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Teacher Lourdes Lopez first heard about the infamous Scott White back when he started second grade at Miami Heights Elementary.
He fought in after-school care and struggled with homework. His mother, an addict, couldn’t care for him; his grandmother wouldn’t care for him. Scott watched as his older sister was welcomed in by a loving family and as his grandmother opted to adopt his younger brother.
After spending three years in a therapeutic foster home, Scott thought he had found a family, too. But they backed out of the adoption, devastating Scott.
At age 10, he was alone. He had no one. And then he ended up in Lopez’s class.
An assistant principal put him in her fifth-grade classroom last year. Like many teachers, Lopez, a 20-year veteran, treated Scott like one of her own. Now he is one of her own. Lopez and her husband took Scott into their home in August. He’ll be officially adopted in December — in time for his 12th birthday and his first Christmas with his forever family.
“You could tell all he wanted was acceptance,” Lopez said.
In her classroom last year, Scott clung to his seat near Lopez’s desk, his gray hoodie always up.
They worked through lunch on assignments. His state test scores leapfrogged from the lowest possible score to passing. She watched as the kid who avoided group projects became more social, even a bit of a class clown.
Then, a second prospective family, one he had traveled 12 hours to meet in Panama City during winter break, bailed on the adoption toward the end of the school year this spring.
Scott took another sharp decline in class.
Lopez called Scott’s therapist: What was next for him? Scott could no longer stay at the foster home. His next stop was a shelter in Miami Gardens.
Lopez couldn’t bear to see that. She went home and posed the question to her husband of 21 years.
She had always wanted four kids. But she had two miscarriages before her firstborn, George Gregory, now 14, and then three more miscarriages after her second child, Adrian, now 10.
She had thought about adoption but was turned off by tales of exorbitant costs and legal hurdles.
That wasn’t the case with Scott. As a foster child, his attorney’s fees, Medicaid and free higher education until age 26 were all taken care of.
George Lopez accepted a third son without ever meeting him.
But in a way, he already knew Scott.
Scott’s older sister, Sarah, had been adopted by the Leon family, who had a son who was friends with the Lopezes’ son Adrian. The Leons felt badly that Sarah’s little brother didn’t have an adoptive family, too, and talked to the Lopezes about it. It wasn’t until the Lopezes told the Leons that they were adopting a boy named Scott that the families realized they were both talking about Sarah’s brother.
Scott would now be within walking distance of his older sister, the only blood relative he is allowed to have contact with in a closed adoption.
“We all cried,” said Monica Leon, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom. “I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect scenario for him.”
Scott spent the summer bouncing between the homes to kayak, fish and swim.
He officially moved into the Lopez home on Aug. 15, days before starting sixth grade at Devon Aire K-8, where his brothers attend school. They cleaned out the playroom and Scott set up his bedroom, decorating with his own artwork and a few photos of his biological family.
Scott fit in with his new siblings, horseplaying on the couch and arguing over Fortnite on XBox and PlayStation4.
But Scott’s adoption isn’t final, and until it is, the Lopezes are not eligible to receive any financial assistance to help them care for another child.
“I’ve gotta work a little harder,” said George Lopez, an exterminator.
The family wishes for gaming laptops for the three boys and a vacation to the mountains to see snow. Preferably Colorado, Scott said, so he can get into his first snowball fight and start meeting some of his new relatives.
He has another wish: a new birth certificate with his new name — Scott Lopez.
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (The most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at Miamiherald.com/wishbook .