Desperate Parents Who Lost Hope in Broward

Mother's Day weekend is a prime time for tales of parental heroism; it's just a shame that two of the more affecting stories should put Broward County in the spoiler's role. It's the common ground in two otherwise unrelated stories of parents willing to do anything to improve the lives of children who suffer from confounding conditions. Both families hoped to find solutions in Broward County, but for different reasons, neither family did so.

In this long, beautifully told story from yesterday's Washington Post, a mother describes how the College Living Experience, a Broward College program for young adults with learning disabilities, gave her and her husband hope that their 21-year-old autistic son, David, could gain a measure of independence.

Turns out David is fascinated by police cars and lizards, of which there are plenty in this area. All was going well after six months, when David phoned his mother in Washington, D.C., to tell her he was going to the Everglades with someone named Nelson, whom he'd met at a drugstore. Terrified, she demanded to talk to him.

There was some background rumbling before David came back on the line. "He says he doesn't speak English."

"David. Get out of the car. Now."

"I'm on the highway, Mom."

"Nelson!" I roared to this stranger a thousand miles away. "Bring my son back this minute. I'm calling the police now!"

"OK, OK, OK," said the voice in the background.

I kept David on the line: "What does the big green road sign say now? What color is Nelson's car?"

I took notes while Bruce called in details to the Broward County police. There was an employee named Nelson at the drugstore near David's apartment, and the police ran a security check on him. Nothing turned up. No laws had been broken, and, after all, David was legally an adult. The police told us there was nothing to do but wait. Forty-five agonizing minutes later, I heard a car door open and close, Goodbye, and a single set of footsteps slapping up the stairs. I counted them. A key turned in a door, and David spoke into the phone, "I'm home, Mom."

To him, it was just another adventure.

Despite the scare, David's parents held out hope that he'd stay in Florida, especially after he told them he'd been offered a job at Abandoned Pet Rescue, just north of Sunrise Boulevard near Federal Highway. But the job never materialized and having graduated the Broward College program, there was nowhere for David to go but back home.

For another family, Broward County was home -- and that was the problem. The Tovars of Coral Springs have a 7-year-old who suffers from asthma. No remedies from local doctors seemed to bring lasting relief. It wasn't till a trip to New York City that the child breathed easier. So they decided that's where they'd move.

But here's a family that had long enjoyed the ample space of the Broward suburbs. The Tovars -- who had already moved frequently around South Florida -- had lived in a four-bedroom house in Coral Springs as well as a five-bedroom home in Parkland. After a period of bouncing between too-small rentals, a stagnant housing market delivered a deal on a five-bedroom townhouse in the West Village.

The 3,500-square-foot home, which included a roof deck, was available for $16,000 a month. A while back, at the market's peak, the rent would have been around $24,000, said the listing agent, Senad Ahmetovic of Halstead Property.

Including the broker's fee, the monthly payment is $21,000, but considering that the 7-year-old is breathing easy, that seems to be a small price for the parents to pay.

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