WEST HAVEN -- A large, wooden Christmas sign sits on the piano at the Dallimore home, urging them to "Believe."
It's a reminder that this family believes in miracles.
And watching the family interact with their newest member brings an instant feeling of wonder.
Phoebe, a 2-year-old from China, marches around squeezing a noisemaking dinosaur. She pauses to throw off her shoes and socks with the same enthusiasm with which she hugs her new 5-year-old sister, Josephine, who goes by P.K.
And the sentiment goes both ways.
"(P.K.) wanted to cut her hair off and dye it black because she said everyone says Phoebe is so cute," Wendy said of her oldest, a blonde. "We let her cut her hair, but we didn't let her dye it."
Unable to have children of their own, Joe and Wendy Dallimore have adopted their children.
P.K. came to them through a domestic adoption in Texas. Phoebe came from Wenzhou, China.
It's this latest adventure that Joe and Wendy said brought an instant completeness to their family.
But the husband and wife, both 37, said their latest miracle began with heartache.
Two years ago, they tried to adopt a boy from Idaho.
The birth mother handed over the child on a Friday, but according to Idaho law, placement is not legal until the mother appears in court. The earliest that could occur was the following Monday, Wendy said.
By Sunday night, the birth mother had changed her mind and the couple had to return the child.
That's when they called Wasatch International Adoptions, a Farmington nonprofit that specializes in international adoptions.
They're one of a host of organizations that last fiscal year placed about 12,700 foreign-born children throughout the United States, said Chareyl Moyes, a caseworker with Wasatch International Adoptions.
That number is down about 27 percent from the year before and is expected to go down by about 23 percent again this fiscal year because of the economy, Moyes said, quoting national sources that track international adoptions.
But Moyes expects the numbers to rise again and potential parents to continue the sometimes expensive quest for children despite financial pressures.
"People always want to start a family," she said.
Phoebe was adopted much more quickly than P.K.
"With our other daughter, it took 14 months to finalize her adoption," Wendy said. "That's just horrendous. With an orphan, you're done (immediately)."
Joe and Wendy Dallimore turned to Wasatch International Adoptions when they decided they'd had enough with the sometimes painful road of domestic adoptions where birth mothers are given control of the situation.
They'd been working toward an international adoption for a year and expected to wait three or four years before receiving a child.
Then came the option of adopting a special-needs child from China, which often can happen faster than regular adoptions.
Days after applying, they were offered their child.
Phoebe was considered special-needs because she required heart surgery when she was 5 months old, but she's since received a clean bill of health.
Phoebe's picture was sent from China in a large e-mail file to both potential parents.
"A few months later, we had a baby," she said.
The process began in May; by September the paperwork was complete and travel arrangements were made to go to China.
The Dallimores picked up their new daughter in Wenzhou, China, and spent two weeks with her traveling throughout the area to a host of appointments, making the adoption legal.
The total cost of the venture, including all the charges for the adoption and the travel, was nearly $25,000, Wendy said.
Of that, $5,200 was a required donation to the orphanage where Phoebe was, Wendy said.
Joe said he was sad as he observed the situation while picking up his daughter.
"There were 300 of these special-needs kids in her orphanage," he said. "You just wish it could be easier and less expensive."
He said there were 20 other families from all over the world there to adopt children when he and Wendy were there.
Just as in domestic situations, Wendy said she knows of plenty of heartache that sometimes goes along with trying to adopt a child internationally.
At times those who offer children take advantage of potential parents, she said. Other times, the potential parents wait for years to be approved with no luck.
"They told us it's not for a weak stomach," she said. "You just never know."
But when everything works out, there is much joy.
"Before we started adopting, I kind of wondered how I would feel," Joe said. "Now, I can't imagine I would love a biological child any more than I love these kids.
"It's an instantaneous thing that happens when you first meet them."
For more information about Wasatch International Adoption, visit the agency's Web site, wiaa.org, or call the agency at (801) 334-8683.