Testimony by Suzanne Damstedt
In January 2006, my daughter who was 17 was unexpectedly invited to go to China with a friend of mine and her family who were going to adopt a three-year-old girl. My daughter started bringing books home from the library about China and adoption, which I started reading. It wasn't long before I started thinking about doing the same thing. I approached my husband with this idea. First he laughed, because he was so surprised to hear me saying this. I said, "I'm serious."
He said, "I've suggested adopting before."
I said, "You did? When?"
He said, "I didn't get a very good response." I don't doubt that! It wasn't time. When we got married, I said I wanted eight children. After our sixth child, I was at my limit. Before my daughter left for China, we had already decided to adopt two girls. This was not something we had planned on doing. It was a change in my life's direction.
When I spoke with Small World Adoption Agency on January 30, 2006, I told her we wanted to adopt two little girls. They said it really wasn’t done—it was very rare to adopt two children at a time. But they were willing to ask.
Two weeks later, I saw eight-year-old Sheng Li Wan on the waiting child list for the agency. We went through the necessary process to adopt her. I assumed we would just go back a second time to China for a second daughter like everyone else does.
The next waiting child list came out. A lot of children were already on hold the first time I saw the list. Another eight-year-old girl, Jiang Li Jing, was listed simply as “Faith” on this list, but she was on hold. Around the middle of June, I noticed that Faith was no longer on hold and was “waiting” again. I phoned the agency to learn more about her. As I heard about her special needs, which were similar to Li Wan’s, I also realized that hers might be harder (needing speech therapy since she had cleft palate as well as a cleft lip, and Li Wan only had a cleft lip).
Five months later when Darrell and I were driving home after a family activity, I told him a little about Li Jing. He talked about how he still wanted to bring home two if possible, and thought maybe we could just ask while we were there. I told him that that would probably not be the best way because the children have to have ready paperwork. I thought it would be better if the process started before leaving. However, from the conversation, I believed that he would be open to adopting Li Jing if we could get permission from China to adopt her. So I contacted the agency again.Days later, we were told we could adopt both girls! I got info and photos of Li Jing from the agency, and after I knew Darrell had seen them when I wasn’t home, I phoned him and asked what he thought.
“Fine,” he said.
“Fine?” I asked.
He asked me if I wanted her and I said yes, and he was fine with it. Later he said that he knew it was right before he even saw her picture.
After a week and a half of a lot of exciting preparation, we got a call from the agency. It was not a good call. The Chinese adoption bureau had decided that we could not have Li Jing after all. We asked our agency if we could come later for her, but China declined us. In fact, they wanted the agency to find another family for Li Jing. I was so disappointed. I even wrote a story I titled, “Jiang Li Jing: I Was Almost Her Mother.”
We hunted down her file, BUT…we couldn’t do a thing because we had already committed to the other child. Li Jing was not placed by the second agency and her file was returned again. In the meantime, as fate would have it, the other child’s file was not approved.
I looked for Li Jing’s file and found it with a third agency. I asked that her file be given to Small World and we were able to proceed with adopting Li Jing! We went to China in January of 2008 and adopted her.
We had decided to go to China to adopt two girls and had accomplished that. About a year after we adopted Gracie Li Jing, I wanted to do something for her orphanage, so with the help of other parents with children from this orphanage, we made donations that provided clothing, diapers, and toys for the children. The Vice Director who worked with us knew I was the mother of one of their girls, and she asked me if I would try to help find families for two children who would be turning 14 and would then not be eligible for adoption.
|Jiang Li Wang and Jiang Li Jing |
at the Lishui, Zhejiang, orphanage before Li Jing was adopted.
It was a girl, Jiang Li Wang and a boy, Jiang Li Qu. The girl would turn 14 and “age out” on January 12, 2010. I tried to get the word out to help her find a family. After a few months, on August 12, 2009, I got up one day and that morning I started thinking about adopting her. I told my husband and we talked about it.
It was a race against time. We had exactly five months to get a dossier to China and all other required documents completed in time to adopt her before her fourteenth birthday. Through hard work and a lot of prayer, we made it to China and received our daughter on January 11, 2010, the day before her birthday!
Adopting from China, or even adopting at all, may not have been on my list of things I would do in my life, but it has changed me. I have learned much from this chapter in my life. I am changed as a mother and as a person.
Even though I cannot adopt any more children, I continue almost daily in volunteer work with Love Without Boundaries. I try to help as many of these beautiful children as I can—children who still wait for their families and many who will not know that privilege but can benefit from the work I do to provide items for their orphanages.
Yes, it really was a change in direction for my life, but one that will hold many great memories, new challenges, and fulfilling experiences.
| Christy LiWan Damstedt, age 14|
Adopted August 7, 2006
| Gracie LiJing Damstedt, age 13|
Adopted January 28, 2008
| Bonnie LiWang Damstedt, age 15|
Adopted January 11, 2010