Some of her teenage girls even call her “Bae,” slang shorthand for “before anyone else.”
The endearment is hard won.
Since she began fostering in Florida in 2004, more than 200 children have arrived on Melendez’s doorstep, most of them scared, withdrawn, traumatized. One or two run away but most stay for at least a year, some until they age out of foster care.
Mother’s Day this year was celebrated at her five-bedroom Gibsonton home with her husband, three children and seven foster kids. In a home chock full of children, dogs and noise, her laugh is the deepest, her hug the most sought after.
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