When Marcia Scott was growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, she would walk 12 blocks to high school from her grandmother’s house, and along the way pass an orphanage where a little girl once asked her to take her home.
“It was so sad. I don’t know what happened to her,” Marcia, 70, said, sitting at her dining room table next to her husband, Roger Scott, 73, DeKalb County sheriff, and one of their adopted sons, David, 15, a sophomore at DeKalb High School who has Down syndrome complicated by Fetal Alcohol Effect.
Decades later, Marcia watched an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on adopting. And on Friday, she was awarded the national American Legion Forty and Eight Hero of the Year Award. She received the state award Aug. 11 in DeKalb, and both were for her significant impact of being a foster parent for almost five decades.
“I think it was kind of my calling, really,” she said. “I thought ‘I can cuddle babies, I can change them, I can take care of them.’ That’s when I felt that it was really what I was supposed to do.”
After talking Roger into it (they already had three biological children – Nathan Scott, 48, of DeKalb; Heather Rexroad, 45, who is in the process of adopting one of the babies her parents recently fostered; and Daniel Scott, 44) and after he had just been elected sheriff, the Scotts got their first foster child, a baby named Patrick.
“It was pretty exciting,” Marcia said. “He was a little 4½ pound drug baby. I really had to educate myself on that.”
A day in the life
Decades later, the Scotts have fostered more than 46 children in their DeKalb home and adopted seven of them.
The youngest, Evalina, 7, is home-schooled. Ashton, 11, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a young age and also has autism, attends Huntley Middle School. After David, there’s Alex, 20, who lives at home and works as an equipment specialist at Lehan Drugs in DeKalb. Angie, 27, works as a social worker in Paw Paw, and was adopted by the Scotts as a baby, along with her sister, Ebony, 24, who works at Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital. Thomas, 27, lives in Denver, Colorado, working security after four years in the U.S. Army, including service in Afghanistan.
There’s no stopping them, either, said Marcia, as they eagerly await the next phone call to welcome a child into their home.
With four kids still at home, an average day in the Scott household begins at 5:30 a.m. Ashton and David need to take morning medications half an hour before they eat, and be on the bus by 7 a.m. Alex then is coaxed out of bed and off to work. Marcia then spends the day homeschooling Evalina and running errands. She picks up David from school at 2 p.m., comes home and begins dinner. When Roger returns from work, they begin to wind the kids down for the evening, and Marcia heads to bed.
Roger spends his days off outside with the kids, taking them hiking and fishing.
Although the Scotts are adamant that they would rather stay “out of the spotlight,” they share their story so others can be inspired to join the fostering world.
“It is very rewarding when you see you’ve made a difference in a child’s life,” Marcia said. “It can also be an invasion into your home because you have case workers, therapists. It is heartbreaking when you fall in love with these kids, and how can you not, you know? They’re beautiful kids.”
Advice for other foster parents
The Scotts credit a network of foster parent support groups in DeKalb County and their church as a reason for their success with fostering.
They’ve worked with Children’s Home and Aid in Rockford for more than a decade, and worked with an agency in West Dundee before that. Marcia said foster parents can be reimbursed for purchases such as diapers and clothing if they request a voucher ahead of time, but the financial burden almost always falls to the caregivers.
“It is worthwhile, it’s just difficult,” Roger said. “The system is difficult. And the court system is long. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Marcia said having a child endure years of uncertainty regarding custody can be a heavy burden for both the child and the caregiver.
“The child becomes either attached to us or very confused moving back sometimes from mom and dad doing visits,” Marcia said. “It’s disruptive to their brains. I’d like to see that time lessened to where they have real permanency. I know you have to give everybody a chance, but the child is the one who pays for it in the end.”
Roger said most beginning foster parents also underestimate the time commitment each child needs.
“The fact is, this is the life that we’ve chosen,” Roger said. “You always think ‘well what if?’ but ‘what if’ could’ve been not very good, so we’re very happy with the results. We know there’s a lot of people out there doing the same thing and doing it better.”
The Scotts said they don’t think their contribution is any greater than others. Fostering is hard work for everyone.
“I always encourage them to go ahead and do it if they’re thinking about it, but I do let them know the reality of it and I don’t sugarcoat it,” Marcia said. “It is hard work. There’s just too many kids out there to not take them, to not give them a safe place. Every child deserves to have a full tummy, a clean bed and a hug.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle