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Save the toys and stuffed animals for another child; Nicholas Scherer wants only one present for Christmas.

When his parents last month asked 5-year-old Nicholas what he wanted from Santa Claus, they heard his wish:

"I want Timmy for Christmas," he said. "I want him to be my baby brother."

Timmy is a foster child who has been living with the Scherers in Amherst since shortly after he was born a year ago. Timmy is also mentally retarded.

But after watching three other foster children come and go and learning the importance of family, Nicholas was determined to keep this foster brother.

The Scherers had considered adopting Timmy.

But Nicholas made the decision much easier.

"We would take him Christmas shopping, but he didn't want any toys," Cheryl Scherer said of Nicholas. "He only wanted a baby brother."

A family vote made it final, and with the help of the Erie County Department of Social Services, the push was on to get the adoption approved by Christmas.

What normally takes a year or two is being done in less than two months. The Scherers have only one remaining obstacle -- final approval by Erie County Family Court.

But for the Scherers, it's as if Timmy already is part of the family.

In the living room sits a lavish gingerbread house -- the family project this holiday season and a symbol of Timmy's new home in Amherst.

"He's a present to the family," Nicholas said.

Scurrying around Nicholas and Timmy are Emily, 4, and Abbie, who is just four weeks older than Timmy. They agree that Timmy should stay for good.

"Emily was cute," said Richard Scherer, her father. "She said sure, as long as we adopt Abbie, too."

The confusion is understandable. The Scherers brought Timmy home from the hospital on the same day they brought home Abbie. Timmy is not his real name. Social Services workers asked that it not be revealed until the adoption is final.

Even now, the family has trouble keeping Abbie and Timmy apart. Abbie is constantly crawling into Timmy's crib to sleep, and the two often share food at mealtime.

"It's like having twins," Mrs. Scherer said.

The decision to adopt is never easy, especially for a couple with three kids of their own. But because Timmy's handicap made him difficult to place, the Scherers were confident they were not taking a baby away from a couple without children.

"That was rough, the fact that we have children of our own," Mrs. Scherer said.

But why Timmy?

"Timmy has been a special guy since the day he arrived," she said. "We took him in because he needed a home and special care."

Born three months premature, Timmy's first few weeks were rough.

Mrs. Scherer recalled bringing Timmy home from the hospital. "As I was putting him in the car, the nurse said, 'You realize he's on breast milk, don't you?" she remembered.

That may have been the first hint of a special bond.

What followed was a year together, enough time for the Scherers to get attached to their fourth foster child.

It culminated in their decision to adopt.

The Scherers are quick to thank the numerous social workers who have bulldozed through the adoption bureaucracy.

"They're so overworked, their caseloads are so great," Shearer said. "All of Timmy's social workers have been great."

But after numerous case studies, references and financial checks, the final OK is needed.

Will Nicholas get the only wish he made this holiday season?

It depends on whether the Scherers get a court date before Christmas.

The Scherers hope their little boy's dream will be fulfilled.

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