. “I knew I couldn’t stop taking meth without help, so I called my mom in Abilene right away.”
In spite of the tragedy life had dealt to this point, her mother represented a beacon of hope.
“My mom and I are close and she came to get me and bring me to Abilene – she even knew I was pregnant before I told her because she said she had dreamt about the baby,” Kate said.
Kate said that David would visit, but his presence would send her back into the cycle of drug use.
“He’d come back and forth between Fort Worth and Abilene and every time, he had drug paraphernalia with him and we’d get high.”
David said during that period of his life, his drug use was so much a part of who he was that he didn’t see a way out – or even realize such an option existed.
“I was that guy you see standing on a street corner with a sign,” he said. “When Kate found out she was pregnant we were both really strung out. She came to Abilene to get clean, but I had no intention of ever giving up drugs – I was content to stay in Fort Worth, live under a bridge and keep eating out of dumpsters. I was thinking like an addict and telling myself
that life wasn’t really all that bad.”
However, as he and his wife would soon discover, God had other plans in the form of two babies, an empty-nest couple and lots of earth-bound angels they met along the way.
A Turning Point
God even put a jail sentence in Kate’s path.
“David and I were arguing and it escalated to me getting arrested in front of the Windsor Apartments and getting sent back to Fort Worth,” said Kate, adding that she will always remember that day, which she refers to as her “clean date,” and the moment when she “starting believing in God.”
David, too, was starting to realize that a power larger than himself was guiding his life. Still living on the Fort Worth streets, he had not had any contact with Kate for several weeks, when she called him with the news that he was going to be a father.
David said when he heard from Kate, he tried to find “every excuse in the book” not to make the trip to Abilene, but every roadblock he put in front of himself, God answered, even beginning in the early morning of that fateful day his wife was in labor.
“From the morning I woke up that day, I knew something bigger than myself was in control,” he said. “It started with a lady who approached me in front of an abandoned grocery story and said ‘God’s not done with you yet,’ and handed me a pack of toiletries. Later on the bus, someone quoted a verse out of Acts that pertained to my situation.”
Even getting himself on the bus out of Fort Worth was a miracle.
“I kept telling myself that since I didn’t have a ride I couldn’t get to the station, but my friend said he’d pick me up and not only did he show up, he was early,” said David. He said he finally realized that from the moment he awoke, “God was talking to me and guiding me every step of the way to Abilene. I wanted to get clean and be a father.”
Kate said she had been out of jail for a month before she gave birth in Abilene under less-than-optimal circumstances. Her son Patrick – named in honor of her best friend who had died – wasn’t breathing and the babies’ toxicology screen showed the presence of drugs, necessitating a call to Child Protective Services.
It was when Kate realized how close she came to losing her son that she knew she wanted to keep the twins. However, being realistic about her situation, she knew she had to consider one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions any mother could fathom.
“I knew the best thing for everyone – and especially them – was to consider adoption, but I knew I couldn’t handle that and losing them forever would make me want to die – that would be my only goal in life at that point,” Kate said.
Because she knew at the very least that the babies would be put in foster care, Kate was worried about Patrick and Amilya going to the right home. She was concerned that if her children were turned over to CPS that she might not be able to find out what happened to them or that they would be placed in a less than-ideal situation.
All of Kate’s worries and fears evaporated, however, when she and David met Shelly Blake, the twins’ soon-to-be foster mother.
“I was imagining the worst-case scenario, but Shelly was so sweet and welcoming,” Kate said, adding that “she never judged me, even when I had to fulfill the terms of my probation by serving out my jail sentence in Fort Worth.”
For Shelly and her husband C.V., fostering the twins and getting to know and love the young family has been a blessing.
“The twins were six-days old when we got the call about fostering,” Shelly said, adding that that first meeting was the beginning of a special and unique bond.
“I asked the caseworker if it would be alright to meet the birth mother and she agreed and when we met we all just hugged and cried,” Shelly said. “That night in the NICU, Kate and I rocked the babies and talked and it was then that I realized her determination to be a good mother and everything she had walked away from to have these babies.”
Answering the Call
Shelly and C.V, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Abilene, are not new to fostering. Describing herself as having been “born to be a mother,” Shelly said she and C.V. were 7 years into having an “empty nest,” when they met another family in their church who fostered. This led to a connection with Christian Homes and Family Services through a caseworker who also attended First Baptist.
The Blakes began fostering in 2009, with the addition of a two-day-old boy, with whom they experienced “an automatic deep and real love,” and while letting him go to his adoptive family was one of the “worst pains,” Shelly is still in contact with the boy and even receives cards on Mother’s Day.
The couple continued to foster off and on and when they received the call about the twins in the summer of 2018, Shelly said they “just felt like we were supposed to be available.”
Shelly said that C.V., who was on a mission trip when the call came, was “all in,” and told her that “we should say yes until we are given a reason to say no.”
Shelly and C.V. wanted Kate and David to “have as much normal as possible when things weren’t normal.” Through the help of their church, community, and CPS, the young couple was able to be active participants in their children’s lives and enjoy important milestones. Shelly even arranged a photo shoot when the twins were ten-months old because she wanted to do something special for Kate for Mother’s Day. “
As David and Kate started getting their lives together, they started coming to worship services and church functions with us, as well as getting together for dinners out,” she said. They even helped plan the twins’ first birthday party.
Shelly said God’s presence was felt as she and C.V. navigated life with twins while getting to know the babies’ parents.
Shelly sees the couple’s story as one of healing, redemption and possibilities and said that while fostering may not be for everyone, there are things anyone can do to support families, such as bringing meals or washing baby bottles. “
Anything is appreciated and people can be creative with their time, talents and gifts,” she said. “There were so many special people who were instrumental in helping not only C.V. and me as foster parents, but Kate and David as well.”
As an example, a friend lowered the rent on one of his houses so that the couple could afford to move into a home of their own.
“Shelly and C.V have been the cornerstone in our success,” Kate said. “Being felons, we weren’t able to rent a house, so she found someone who would give us a chance. Also, because we didn’t have any furniture, she called her friends and they donated all kinds of things and everything fit together perfectly – we call it our ‘house of love,’ because everything was given to us with love.”
Kate and David have made plenty of inward changes along their journey, but Kate said one of the most important changes was an outward one. “My teeth were in really bad shape from all the drug use, so Shelly took me to a dentist who is a friend of hers and C.V. ‘s who wanted to help,” she said.
The finished product was more than just a beautiful smile – it represented a way to put the past behind her.
“I used to never smile and I would buy clay at a craft store to put over my teeth because I was so ashamed,” she said. “Now, when I look in the mirror I don’t see what I used to be and that gives me so much hope.”
Kate and David said their story is nothing short of a miracle.
“There’s no way this happened on its own – God planned all of this by putting people in our lives where and when they needed to be,” Kate said.
David, who is working towards his plumber’s license, agrees.
“For us to bounce back is incredible – Kate and I have an amazing life with our kids and I credit Jesus Christ with saving us,” he said. “There’s a special place in Heaven for Shelly and C.V. – they took a chance on two dope addicts and we will always be grateful.”
Kate and David have a lot to be hopeful about, not only for a life with their twins, but also that they can reunite with their 13-year-old daughter, Payton, who resides with David’s mother in White Settlement. Kate says Payton has a close relationship with her grandmother and that giving her up was best for her daughter at the time, but she looks forward to the day all three of her children can live under the same roof.
As for the twins being the couple’s lifesavers? David and Shelly were discussing what costumes the children should wear for their first Halloween and he suggested they go as LifeSaver candy rolls.
“I thought it was fitting,” David said. “They are our little lifesavers – we wouldn’t be here without them and God gave us two because one wouldn’t have gotten our attention.”
By Molly Hill
Photography By Shayli Anne Photography