Several years ago, we honored the Schneider family as our Family of the Year. As part of that honor, we asked if we could share some information about their story as a family and the father, Mark, volunteered to write it. What we received was a love letter to his wife and his children. When they adopted their daughter from foster care, Mark and his wife already had three sons. He wrote about their decision to adopt again, about watching his sons and his daughter bond and form a tight sibling relationship, about the pride he felt as a father. Below is the letter Mark sent to us:
Life has been good to Kathleen and me. Both teachers, we love kids. Adopting three boys internationally had created a family of diversity that continues to enrich our lives. Timmy, now 16, came to us in 1989 from Japan. Robbie, currently 15, joined us from Korea in 1991. Finally Peter, who is 8, “completed” our family flying in from India in 1998. Completed so we thought.
Forming a family through adoption is a blessing bestowed upon those who find themselves in a position to parent children in search of a new start in life. It is indeed a path fraught with twists and turns; any kind of parenting is. Our three boys deal with daily challenges from Tourette’s Syndrome to ADHD to depression. When they hurt, we hurt. When they are successful, we share in their joy. The purchase of a new house in 2001 gave us the added space we sought to raise our three wonderful sons comfortably. It was then that we did the math: three boys, plus Kathy and I, equaled four bedrooms. Given a five bedroom house, that left one bedroom empty.
A seed had been planted in our family four years earlier. Foster care seemed to beckon us. The summer found us attending classes that would or could provide weekend respite foster care. It was while taking these classes that we become aware of Adoption Resources of Wisconsin. We found it both interesting and disheartening that hundreds of children in Wisconsin’s foster care system were adoption eligible. We weighed a possible fourth adoption against foster care. Both adoption and foster care can be and are rewarding and both come highly recommended. The discovery of the Wisconsin Adoption website, though, set us on the road to our fourth adoption.
We had not previously adopted domestically. This was to be a new adventure.
The number of children available, especially in the age group we were interested in, ages 8-14, was staggering. All had their own unique, individual stories to tell. A wonderful case manager from La Crosse, with former ties to Milwaukee, was invaluable to us in researching information provided on children to determine the most likely successful placement for our family. In less than two months, home study in tow, we were e-mailed and telephoned with the name of a child for possible placement pending months of successful visitation.
Having never expressed a preference for sex or race, it had never really mattered when adopting our three boys, we were matched with an engaging and talkative ten-year-old girl, Lucia. Yikes, a girl! We assumed with three boys already, we had that down. A girl, this was treading new water. We were nervous, surprised and excited all at the same time.
Our visits to Milwaukee and Lucia’s visits to our home in western Wisconsin were simple and routine. What made them special was Lucia. From the first time we met in the living room of her foster care provider, we knew she would one day be our daughter. Sharing time at Chuck E. Cheese, Brookfield Square, a Milwaukee Brewers game, etc. let us all see a delightful young lady with a huge smile, an infectious giggle and a heart-warming desire to be part of the family.
Being a history teacher, and partial to historical names, I had always wanted a daughter named after Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Lucy Elizabeth. Let’s see: Lucia, Lucy. It made sense to me. After relating my desire for a daughter named Lucy to Lucia, she made it clear that she was no Lucy, but a Lucia. No nicknames, she was proud of her name and rightfully so. So it was with Lucia’s visitation period from February to June of 2003. She wore her emotions on her sleeve. Lucia had been in the foster care system for years, but she was proud of who she was and determined to be herself.
It was in early June of 2003 that Lucia came to stay. It was difficult for her to leave a caring foster family and land in a part of the state that was far less urban and racially diverse from the one where she had grown up. The transition was initially not an easy one.
Making friends was not difficult, academics were. But in the two years since she has been our daughter, Lucia has blossomed because she just refuses to give in. October of 2005 found Lucia Schneider being named one of her middle school’s “Students of the Month.” I cried when she told me, she smiled as per usual.
Is school easy for Lucia? No. Does she enjoy school? You bet. Basketball, softball, youth group, cross country and show choir are all examples of her desire to achieve in and out of the classroom.
The bonding between our three sons and our daughter is what has been most rewarding. They share in her successes and she in theirs. They pick her up when she stumbles, and vice versa. And nobody better mess with their sister, hence they have her three brothers to deal with.
You may have seen Lucia recently on an update version of the Fox 6 Adoption Connection with Beverly Taylor. Those that have, what you see is what you get. Now a strong, optimistic teenager, Lucia looks to the future with an eagerness that makes those who have come in contact with her feel blessed for knowing her. This is especially true of her family, and a dad who finds himself wrapped around his daughter’s little finger.
Dedicated to Kathleen, a wonderful wife, a most loving mother, and my best friend.