Desiree Scott has had a busy year.
She moved back to Kansas City when her National Women’s Soccer League team, the Utah Royals, ceased operations. All Utah players were allocated to a new expansion team in Kansas City.
She competed at the Tokyo Olympics this summer with the Canadian Women’s National Team, where she was part of Canada’s first gold-medal team.
Playing in the NWSL and becoming an Olympic gold medalist would be the absolute peak for most professional athletes. Not to mention plenty of action for one year.
But not for Scott.
Her summer peaked when she officially adopted her long-term 11-year-old foster brother, DeeJay.
“DeeJay stole my heart for a long time, honestly since he came into our home,” Scott told The Star. “It was just kind of like a no-brainer, I don’t want to imagine life without DeeJay.”
But for 44 days, it looked like DeeJay would be out of Scott’s life forever.
“It was probably the longest 44 days of our family’s lives,” Scott said.
DeeJay first entered Scott’s life in 2010.
Scott’s mother, Charlene, had just lost her job of 25 years when her company in Winnipeg, Canada, shut down.
At the same time, Manitoba, Winnipeg’s province, needed foster families, especially for its indigenous community. Winnipeg has the largest total population of indigenous people in Canada, and as of 2016 nearly 20% of Manitoba’s population was made up of indigenous people.
The indigenous population is a huge part of Manitoba culture. Scott was born there, and supporting that community is close to her heart.
She also loves children, and including the fact Charlene already has three children of her own, the pair decided to check out foster care.
The voice on the other end of the line did not mince words: “We have a kid for you.”
Desiree and Charlene were on the way to Wal-Mart but quickly whipped around the car. They drove straight to the hospital to meet a two-day-old DeeJay.
The foster-care system is unpredictable. In some instances, a child might stay with a foster family for less than a year before finding a permanent home. Later, some barely remember their time in the system. For others the process is more drawn out. They remain with their foster family until they turn 18 and age out of the system.
“We didn’t actually think long-term at the time,” Scott said. “We were just like, ‘Let’s give this kid all the love he can have and just a good life until that happens.’”
At 23 years of age, Scott found herself changing diapers and feeding and bathing the latest addition to the family. Diaper-changing and bathing eventually transitioned to preschool and elementary school.
And foster mom and foster sister quickly just became mom and sister.
“It was just great,” Scott said. “I love kids and he was the most precious little baby, so he was lovely to have around.”
‘It was crazy. It was so hard’
Three days before the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, which Scott’s Utah Royals would host in Salt Lake City, Desiree’s phone rang. It was Charlene, and she was nearly hysterical.
DeeJay had been taken away.
“We’ve had him now for 10 years at that point, so to have him ripped from our arms, it was hands-down the hardest thing that our family has ever had to deal with,” Scott said. “I can just imagine his little face. It’s crazy, it was so hard.”
Children had passed through Charlene’s door through the years. That’s the way it often is for foster families. One had made an accusation about the family that resulted in all foster kids in the household being taken away.
The Challenge Cup was just days away now, but Scott hopped the next flight she could flight back to Winnipeg. Nothing was more important than finding a way to get DeeJay back.
She was on the phone with lawyers the second she touched down in Canada. Before long, an investigation into the allegations had begun.
The investigation took 44 days — 44 days that Scott was unable to speak to DeeJay, 44 days of not being able to call him or see his face before bedtime every night for the first time in 10 years.
“It was a lot of sleepless nights,” Scott said.
Forty-four sleepless nights later, investigators ruled DeeJay had been wrongfully removed from Charlene’s home. And allegations against the family were found to be baseless.
DeeJay was finally reunited with his family.
“I just held him in my arms for longer than he probably wanted to,” Scott laughed. “At that point, once he was back, that’s when we kind of really going for the process of going for legal guardianship.”
Nearly losing DeeJay was not something Desiree or Charlene wanted to experience again. The close call was a catalyst: Scott determined she would officially adopt her foster brother.
She gained official guardianship over DeeJay ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo
“He’s going to be in my life regardless, so why not make it official so we don’t have to ever worry again about any of that stuff?” Scott said.
Scott, now 34, has learned a lot about mothering in her decade-plus of caring for DeeJay. She wants to have kids of her own in the future and bringing DeeJay into the family seemed like a logical first step.
But even now, she stills feels more like a big sister than a mother to the 11-year-old. They FaceTime constantly and enjoy intense Nerf battles whenever she’s back in Canada — DeeJay is still living with Charlene in Winnipeg because of her busy summer.
DeeJay still calls her “Desi” (unless he wants something, then it’s “mom”).
“I’m just his big sister wanting to give him the best chance of success in life and be there for all those moments,” Scott said.
One of those moments came following the Summer Olympics, when Scott enjoyed a two-week break in Winnipeg to celebrate Canada’s gold-medal success. Now in sixth grade, DeeJay is starting to understand how big of a deal his big sister/mom is.
Normal trips to the grocery store are met with fanfare. DeeJay shouts “Desiree Scott, three-time Olympian!” upon arrival.
Thankfully, Scott thinks it’s hilarious. But more than anything, she’s grateful to be able to give DeeJay the security of a loving family.
“The foster care system is broken, and our family witnessed first-hand the immediate & lasting effects of such,” Scott said. “Continued support for these children and of the agencies within it are crucial.
“I think at the heart of it, truly remembering that whatever happens it should be for the betterment of the child at the end of the day, and keeping them in mind first is key.”