There's no such thing as quiet in Lula Mae Walker's home.
Loud, bouncy and boisterous are all permanent features of the modest, light blue house in Northwest Fort Lauderdale, the place where Walker has raised countless children: nine of whom she gave birth to, nine she adopted and countless foster children.
As adults, few of them have strayed from the straight and narrow. Most
HOW TO HELPAnyone interested in adopting or fostering children can call the local recruitment line at 954-414-6001.
ChildNet holds an Adoption Open House every third Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at its central office, 313 N. State Road 7, Plantation. For more information, call Jim McElhannon at 954-461-9219.
remain in South Florida and stop by to visit regularly with their own families in tow.
On Saturday, at age 73, Walker will add two more children.
On that day -- National Adoption Day -- Walker plans to adopt twin 16-year-old girls: Rossano and Rossana Thomas.
For the twins, the adoption ends years of bouncing between relatives and foster families. Now, they have each other -- plus seven brothers, 12 sisters and countless nieces, nephews and cousins.
For Walker, the adoption is another chapter in a life devoted to loving children, no matter their race, no matter their birth mother.
"The kids just give me something to keep going,'' Walker said. "It's just amazing how blessed I have been.''
The story of how Walker found so much love for so many children begins with death. In the late 1970s, she lost five people she dearly loved: her husband, two sisters, her father-in-law and a sister-in-law.
Walker turned to her church for help, but received little, she said.
A friend suggested that she become a foster parent.
"If you're going to help,'' Walker recalls being told, "give it to those who need.''
Walker took in her first foster child in April 1984, she said.
By 1991, her nine biological children were grown, but her house was filled with 11 children of different races and ages, most of whom she adopted.
"It takes something else to make a mother,'' said adopted daughter Rebecca Walker, 31, of Fort Lauderdale. "She is my mother.''
Those children grew up and started their own families. In 2007, Walker had a pair of foster children and one granddaughter who lived with her.
Then she got a call about the twin girls, who were born five minutes apart.
The girls were placed with ChildNet, Broward County's privately run foster-care agency. ChildNet assigned the case to Kids in Distress, the agency Walker has worked with.
"They said I would be the best possible place for the girls,'' Walker said.
The girls' mother died 12 years ago. The story reminded Walker of one of her own granddaughters, who also died and left behind twin girls, she said.
After Rossano and Rossana's mother died, the twins bounced between family members and foster homes.
But they kept the nicknames their mother gave them, both from a Prince song: Diamond for Rossano, Pearl for Rossana.
The first time they met Walker, Rossano didn't say much.
"I was shy. I was always a shy person,'' she said. "I just sat and looked at her.''
Rossana, who is more of a talker, said she and Walker just clicked.
"It just came naturally,'' Rossana said, "because we knew it was meant to be.''
The twins moved in, and on the first day it was almost quiet, with just Walker and a few others in the house.
Then came Sunday -- which brought a tidal wave of Walker's children and grandchildren.
Rossana describe her reaction as, "Where did all these people come from?''
The twins quickly became comfortable as part of the large, extended family.
On Veterans Day, children and grandchildren streamed through the house. Rebecca Walker came by to drop off snapper. Oxtails cooked in the kitchen.
Once the adoption is final, the twins hope to change their last names to Walker.
Asked whether she would adopt more children once the twins are grown, Walker gave a slight smile, then said, "probably.''