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Schuster Will Meet Their Baby on Mother’s Day – 5.10.2006

By Christine Cote

COURT HOUSE – Fred Schuster won’t be showing up for work at the hospital here for two weeks. Instead, he and his wife will be traveling to China to pick up the little girl they have chosen to adopt.
They leave from Newark tomorrow on a 14-hour flight that will take them to Beijing.
Schuster is an exercise physiologist in Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital’s Fitness Center and Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. He and his wife Patricia, who prefers “Trish,” will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary Oct. 26.
By then, their daughter, Katherine Larkin HuiXuan Schuster, who they will be meeting for the first time this weekend, will be just about two years old.
Her exact age is not known because she was left on a hospital doorstep, in a basket with formula and clothes, Schuster said. He and his wife were told by a social worker with Wide Horizons for Children that the baby was well fed and well cared for – “it looked like the mother had no choice.”
It’s that lack of choice that prompted the Schusters to seek a child to complete their family from China. Unable to have children, the couple began investigating possible sources for adoption.
Trish Schuster refers to herself as a “big research person” and admits she tends to “research things to death.”
That’s how they found Wide Horizons, which Trish Schuster said is the largest adoption agency in New England. In business since 1974, they have placed 9,000 children domestically and internationally.
Its main office is in Waltham, Mass., but it also has an office in Plainfield, New Jersey, not far from where Schuster grew up in Maplewood and not from their home in Atlantic County.
The Schusters, who are both 46, will spend about $20,000 for the services of Wide Horizons, including all travel expenses for the next two weeks.
“It’s a myth in adoption, when people have been asked ‘how much did it cost to buy her,'” said Trish Schuster.
And people will come up to someone and ask just that, she said, even though it’s thoughtless and intrusive.
If asked, her response would be “She didn’t cost anything.”
What the Schusters are paying for is the professionalism of the agency staff, she said, which includes a pediatrician that will be traveling with them and a Chinese program coordinator who acts as a liaison between the agency and the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs, to ensure that everything will go smoothly.
“I don’t mind paying for that level of expertise,” she said. They’ve gotten “prompt attention” anytime they have asked for anything from the agency.
As she now tries to organize the file she’s been keeping into some kind of scrapbook, knowing she won’t have time once her daughter arrives, she said she realizes how much time it has taken and how involved it has been since they began this process about a year ago.
As Schuster puts it, they have jumped through a lot of hoops.
“People say you should pass a test and get a license to have a child,” he said. “That’s what these agencies do.”
They have been fingerprinted, had criminal background checks, had their residency checked through local police and have provided employment histories and extensive financial information.
After all that, “then it gets personal,” said Schuster. A social worker did a walk through of their home and talked with them about their upbringing, their values, and attitudes.
During one of two home studies, said Schuster, they also got tips on how to child proof their home.
He and his wife have very different family backgrounds. His was an extended family and while growing up he lived with his parents, three siblings and two grandparents. She was an only child.
They were also asked why they wanted to adopt and why they thought they would make good parents, said Schuster.
The initial process was sterile, more like getting a mortgage to finance a home, while the second phase was far more probing and personal, a “huge dichotomy,” he said.
They did consider a domestic adoption and “talked to people who had had bad experiences,” said Schuster. They were uncomfortable with the degree of a birth mother’s rights here and concerned how that could impact them emotionally, he said.
“We didn’t want to expose ourselves to that,” Schuster said, after hearing “some very bad stories.”
They chose China over Eastern Europe and South American based on what their research had uncovered.
With a strict policy to control burgeoning population in China to limit families to one and in some cases two children or be subject to penalties, babies are abandoned or put in orphanages there, said Schuster, particularly female babies.
“We personally felt there was a moral reason to adopt from there,” he said. “We also found out they have a good orphanage system; the kids are healthy and well cared for.”
Health concerns were what kept them from adopting a child from the Eastern bloc countries. Although, said Schuster, they do know people who adopted healthy children from that part of the world. That they would have to travel twice for an adoption from there, he said, was also a reason they decided against it.
As for South American, he said, there is no state or locally run system. Lawyers who serve as brokers run it and the Schusters were told of one experience where a family went to pick up the child and were asked by a lawyer how much they were willing to pay.
Their daughter has been lucky since she has been in a foster home, said Trish Schuster.
They were also provided with three months of “milestone” records between the time she was three and seven months old, which they were required to have reviewed by a pediatrician here.
As she anticipates tomorrow’s departure, Trish Schuster said she is “very pleased. It’s a leap of faith, but so is having a child by birth. You could be blessed with a healthy child or have a challenge or two, same here.”
They are traveling with a group of over a dozen other families that are adopting Chinese children.
“Our agency is one of the first to pioneer group travel,” she said. They will spend two days in sightseeing Beijing. They expect to see the Great Wall, the Imperial Palace and, if there’s time, the summer Palace.
On Mother’s Day, they will fly to the city of Nanchang where they will meet Katherine for the first time.
Trish Schuster explained that her husband chose the name Katherine and that Larkin is her mother’s maiden name. The second middle name retains the baby’s Chinese appellation and heritage.
After they picked the name, Trish Schuster said, she found out that her great grandmother was named Katherine Larkin. A cousin e-mailed her just last week that this ancestor’s birthday was May 11.
Contact Cote at (609) 886-8600 Ext 31 or: ccote@cmcherald.com

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