Winter settles in with adoptive Layton family

Jan 4 2012 - 12:32am

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Jamie and James Skinner, seen here Friday in their Layton home, recently adopted Winter from Taiwan after she had been abandoned. At left are the Skinners’ 8-year-old biological twins, Ledger and Denver. Not pictured are the Skinners’ other biological children: River, 16, and Sawyer, 14. The Skinners waited four years and two months to adopt. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Jamie and James Skinner, seen here in their Layton home Friday, recently adopted Winter from Taiwan after she was abandoned as an infant. The toddler now has four brothers in her new family. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Jamie and James Skinner, seen here Friday in their Layton home, recently adopted Winter from Taiwan after she had been abandoned. At left are the Skinners’ 8-year-old biological twins, Ledger and Denver. Not pictured are the Skinners’ other biological children: River, 16, and Sawyer, 14. The Skinners waited four years and two months to adopt. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Jamie and James Skinner, seen here in their Layton home Friday, recently adopted Winter from Taiwan after she was abandoned as an infant. The toddler now has four brothers in her new family. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

LAYTON -- A local family is welcoming into their home a 14-month-old girl whom they named years before she was even born.

Winter Chih Skinner has not only had a stocking hanging on the family mantel for the last four Christmases, but she has also had her own 501(c)3 foundation -- The Winter Foundation -- for about the same length of time.

She just arrived from Taiwan where, because of losing her visa while picking her up, her parents experienced the kind of international adventure that normally happens only in movies.

"In the airport, I was tearing things out," said the girl's new mother, Jamie Skinner.

"We looked everywhere. We looked through every single pocket, every single inch of those suitcases. We went back to every restaurant, every store, to every police station to see if someone had turned it in."

"It was our $2,000 mistake," said new father James Skinner, outlining the costs to reschedule flights and purchase a new visa and passport, plus the charges for an extra weekend of taxis, hotels and meals.

The Skinners had planned to have their new daughter home just in time for Christmas, but because of the lost visa, they didn't arrive until the night of Dec. 28.

It was too late to watch their other children open their presents but still in time to ring in the new year in the happiest of ways.

"She's just very content," Jamie said of her adopted daughter. "She loves attention. She loves to have her brothers watch her."

Winter joins a family that includes four brothers: River, 16, Sawyer, 14, and twins Denver and Ledger, who are 8.

It was an outcome that was a long time coming.

"After four boys, we needed a girl in our family," Jamie said. "We tried to have a girl, and we got twin boys, so we decided that wasn't maybe the route for us."

"We also knew that there was someone missing from our family," James said.

And the fact that their new daughter came from Taiwan seemed fitting because James served a mission there for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I have wanted a girl forever," Jamie said. "I love my boys, and I'm so glad to have them. I have been saving girl clothes for 17 years."

The Skinners turned in their paperwork to start the adoption process four years and two months ago, thinking it would take two years.

They were thinking at the time that they'd adopt an abandoned baby girl from China.

"China changed its laws," Jamie said. "A lot of people changed their minds."

The family then set their goal to adopt a child from Haiti. That country also changed its laws following the devastating earthquake.

Eventually, the family decided on Taiwan, but the wait weighed on them to the point that James was ready to give up.

"I was going to say, 'Let's be done. Let's take our name off,' " James said. "We found out that day that they'd found a baby for us. It was God testing us to see if we were committed."

What their adoption agency, For Every Child, had found for them was a girl who had been abandoned, left in a box in the back of a truck in an industrial park.

"There was no note, and police said there was nothing significant left behind," Jamie said of Winter's surroundings when she was found.

"(Her birth mother) was good enough to give her a chance at something, but it would be nice to know something about her mom. For her, I would think it would be a big hole that she would want to know, and we don't have anything to tell her."

Jamie said one of the reasons the family wanted to share their story is to let people know their story is unique.

"A lot of people think China and Taiwan are the same," she said. "In China, baby girls are abandoned all the time. In Taiwan, moms place them for adoption, so they get really good prenatal care."

She said a lot of special-needs children, toddlers and older children are available for adoption in Taiwan, but it's really difficult to adopt an infant there.

"The Taiwan government started pushing domestic adoptions," she said. "There was a big surge of people who wanted to adopt."

But Winter is lucky in that not only was she rescued by emergency officials and sent to a good orphanage, but also because she has the love of new parents who were willing to do whatever it took to bring her home.

The Skinners didn't expect that getting their new family member would mean missing Christmas with their other children, but they say it was worth it.

And they also say it was worth the price of a new car to pay adoption fees, travel expenses and for her care in the orphanage.

It's an example of the kind of sacrifice the family has been making for strangers for several years.

They also sponsor a 14-year-old orphan in Ghana by paying the cost of his education and uniforms every year. The boy, Wisdom, calls the couple Mom and Dad and asks them to send him books and other special items on occasion.

Sometimes, Wisdom asks how his American brothers are doing.

James recently traveled to Ghana to distribute medical supplies and to help install an empower playground -- electricity-generating playground equipment -- and see how his investment in Wisdom was paying off.

"The main thing is to help them get their education, and then they can do anything," James said of the children there.

Jamie is the founder and administrator of the Winter Foundation, which this past year provided warm clothing, shoes, books and toys for 161 Davis County schoolchildren whose parents have low incomes.

And she plans to bless area children's lives for years to come in her new daughter's name.

"I have no overhead. I don't write anything off. I don't pay anybody," said the mother.

"When I get a donation, it all goes to the kids."

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