After Prison, A Mom Finds Her Way Back Into Her Daughter's Life

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Kayla Wilson with her mother, Wendy Founds, in Little Rock, Ark.

When Kayla Wilson was 15, her mom — Wendy Founds — was in prison serving a three-year term for felony drug charges. When Founds was 15 she started using drugs, and at some point became addicted to methamphetamines.

"When I asked Mom how she got started she told me that after her Paw-Paw died she was just mad at the world and mad at God, and that's when she told one of her ex-boyfriends that she wanted to get high," Kayla said during a 2006 visit to StoryCorps with her grandmother, Teri Lyn Coulter-Colclasure.

When Founds got busted, she was at home, Kayla explained.

"And I think they were making dope and it had spilled on my younger sister. And it was just so heartbreaking to understand that this is what's going on and this is how it's going to be. When I saw her in prison it was horrible because you see her come out of the door in that white suit. And her hair was gone. And she loved her long hair and I just had to cry. And then having to say bye and holding onto her knowing you couldn't take her with you was the most horrible experience I've ever had."

Back then, Kayla hoped that when her mom got out of prison, she would get to be a child for a change.

"Not have to worry about being the mature responsible adult," she said. "I think that it'll really be nice."

Founds was released from prison in 2008.

Ten years after Kayla's StoryCorps visit, 43-year-old Founds joined her daughter at StoryCorps to talk about the past. Like what she remembers about the day she got out of prison.

"I remember how you smelled, it was vanilla," Founds said. "And I remember the relief of, our lives get to really start from this point forward."

Kayla, now 25 and a high school teacher, remembers her mom's apology.

"I think that was a defining moment for us, because I got to tell you what I'd always wanted to tell you which was that, you know, you can never make up for that time," she said.

Founds cried for days after that conversation, but says what she heard helped her become a better mom.

Kayla also admitted wishing her mom was different back in those days.

"I can remember, you know, writing in diaries about how much I hated you because you chose drugs over me," she said.

But in the end, she forgave her mom.

"When you finally decided to get clean, it was obvious you were sincere," she said. "And you're my mom, and as my mom, I loved you. I wanted that relationship.

"Sure would have been great to have [it] growing up, but I'm happy you're here and I'm happy we're where we're at today," Kayla continued. "And I think what we've got is awesome considering where we've been. So I'm excited to see what happens next."

Founds, who lives with Kayla, helps counsel other parents struggling with addiction. She was granted a pardon by Gov. Asa Hutchinson for her felony convictions on March 4, 2016.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by John White and Madison Mullen.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

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