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.”