Author: GORDON OLIVER - of the Oregonian Staff
Summary: The Children's Services Division alleges sanitation and sex abuse problems as it breaks up the large family
The Children's Services Division removed 28 children from a Cornelius home Friday and placed them in protective custody. CSD alleged that the home was unsanitary and that the children were poorly supervised and had been exposed to sexual abuse.
The agency also alleged in court documents that some of the children participated in ``inappropriate sexual behaviors'' with other children in the home. CSD said Sherry Scott, mother of most of the children, was aware of ongoing sexual abuse and had ``failed to take appropriate corrective action.''
The children, ages 1 to 17 and many of them physically or emotionally disabled, are the adopted or biological children of Sherry Scott and her husband, Carl. According to friends and neighbors, Carl Scott moved out of the home last fall.
A CSD official said five or six adult children of the Scotts also live in three-story house just outside the Cornelius city limits.
Sherry Scott declined to comment, saying that her attorney had advised her not to make a statement.
After CSD removed the younger children from the house, shrieks could be heard inside. Sister Clare Vandecoevering, a friend of the family and a teacher at Visitation Catholic School in Roy, said the cries were those of an 18-year-old daughter distraught at the family breakup.
Vandecoevering said she spent five hours with the family as the children were removed. She said Sherry Scott was ``very, very upset.''
``It's one of the happiest families I've ever gone into,'' said Vandecoevering, who visited most Fridays to teach religion lessons. ``These kids got love there.'' She suggested that CSD should have helped the family without removing the children.
Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Gayle Nachtigal authorized the action at an early morning hearing. CSD officials, state troopers and Washingon County sheriff's deputies spent the morning coordinating the operation.
CSD caseworkers and state police took 12 children away shortly after noon. The others were picked up during the day at the five schools they attend.
CSD placed 25 of the children in foster care in Washington, Marion, Clackamas and Columbia counties. The three others were sent to live with family and friends, with CSD approval. The agency was able to keep together some children from the same biological families.
At a full Juvenile Court hearing Tuesday, CSD will ask to extend its protective custody while working with the family.
No criminal charges have been filed, although the state police are investigating, said Alice Galloway, a CSD spokeswoman.
CSD alleged in court documents that the house had inadequate toilet facilities, was infested by rodents and was overcrowded. It said the Scotts had failed to provide adequate protection for the physical and emotional well-being of the children.
Lorraine Kadooka, a CSD caseworker who went to the Scott home Friday, said the house was ``relatively neat and orderly'' when she and other officials arrived. The children were well-behaved, well-dressed and cooperative, she said. ``Some were upset by our arrival,'' she said. Sherry Scott was not home when police arrived but did arrive while they were there, she said.
Jerry Shurtz, the CSD's Washington County branch manager, said the Scotts were ``very likable people'' and noted that the community had rallied to support them in the past. The Cornelius Fire Department has sponsored a fund-raiser, and local newspapers have put the family in the spotlight, he said. Vandecoevering said supporters of the family deluged the house with calls after learning of the CSD action.
The news shook the household throughout the day. Four adult children arrived home on a school bus shortly after 3 p.m., to be greeted by family and friends who broke the news.
``What's going on?'' one confused boy asked when he spotted a police car and other activity near his home. A man ran from the home to meet the children and Sister Anne Vandecoevering, who was walking the half-block from the bus stop to the house.
Pat O'Connor, a neighbor, was waiting for her granddaughter before the school bus arrived. She said Sherry Scott seemed able to maintain her calm despite the stress created by her large family.
``She worked hard. I don't see how anybody could have done it,'' she said.
O'Connor said Sherry Scott had once told her that several high school boys had tried to force one of her teen-age girls from a school playground into their car.
``She said she couldn't believe it,'' O'Connor said. ``These are local boys who are supposed to be well-adjusted. It's just terrible.''
The Scott house has had a ``For Sale'' sign in front for some time. O'Connor said the family had bought 18 acres near Seaside and had hoped to move there so the children would have more room to play and keep animals.
CSD began investigating the Scott home a week ago, when it received complaints, Shurtz said. Based on information from sources the agency considered reliable, CSD began making plans to remove the children and prepared its court request. Representatives of the attorney general's office and the Washington County district attorney's office attended the hearing.