Never enough: Scotts live the life of a foster family
Friday, January 1st, 2010 @ 3:18PM
By Diane Strand
(This article appeared in The MidWeek newspaper on 2/20/2008.)
Sheriff Roger Scott finally put his foot down. “Enough adoptions.”
Then David came along, a baby boy with Down Syndrome, who was placed with the Scotts for foster care.
“Roger would get up in the middle of the night to feed David, and eventually David would go with him everywhere he went,” said Marcia Scott. “Roger finally said, ‘I guess there’s really no decision on this one.’”
So the Scotts, in their comfortable home on DeKalb’s south side, are raising five adopted children, all upgraded from foster care. There was an overlap – with the three older children born to them – but that was OK as the eight-foot-long table in the dining room is expandable.
When their first family, two boys and a girl, were near or in their teens, Marcia began to feel the pangs of an “empty nest,” and she didn’t like it-even though some parents look forward to the respite.
A petite brunette, Marcia sat in the dining room balancing four-month-old granddaughter Elizabeth on her knee, as Alex, 9, scarfed down his Cheerios. Unlike his older siblings, Alex is being home schooled and appeared to be thriving on it.
They have three African American children, two at DeKalb High School and one at Huntley Middle School-all on the honor roll. Marcia said, when the girls were younger, she loved to do their hair in tiny braids with beads. Angie and Thomas are both 16 and Ebony is 13.
The children have reported no run-ins with racism at school, but their parents got a little nervous driving through Georgia.
Marcia said she and her husband have taken in 37 foster children in 20 years, the majority as babies or very, very young. Most of the time, the children went back to their birth parents or a relative, which DCFS seems to prefer today over foster placement.
Marcia has taken her career as a foster parent very seriously and has been willing to work with birth parents, keeping in touch with them, sharing information she learned about the child and offering parenting tips.
She went through brief training before fostering, but said the process is more complicated today.
“They fill you in on what to do when you first receive a child, how to handle specific situations, what the chain of command is and who to contact. But, no matter how much they try to explain, it doesn’t necessarily happen that way.”
Marcia loves it but admits it’s not easy work.
“You know, we have found that even with the small children, they have a lot of (unique) background to them. They have experienced things that a lot of adults haven’t seen…they have their own problems.-and it can be very disruptive to your family.”
Her first foster child was born prematurely. Eventually, that child was moved to a foster home downstate to be nearer the birth mother.
“It’s never easy to let your baby go,” Marcia said softly.
“Some of the birth parents have been really good, they have done what they were supposed to do.” She tries to have biological parents participate in parenting skills “to help the child connect with them..
“I have always made it a rule that I meet with my birth parents-I don’t want them to feel threatened, that I am taking their child away. Actually, that’s a false impression. I explain that I’m there to help them, so I meet with them before and after visits.”
Marcia admitted, if you asked her years ago if she could take a Down Syndrome child, she probably would have said, “no… But you just do it!”
Not that David is easy.
“He gets into everything,” Alex said with deep conviction, explaining along with his mom how the 3 year old is fascinated with water wherever he finds it, including in the toilet.
Marcia said there is still a need for foster parents, though it’s not as acute as when she started fostering. Placements can come from the state or agencies like Children’s Home and Aid in Carpentersville, which the Scotts work with.
The Youth Service Bureau in DeKalb has a continuing need for individuals who will accept older kids, runaways or kids locked out by their parents. The placements are very short term-two or three days.
Foster parents receive a stipend from the state, covering clothing and food, but Marcia says “it’s never enough” to provide what a parent wants to do for a child.
She is in favor of judges knowing more rather than less about kids in foster care.
“I always took my kids into the courtroom. I thought it was important for the judge to see them,” she said. “Otherwise, they look at the case file, see ‘developmental delay’ and dismiss those two words. When I bring a child in and the judge can see he can’t even sit up yet, it makes an important difference. I can say to the judge, ‘Do you think the birth parents can handle this?’”
Marcia sees DeKalb High School as pretty rough and crowded, and she fully supported the referendum. But when she makes her kids turn off the TV because of bad language, “They tell me they hear it every day at school.
“I’m all for the new high school, but will it solve all the problems? No.”
About fostering, she says, “I really love doing it. I cannot picture my life doing anything else.” She says the adoption option is over now, however, with herself “in my 50s and Roger in his 60s.”
While foster care has been her baby from the start, she is extremely proud of her husband, his relaxed outlook and his work. She said, “Roger is a really good person. He just won’t do anything that isn’t right.”
With three kids in secondary school, the next concern will be college education, and Marcia said there are scholarships available to kids who were foster children or adopted. She suspects her children will want to go to Kishwaukee Community College first and then transfer, perhaps to NIU.