After 19 months, a family is born

Theresa Edwards

Foreign adoption worth the wait for KSU professor and wife

Dr. Max Grubb and his 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Sophie, look at a black squirrel before heading out to dinner with Grubb’s wife. Sophia’s adoption through the Chinese government took more than a year to finalize.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Shana’s “water broke” when she and her husband decided to adopt, but in her case, her husband did the work too.

Shana didn’t lie on a table with a doctor between her legs poking around for a newborn while her husband looked on. Instead the two worked together as a team to put documents and records together so they could have their new baby.

Forming the dossier, or paperwork similar to a resume, for an adoption is like having a baby biologically. Except instead of hourly labor, the process takes six months.

The “labor” that Jane “Shana” Steinhouse and Max Grubb put into their 19-month pregnancy involved collecting birth certificates, their marriage license, health records and other various documents to be notarized.

When they got these papers notarized, they dealt with three different states: Ohio, Illinois and New York. Steinhouse was born in New York, Grubb was born in Ohio, they were married in Ohio and they lived in Illinois. Each document had to go to its original government agency to be notarized.

Private life exposed

Steinhouse, a self-employed massage therapist, felt the physicals and other medical exams were too personal. For anyone else to have a baby, she said, the only requirement was to have sex – but they were scrutinized.

“You really have to be willing to expose your private life for someone to evaluate and determine whether you’re a qualified parent,” she said.

The home study that had to be completed involved four sessions. Three interviews were a part of the process; one with the expecting parents together and one with each of them individually. These three sessions also involved education about transracial adoption. The fourth session was a home inspection.

Grubb said they had to childproof the house months prior to the adoption.

Steinhouse said the agencies gave them questionnaires during the interviews to determine how healthy the situation was. They measured the couple’s view on their relationship, how they fought, attitudes on parenting and financial information.

Pictures of themselves and their house were included in the dossier.

Then, they had criminal background checks and were fingerprinted locally and by the state and FBI. They had to drive two hours to the closest bureau office. Steinhouse said she had to make three trips.

Ultimately, she said, her fingerprints were unreadable and the FBI asked her to go to her local police station and write a letter swearing she was an upstanding citizen. The letter also had to be notarized.

It frustrated her because she had to take time off work every time she went.

“Why couldn’t they have had me do that in the first place?” she questioned.

Cultural history

The couple lived in Carbondale, Ill., the home of Southern Illinois University, where Grubb worked.

The university there had an international student program where families could host a student.

The family’s responsibility would be to take their student out once or twice a month, keep in correspondence and work on his or her English.

They met Chinese students through this program, which influenced their decision to adopt a Chinese baby.

“I was feeling like there’s this line (from) From Here To Eternity to adopt healthy white babies,” she said. “And we were open to adopting a child outside of our culture or race and we’ve always had some connections to other counties and cultures for a long time.”

Grubb said he also did a lot of international traveling for his doctoral dissertation. His travels took him to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia, along with other European travel. He said adoption came up often during that time.

But even with the travel and cultural background, it took them about two years to get on the same page about adopting. They eventually went to an adoption fair in February 2002 to educate themselves and make a final decision.

At the fair, they started hearing positive remarks about the adoption agency they ended up using, the Associated Services for International Adoption.

She said she heard that they were very professional, that people had good experiences with them and that they handled problems well. She said all employees had their licenses, and they had a great staff in China.

But in the middle of the adoption, a new director was appointed because the previous director retired, who they had heard good things about. Then, their case worker was fired and the agency went through a period of instability.

Steinhouse said they still handled things smoothly.

The waiting game

The agency they worked through, ASIA, based in Portland, Ore., then took the completed dossier, translated it to Mandarin and sent it to China.

From there, it was a waiting game. They waited for the paperwork to get to China and then when it got there, they had to wait 12 to 13 months for the paperwork to be completed.

The waiting made Steinhouse uneasy. She said she kept thinking China was going to shut down orphanages or the world was going to go to war. Something else would prevent her from adopting.

Then, SARS hit the Chinese population. She said Chinese orphanages were shut down for three months.

This upset them.

“That was really hard and we needed some hand-holding,” Steinhouse said.

She said it almost felt like it was not going to happen.

Steinhouse and Grubb didn’t just decide to adopt, however.

“We were always open to adoption and we did for a period of a time try to have children biologically … When that didn’t happen we became more open to the idea of adoption,” she said.

After the approximatly 12-month waiting period for the Republic of China to sort the paperwork, the couple got their referral. They found out there was a baby waiting for them. Their next step was to accept or reject the offer.

Contact features correspondent Theresa Edwards at [email protected].