WOMAN STRUGGLES TO REGAIN 17 CHILDREN

Date: 1991-08-28

Author: GORDON OLIVER - of the Oregonian Staff

Six months after the state removed 27 children from her home, former Cornelius resident Sherry Scott is still struggling to pull her life together.

She has a long way to go. She has no permanent home, she lost her car to repossession, and she earns only a small income from house-cleaning jobs. Her 17 biological and adopted children are still scattered in foster homes, and will remain there at least until October.

Scott wants her children back, and hopes to convince the Children's Services Division that she can take care of them. In February, CSD removed her 17 children -- and 10 unrelated children -- on grounds that the family home was unsanitary, the children poorly supervised, and that some had been involved in sexual abuse.

Scott admitted in Washington County Juvenile Court in May that she had not provided adequate care for her children. A police investigation of the sexual abuse allegations is continuing.

Scott meets with each child in supervised visits for one hour every two weeks, CSD officials report. She is living with friends in Washington County and trying to earn a living, said Ted Brindle, Scott's new court-appointed attorney.

``She has been cooperating, and is perfectly willing to cooperate with CSD,'' Brindle said. ``She's doing all the things they want her to do.''

Scott did not want to comment on her current situation, Brindle said. But a friend, Ruth Anne Swartout of Springfield, said that Scott has not had an easy time dealing with her crisis. ``Under the circumstances, I would say she is doing really well,'' Swartout said.

Swartout, who cares for 50 children in her own home, said she vacillates between optimism and pessimism about whether Scott ever will get her children back.

``I don't believe a society like ours could keep her from having her children,'' she said. ``I have to believe she will get them back.''

Custody hearings in Washington County Juvenile Court had been set for mid-August. However, Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Nachtigal postponed hearings until October after Scott dropped her attorney, Charles Porter of Eugene, and requested a court-appointed attorney who needed time to prepare a case.

Scott is separated from her husband, Carl, and was trying to raise the children, many of whom are emotionally or physically handicapped, on her own. She was informally caring for 10 children who were not legally her own. Some of those children have been returned to their parents or to child protection agencies in states where they were born. Several remain in foster care, and a 17-year-old girl with a baby daughter was released from state custody.

Scott moved last spring with an adult son into a friend's home in Eugene, but was forced to move again after the home was sold. She returned to Washington County, Swartout said, because she felt she would have a better chance of getting her children back if she lived there. Scott spent last weekend trying to find a house with at least four bedrooms that she could afford, Swartout said.

Gary Shurtz, CSD's branch manager in Washington County, said his agency is working with Brindle, and is trying to explain what Scott must do in order to get her children back.

``If they will work with us, we would like to establish time frames for returning the children,'' he said.

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