On the day before Thanksgiving, Larry Bauer-Scandin sat alone in his wheelchair in the bedroom of his apartment in an assisted-living complex in Maplewood. Alone, but in a way, surrounded by family.
Pictures lined the walls in neat rows, dozens of photos in matching frames of the ones he calls “my kids.”
Bauer-Scandin is legally blind, and his motor functions are weak and erratic from some still uncertain nervous-system disorder, a disease that has put him at Ecumen Seasons of Maplewood facility, though he’s only 66.
He takes a laser pointer and fixes it on a skinny kid with a wary smile.
“This one, his mother and boyfriend rented him out at night to the bar crowd,” Bauer-Scandin said bluntly.
“He would come to my room at night and complain of a toothache or something. That would be my signal to pick him up and take him to the rocker and rock him until he could sleep.”
Bauer-Scandin put the laser on another boy. “He committed suicide about three years ago.”
Then onto another photo.
“That kid, in November 1986 I cut him down, hanging from an electrical cord in the basement. He came home to die.”
There are lots of good stories, too. There better be when you’ve been a correctional foster parent for 125 of the most challenging kids in the state.
Before a mysterious childhood illness, some thought it was multiple sclerosis, returned in recent years, Bauer-Scandin had been a jail counselor, therapist, parole officer and finally, foster parent to kids in the juvenile justice system.
“I told my wife we majored in teenagers, certified, bona fide juvenile delinquents,” Bauer-Scandin said.
He ran a foster home that was licensed for 10 kids in St. Paul, but when the courts couldn’t find fits for especially troubled or violent kids, Bauer-Scandin took them in. At one time, he had 17 kids in a sprawling home near the State Fair grounds.
Bauer-Scandin developed an early sense of empathy because of his medical problems. He vividly recalls almost dying at age 9 and spending four months in the hospital next to a kid with leukemia. When the boy died, Bauer-Scandin heard his mother’s scream.
“Life takes on a strangely serious note when you hear that as a little kid.”Bauer-Scandin’s health improved and for many years he lived a relatively “normal” life, apart from partial blindness.
He developed an interest in psychology and became a therapist, but his life took several sudden turns that he sees as being directed by the Lord’s hand to the job he was made for: taking in kids nobody else wanted.
He wrote about many of him in his self-published autobiography, “Faces on the Clock.”
Though many of the kids died or ended up in jail, there were also successes, and he keeps in touch with about 20 of the people whose faces line his walls.
At least two are photos of police officers, and a few kids went on to serve in the military.“This kid is probably the closest I’ll get to a millionaire,” he said, pointing to another.
He recalls the kid, who came from a wealthy suburb, settling into his new home in a sketchy part of Marshall Avenue.
“I asked him how a kid who came from the land of porterhouse steaks [could] be so happy in the land of casseroles, and he said, ‘It’s not hard when people care about you,’ ” Bauer-Scandin said.
Because of his limited mobility and continued pain, Bauer-Scandin moved into the assisted-living complex a couple of years ago. His wife of 16 years, Peg, lives in Vadnais Heights.
At first he was dejected. “I looked out the window and said, ‘Is this it? Is this the last car? The last house?’ But what are you going to do?“So, I got up the next day and went to breakfast and met somebody,” he said. “And I realized there were 170 other somebodies, and they all need something, and I can help.”