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TV anchor, SCV resident adopts new legacy

KTLA anchor Chris Schauble shares his quest to find his birth parents

Posted: May 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
(Left) KTLA news anchor and Stevenson Ranch resident Chris Schauble poses with his birth mother in 2014. (Right) An old family photo shows Schauble’s birth parents, who gave him up for adoption when he was one year old. (Left) KTLA news anchor and Stevenson Ranch resident Chris Schauble poses with his birth mother in 2014. (Right) An old family photo shows Schauble’s birth parents, who gave him up for adoption when he was one year old.
(Left) KTLA news anchor and Stevenson Ranch resident Chris Schauble poses with his birth mother in 2014. (Right) An old family photo shows Schauble’s birth parents, who gave him up for adoption when he was one year old.

Thousands of viewers watched April 25 as KTLA Early Edition news anchor and Stevenson Ranch resident Chris Schauble wept into the shoulder of his birth mother, her hand gently hovering over his head as she whispered in his ear. 

“I knew the good Lord wouldn’t let me pass from this earth without knowing you’re alright,” Virginia Robinson said during the KTLA interview.

For Schauble, a 44-year-old adoptee, the search for his birth parents was always a gamble.

And the closer he got to an answer, the higher the stakes became.

“I gave the station complete access, whether the outcome was embarrassing or negative or she didn’t want to meet me,” he said. “This would be a phenomenal journey for me and the adoption community.”

For better or worse, Schauble would bring the watching world into his past, present and future as he took the leap many have considered before, and many will contemplate after him.

“I deserve to know how I got here,” he said.

The adoption

Officially adopted as a 1-year-old, Schauble enjoyed a childhood with loving siblings and parents who prioritized a strong education.

“I was raised by a white family, so (the adoption) was out in the open,” he said. “My mom is my mom, and my dad is my dad … I’m their kid, and that’s the bottom line.”

For most of his life, he thought he wanted for nothing. But he eventually acknowledged something felt missing.

As a boy, Schauble would sit near a “beautifully spirited grandmother, a woman of color” at church.

“She would light up when she hugged me,” Schauble said.

He could feel the sense of connectedness, but also the differences in culture that he hadn’t realized were there before.

“I was missing out on something, but I didn’t realize I was missing out,” he said.

The search

“That urge grew,” Schauble said of his wish to meet his birth parents.

In October 2013, Schauble approached the special projects producer at KTLA Channel 5.

Providing resources that wouldn’t otherwise be available to Schauble, KTLA assembled the production team, a private investigator and an Adoption Angel, or an expert in adoption support services. 

Since his reunion aired, KTLA has helped make this team available to other adoptees in search of answers.

“I decided if I was going to share this with the world, it had to be duplicatable,” Schauble said. “What good is it if someone sees this and says, ‘I can’t do that myself’?”

But Schauble immediately hit a wall.

His mother had requested a closed adoption. Only the Adoption Agency in the state of Florida, where he was born, could open his sealed file.

For months, Schauble pushed through a series of small leads followed by bigger setbacks.

“The information was counterintuitive to what I thought,” Schauble said. “But each one of these developments became a story in my journey.”

With leads drying up, the team had all but stalled — until they met Adoption Agency employee Minnie Jenkins.

From Jenkins, Schauble learned he could petition the state of Florida to open his closed adoption file. And when he met with the magistrate, Schauble cited his need for medical history as the reason to open the confidential documents. 

“‘I just wanted to know,’ wasn’t enough,” he said.

Without nearly as much pushback as they expected, the Florida magistrate granted him access.

“Right away, we realized the magnitude of what happened,” Schauble said. “After all this time, after building a life without her … it went from possibility to probability that I was going to meet my birth mother.”

Until that moment, Schauble said he hadn’t allowed himself to care too much. But once his wish became reality, a further setback or negative experience would have been crushing, he said.

“I was happy, scared and a little withdrawn,” he said, “thinking about the magnitude of what would happen.”

The meeting

On March 17, Schauble’s “earthquake face” — his live reaction to a minor Los Angeles-area quake — went viral on social media.

In the midst of a morning of jokes and laughter, Schauble received a phone call.

His mother wanted to meet him.

“The biggest factor was that she was alive,” Schauble said. “I couldn’t call her right away. I didn’t have the guts.”

A handful of hours later, Schauble picked up the phone for a second time and dialed. Ring. Ring.

“‘Hi son,’” Schauble said of his first words with his birth mother. “Without pause, she knew exactly who I was. The tears for both of us just started flowing. It was like a water well had just opened up.

“We talked for 1 hour and 6 minutes,” he said. “We talked about the why, the how — all of it.”

Schauble’s mother, a white woman, and his father, a black man, met in the South in the 1960s. Working together at a gardening store, the pair left work one day only to meet police cars. They were arrested for being an interracial couple, he said.

“My father was a smooth talker, swept her off her feet — all of that,” Schauble said.

His father, John Robinson, was a heavy drinker and smoker, according to his mother, and a WWII veteran. He died before Schauble was able to meet him.

During that very first conversation, Virginia explained her choices.

Before Schauble was born, Virginia told John: “I am not going to have a child with you because you’re an unfit dad,’” Schauble recalled from a conversation with his birth mother. 

Later, Schauble went on to meet his half-siblings on his father’s side. Looking at photos of his father, Schauble recognized his own features — the jawline, smile, dimple — in the weathered photographs.

Visiting his father’s gravesite, Schauble’s half-brother asked him to lead a prayer.

“I just lost it,” Schauble said. “I was highly emotional.”

“It could have been a painful experience,” he said. “But it turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.”

The journey ahead

Since Schauble’s story aired, more than 40 adoptees have reached out to the station to elicit help and services, Schauble said.

Some parents reached out, as well, inspired to tell their own children of their adoptions.

“Don’t be scared to have conversations. Don’t be afraid to search, to find, to share,”Schauble said. “There are greater challenges and stigma if you run from it.

“From a young age, I had the desire to show the world I was going to make something of myself — to show the world I belonged as an adoptee,” Schauble said. “But at some point, there are things you deserve to know.”

This past Mother’s Day, Schauble called two moms and sent two arrangements of flowers.

“It’s like when you have children: You don’t love one more than the other,” Schauble said.

Looking back on a journey Schauble never envisioned would end so beautifully, he is grateful.

“We go through life, and we don’t allow things to touch us,” Schauble said. “This really touched me.

“I thought I was doing it for me; I now realize I was doing it for both of us. We found a place of peace.”




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