Date: 1991-02-20

Author: GORDON OLIVER - of the Oregonian Staff

Summary: A judge says the youngsters removed Friday from a Cornelius home must remain temporarily in foster care

Twenty-seven children removed from a Cornelius house last Friday will remain in the state's protective custody, at least for now, Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Gayle Nachtigal ruled Tuesday.

Nachtigal allowed a 28th child, a boy who had been living temporarily in the home, to return to his parents in Portland.

Most of the children are the adopted or biological children of Carl and Sherry Scott of Cornelius. They lived with Sherry Scott and several adult children in a large house until Friday, when state police pulled them from the home and from five local schools. The children are now living in foster homes in four counties.

Nine of the children are mentally retarded and 12 are emotionally disturbed, an attorney for Sherry Scott told the court.

CSD contended that the house was unsanitary, that the children were not adequately supervised and that some had observed or been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior. The agency said Sherry Scott was aware of the purported sexual abuse but did not stop it.

Sherry Scott maintained her composure throughout the court hearing but sobbed afterward as she hugged supporters and some of children in the crowded Juvenile Department lobby in Hillsboro. She said she wanted children back.

``I'm not Mother Teresa and I never claimed to be,'' she told reporters.

Scott said she had adopted so many children because ``I love kids and there's a big need.''

Carl Scott, who left his wife and home last fall, sat alone at the rear of the courtroom Tuesday and left quietly afterward.

The next step in the legal process will be a pretrial hearing, probably in about six weeks, on the CSD's request for legal guardianship of the children. If the CSD believes problems in the Scott home have been corrected by then, the agency could decide to drop its guardianship effort and recommend returning the children to Sherry Scott.

For purposes of Tuesday's hearing, attorney Charles Porter of Eugene, who is representing Sherry Scott, allowed that there was probable cause for the state's accusations, but outside the courtroom Porter said he would challenge the allegations in the legal process.

Four of the Scott children told Nachtigal in court they wanted to return to live with their mother. Four other children spoke privately to the judge, with Porter present, outside the courtroom. Those children did not want to speak in front of Sherry Scott, said Brian Dobbs, a CSD caseworker.

Oregon State Police trooper Michael McKernan said at the hearing that the Scott home was cluttered and unsanitary when he and other police removed 12 children from the house Friday.

McKernan said hallways were clogged with materials and mattresses blocked access to the only fire escape in the three-story building. The single smoke alarm didn't work, and a heater was improperly ventilated, he said. Rats had chewed holes in food bags and had been in the bedrooms, he said.

The septic system was so overloaded that it created an extreme health hazard, McKernan said. It took only 5 minutes for a dye flushed down a toilet to surface in the yard, he said.

Parents of two children who had been staying temporarily with Sherry Scott asked Nachtigal to let them take their children back.

Nachtigal said Connie and Brian Wilmoth of Portland could keep their 8-year-old son, who moved out of the Scott home last week before CSD took the other children.

But Nachtigal said CSD should retain custody of the son of Don and Mary-Jane Goodrich of Auburn, Wash., until the child protection agencies of the two states agree whether to move the boy to Washington.

Both couples said they had placed their children with the Scotts because the children were emotionally or physically disabled and needed special attention. They said their children's attitudes and behavior had improved in the time they had lived with the Scotts.

Many people in the community have rallied to support Sherry Scott in recent days, and some have criticized the CSD for taking the children instead of offering help.

Dobbs said after the hearing that he had told Sherry Scott last December that the CSD could provide family services that would help her maintain her large family.

She turned down the offer, Dobbs said. ``She said she could handle it,'' he said.


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