Courtesy photo Jaelynn, who was once a Chinese orphan, will soon be the newest member of the Altman family. Teresa and David Altman are currently in Beijing awaiting the final approval steps to adopt 5-year-old Jaelynn and bring her back to their home in Highlands County.
click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Friday, November 16, 2012
A sister for Christmas
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - It will certainly be a Christmas to remember for the Altman family this year when parents Teresa and David return to Florida from a whole world away.
The family of five will be getting a little bigger. After a lengthy waiting game, the Altmans have started their journey to bring their new daughter, Jaelynn, home since being approved for the adoption of the young Chinese orphan.
The Altman family's story begins a year ago when oldest daughter Katie, 19, traveled to China on a short-term mission trip with the Show Hope organization. Katie arrived in China in June 2011. For the next week and a half, Katie met a number of interesting and special needs orphans who all were unique, but one in particular caught her full attention.
"I spent 10 days at the orphanage and I met Jaelynn," Katie said.
Katie was almost instantly drawn to the now 5-year-old and quickly learned of her ailments. Though Jaelynn suffers from spina bifida and bilateral club feet, her personality and intelligence shined through bright as ever.
After Katie's return and the many stories of young Jaelynn, Katie's hope for a family for the young girl grew immensely.
"I wanted to find her a family and I prayed for her to find one. I didn't really think right away about adoption but after a while I said to my parents 'Well, why don't we just adopt her?'," Katie said.
While the decision to adopt Jaelynn was easy, the actual process was everything but.
"They thought about it and prayed about it for a while. My parents made the phone call to China in September," Katie said.
Following the initial contact with the CCAI (Chinese Children Adoption International), the Altmans were somewhat discouraged.
"We were totally overwhelmed with the costs of everything. We learned it would take about $26,000 to do this adoption," Katie said.
"I knew it would take a miracle to bring Jaelynn to our home," Teresa said.
The family continued to pray for God's will to be done and for Jaelynn to find a home. Eventually, Teresa and the Altmans felt that they were the family for Jaelynn and began making efforts to work towards her adoption.
The Altmans first applied for a grant through the Show Hope organization. They continued to raise money through fundraisers in the meantime, all while keeping the hope that their miracle would happen.
"It's a long process," Katie said. "You normally have to wait to be matched with a kid. They sort of see what type of family you are and what child would fit best with you according to their needs. But we went in already knowing what child we wanted so the process was a little different."
Several months later, after much hard work and a lot of help, the Altmans had raised the funds it takes to complete the adoption. The funds would cover a number of things, including transportation to and from China, passports, and administrative purposes.
"One of the big things that took up a big part of the cost was the fingerprinting. For an international adoption, everyone in the family 18 and older have to be fingerprinted for security reasons ... that part alone cost a few thousand dollars," Katie explained.
By March of this year, the family was taking the next steps in the adoption process. The initial adoption plan had revealed that Jaelynn would be adopted by late June, however there was a brief hold up in the process that cost the Altmans several more months of waiting.
As the family waited for China to clear things on its end, the Altmans became more and more excited about adding another person to their loving family.
"Abby was really excited ... she's really looking forward to having someone closer to her age to play with," Katie said.
Katie, the eldest of the Altman children, has seen the excitement of her 17-year-old brother Matt and 10-year-old Abby. Each of the kids are anxious to met their new sister.
"We are all really excited," Katie said.
Wednesday morning, David and Teresa were anxiously awaiting the departure of the flight to Beijing when they spoke briefly about the next two weeks.
"Once we get there we have to wait a day or so. We will get Jaelynn on Sunday, Florida time; Monday, China time. We have to stay a couple weeks in Beijing; we will be back on Dec. 1," Teresa said.
The biggest part of the wait is the passport for Jaelynn as an American citizen, which takes two weeks to process. David and Teresa will also have a consulate appointment, which is similar to a court appearance that will officially classify the Altmans as Jaelynn's parents.
Upon their return to the United States, Jaelynn will be showered with love from all of her siblings and other family members. The Altman parents will attend special training courses that will help them deal with the transition as well as better prepare them as adoptive parents.
The family plans to teach English to Jaelynn, though she already speaks the language a little.
"We've been told to be careful what we say," Katie said with a laugh. "She may not speak it (English) that well, but she can definitely understand it."
As for the upcoming holiday season, the Altmans plan to downscale their normal routines and traditions to ensure that Jaelynn is comfortable and secure during her first weeks with the family.
"She has a play room and everything ready and we are all excited. We are probably going to be having a lot smaller Christmas than normal this year. We don't want to overwhelm her," Katie said.
Small Banner Ads