Family Shares Christmas With 3 Adopted Siblings

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Parents John and Linda Schuerer celebrate Christmas with chocolate-covered cherries. It's a long-standing tradition of John's family, even if their children turn their noses up at the candy-coated treats.

"Nobody likes them," John said.

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John and Linda Schuerer, their six children, three dogs and two cats prepare to celebrate Christmas together.

This Christmas, as John tries to pass on his family traditions, whether they are accepted or not, he does so with pride for the children who came to him and his wife through both birth and adoption.

The Schuerers are a blended family of sorts. Their biological children are Molly, 16, Abby, 6, and Elly, 5. Abby and Elly were just babies when their other siblings came into their lives.

"I was kind of prepared," Molly said. "It's hard at times, but it's nice."

Matthew, 12, Riley, 5, and Luke, 4, were adopted through the foster care system.

"Within a year, we had four children," said Linda, a former Child Protective Services employee.

Full-blooded siblings Matthew and Riley came into the Schuerers' home five years ago.

"You don't see children who are removed for no reason," Linda Schuerer said. "It's not just something that occurs. Usually there are a lot of issues."

Not yet a toddler, Luke arrived at the Schuerer home as a malnourished, underdeveloped child from a family of five other siblings.

"Luke was severely neglected," Linda said. "He couldn't stand until he was 2 years old."

He was scheduled to stay for less than a week, but Luke became a permanent, adopted member of the family.

Luke, not unlike many abused, neglected and drug-exposed children, sustained physical, emotional and developmental wounds. Linda said Luke needs to have food always readily available.

"They've been through serious deprivation issues," she said. "These kids do things that just blow your mind."

Some steal, others lie, but almost all these children act out.

"These children's needs were never met and it takes a while to build this trust," she said.

The Schuerers, their six children, three dogs and two cats live in a tidy, six-bedroom home. Linda's collection of eclectic crosses hang on one wall.

On another wall, a portrait of the family, dressed in white, defines the spirit of the place.

In 1999, the state approved the Schuerers as foster parents.

Through the years, they've accepted all types of cases. But, Linda said, the preparation and support from the state needs an overhaul.

"The state doesn't prepare people well," she said. "It puts the adoptive family homes at risk, especially when the kids are older."

Foster children tend to have behavioral problems stemming from abuse and neglect. In turn, some of these children are abusive and self-destructive. Others have emotional trauma.

"The families need that extra help," John said. "They need the state to step in. If you try to do it alone, you just can't."

The upside, she said, is the community involvement. Friends, family members, churches, organizations and other foster parents step in and help out.

"These kids are in the system," John said. "They're everyone's kids. You meet a lot of great people. You meet a lot of great kids."

Meanwhile, the spirit of the Schuerer family is extending their home to children in need. Even though their house is full, they still keep an extra bedroom available. They recently cared for a baby who was in a full cast after a beating by a parent.

"It takes so much. It isn't just love. It's so much more than that," Linda said.

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