Family has room in the heart for 3 more

August 15, 1994|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

They were going to Russia with love, but wound up in Lithuania instead.

Tom and Martha Schulte returned to the United States Friday night with the three siblings they adopted in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, after a two-year, $30,000 quest.

"We call it our volume discount," Mr. Schulte said yesterday, laughing. "The Lithuanians are very interested in keeping siblings together."

As he spoke, the 6-year-old twins, Victoria and Angela, and 7-year-old Arthur played with a tricycle and a plastic car, circling the parking area next to their new Glenarm home.

"The first thing we learned is their favorite toy is the one being used by their brother or sister," said Mr. Schulte, 47, vice president of research and development for Becton-Dickinson Diagnostic Instruments Systems in Hunt Valley.

"They're so, well, rambunctious, right now," he added. "They fall, cry, get a Band-Aid, and go on. It was much worse yesterday.

"They were pretty good throughout the adoption process -- playing it safe I would say -- but now that they're here, they're behaving like any children their age by pushing the limits every day."

The Schultes, who have been married for 24 years and have a son, Nathan, decided on adoption two years ago after infertility treatments at two hospitals failed.

They began their education by attending seminars and workshops sponsored by Families Adopting Children Everywhere, a support group for adoptive parents.

They quickly discovered that it is very difficult to adopt more than one child in the United States, and the Schultes wanted two.

"I was only going through this once," Mrs. Schulte, 45, said, "and I believe a sibling relationship is important when the children are growing up."

An agency made arrangements for the Schultes to adopt a brother and sister -- both under the age of 2 and both handicapped -- from an orphanage in the city of Irkutsk in Russia. Mrs. Schulte had her suitcases packed and ready to go as last Christmas approached, but the deal suddenly fell through.

The Schultes changed adoption agencies after the Russian disappointment, and Adoptions Together, of Pikesville, handled the Lithuanian connection.

The twin girls had been placed in an orphanage at age 2 by their mother, after their father deserted the family.

Arthur's story

Arthur had lived with his grandmother until she died in January, and at the age of 6 was reunited with his sisters in the orphanage.

"Arthur is a little more reserved and broods some, and maybe doesn't trust us as much as his sisters do," Mr. Schulte said. "The girls were ready to go."

The Schultes were notified on Aug. 2 that there would be an adoption hearing on Aug. 8 in Vilnius. That hearing took about 20 minutes, and the children became part of the Schulte family.

Yesterday, Nathan, 13, who is severely retarded, sat in his father's lap and watched curiously as his new brother and sisters played.

"He's very interested in them, and they treat him solicitously," Mr. Schulte said.

Still, the Lithuanian children speak no English, and the family is operating mainly on sign language.

Learning to share

As the children played, an egg timer that Mr. Schulte held went off, and he called out "Turn!"

"One of the things they don't know about is sharing," he said.

It was Victoria's turn to ride the tricycle, and bright-eyed Angela had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, off the tricycle.

Mr. Schulte called "time out" and Angela was secluded in the house until her crying subsided.

"They've lived in an orphanage -- they call them children's homes in Lithuania -- two of them for much of their lives," Mr. Schulte said.

"They've had no schooling, and obviously not much discipline or training," he added.

The Schultes still have to get the children U.S. citizenship, and this week will start arranging for schooling.

"We're looking into a couple of private schools, but Baltimore County has a marvelous English as a Second Language program, and they might end up at Pine Grove elementary," Mr. Schulte said.

Cereal for 'Mama'

Angela called out "Mama," and offered Mrs. Schulte some cereal from a grubby hand.

"That's new," Mr. Schulte said with some surprise. "They have been saying 'Mamacita.' "

He took some cereal and said, "Acui."

"That means 'Thank you.' " Mr. Schulte said. Then he laughed.

"We're learning more Lithuanian than they are English," he said.

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