FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Seventeen-year-old Kevin sits in his purple wheelchair, in his purple shirt and shorts, humming to the “Aladdin” soundtrack. His 4-year-old brother Alejandro hides in the corner of the house, mischievously playing with a pair of sunglasses.
Five-month-old Gianni bounces on mom’s knee. She calls him her “happy jack” or “butterball.”
“My goodness, he weighs more than our turkey,” she said.
Pat and Bill Meyers, both 78, are as strong and spirited as parents caring for their first newborn.
Their house is organized chaos. They have two biological adult children and six adopted children ranging in age from 4 to 49. They’ve been foster parents to more than 250 special-needs infants for 50 years, with the help of agencies like the Children’s Home Society.
“We’ve had our crib up for 45 years,” said Pat Meyers.
They moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2003 after a lifetime of fostering in New Jersey. Kevin, who has cerebral palsy and was abandoned at birth, couldn’t take the harsh Jersey winters.
“When we came down here, we thought our days of fostering were over,” said Bill. “Then we found Alejandro and Gianni.”
The family adopted Alejandro and became foster parents all over again. The Meyers, devout Catholics who stumbled into fostering, point to the ceiling and say they have help from “upstairs.”
They always wanted a large family, said Bill Meyers, but after their first child was born in 1958, Pat had several miscarriages. In place of those losses, they made their home a comfort-zone for special needs infants.
They never intended to adopt, said Pat Meyers, “but some just grab your heart.”
Through Children’s Home Society, Kevin received a special, adjustable bed. The society also provides counseling and support services for the Meyers’ multiracial melting pot of a family.
Children’s Home Society provides programs and services that feed, clothe, protect and nurture abused and neglected children. All of the Meyers’ foster children came to them with special needs; many of their birth mothers were addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Some of the children stayed for six months to a year until they were placed back with their parents or adopted through the society. Pat Meyers said her only request is that they aren’t moved to another foster home.
Laurie Meyers, the family’s oldest child, found the words to help her family deal with the revolving door of foster children they loved while growing up.
“Today, sweet baby, you left us, a sadness fills the air, now all we have are memories, of your special love to share … today, sweet babe, you left us, your fate we’ll never know, the hardest part of loving, is the finally letting go.”