Lake Orion couple provides hope for Elisyn
'Friends say our kids are so lucky to have parents like us. No, I say we're the lucky ones to be able to share our lives with them. We're very fortunate.'
August 03, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
|Jeff and Jaime Kinser look forward to adding Elisyn to their family this month. Photos by J. Kinser (click for larger version)|
This weekend, Lake Orion resident Jeff Kinser is flying to China. On Aug. 19, he will bring home a special overseas present to his wife and kids: a new addition to the family.
Four-year old Elisyn is the couple's third adopted child from China, joining Sawyer, 5, and Vaughn, 4, all three of whom have special needs. Combine these with their three biological kids, Raven, 12: Chase, 7 and Maddie, 5 and one wonders where mom and dad find energy each day.
"It's been hectic around here lately, so I told Jeff to catch up on his sleep in the air (a 15-hour plane ride to China)," said Jaime, his wife. "We're going to be even busier when they return home."
This story begins in 2007, when Jeff and Jaime decided they wanted a bigger family, but could not have any more kids on their own. They explored the possibility of a domestic adoption, but discovered the process was cumbersome.
Jaime then researched international adoptions and soon realized there are a huge number of orphaned children in China. This includes a large proportion of special-needs kids with health and developmental challenges who are often abandoned by their biological parents.
Fortunately for the Kinsers, the Chinese government is very cooperative in facilitating such adoptions to overseas families who want to help these children.
"We simply believe every child needs to be loved and have a family," Jaime said. "China can't provide this to these kids and we can -- it wasn't too hard a decision on our part."
It took almost two years to bring Sawyer home in March 2009. Later that year, the Kinsers began providing for Vaughn when another adoptive family in the area decided they were not capable of taking care of his special needs. The Kinsers officially adopted him in November 2010.
Not surprisingly, the couple has gotten involved in advocacy groups for orphaned Chinese children. Last year, while reading a blog entry on the Love Without Boundaries website, Jaime found a picture of Elisyn and read her story.
Elisyn was born with severe heart problems and, untreated at birth, her condition has grown significantly worse living in China. The Kinsers, comfortable with the demands of raising special-needs children, decided that adding one more to their brood would be a blessing.
While Jeff and Jaime have not met Elisyn in-person yet, friends who have adopted from the same Chinese orphanage have and taken pictures of the girl for the Kinser family, many of which are posted on the website, HopeforElisyn.com.
It costs quite a bit of money to adopt a child from China. Some $10,000 in fees alone to the Chinese government, plus travel expenses. The family planned to use its tax return this past spring to help pay the cost. But an IRS snafu with Vaughn's first adoptive family regarding his dependency status put the payment in limbo. (This has been resolved, but the refund has not yet arrived.)
Meanwhile, doctors at the University of Michigan who reviewed Elisyn's health records said she needed to get here as quickly as possible. The Chinese government agreed and expedited the adoption process both on its end and here.
"We're very grateful to the Chinese officials and caregivers who have stepped forward to help us bring our daughter home as quickly as possible," Jeff said.
This is where friends of the Kinser family stepped in to help last month. They quickly organized a community fundraiser for the family at Buffalo Wild Wings that raised nearly $3,000 -- enough to allow Jeff to book flights for the trip to China and back. The family's doctors are confident Elisyn will be fine on the plane ride, sleeping a lot due to her condition.
"We're simply amazed with the support our friends have provided and appreciative beyond words," he said. "It's situations like this that show you why Lake Orion is such a special place."
The parents are both excited and cautious as the day Elisyn arrives in Lake Orion draws near, knowing the next several months will not be easy for their young daughter, Jaime said.
During the first month, Elisyn will spend a lot of time with her new family, bonding with new parents and siblings. More importantly, she will be visiting U of M doctors ready to assess her medical condition firsthand and plan a course of action.
Jeff, soft-spoken by nature, cannot explain why people put him and his wife on a pedestal.
"Friends say our kids are so lucky to have parents like us," he said. "No, I say we're the lucky ones to be able to share our lives with them. We're very fortunate."
Persons interested in helping the Kinser family defray the costs of bringing Elisyn home are encouraged to visit www.hopeforelisyn.com, where they can provide an online donation.