Foster Parents Find Meaning and Happy Memories Caring for Children
In 2009, her dream to become a caregiver came true. Since then, Jiangmei and her husband, Liangshan, have dedicated 14 years to being foster parents in OneSky’s Family Village Program, caring for 27 children who have needed special care, attention and nurturing.
In the 1970s, Li Jiangmei and her husband, Liangshan, worked long hours to support themselves and their young daughter. Jiangmei was a sales clerk in a hardware store and Liangshan was a bus driver.
Even as Jiangmei worked in the store, she never gave up on her dream of working with young children; she had always found joy helping young ones learn and develop through stories, songs, dance and play. Her dream came true in 2009 when she and Liangshan became foster parents in OneSky’s Family Village Program.
By then, their own daughter was a young adult pursuing her college education. She was proud of her parents for wanting to serve as full-time caregivers: raising children from orphanages with special needs or medical conditions — children who needed extra focus and nurturing care.
To become foster parents, Jiangmei and Liangshan attended classes taught by OneSky professionals to learn best practices in early childhood education. “What impressed me most was that the trainers emphasized the needs of the children but also cared about our well-being as caregivers,” Jiangmei recalls. “The OneSky staff helped us understand and process emotions that would come up as we began caring for the little ones. And they continue to mentor us to this day.”
Since the very beginning, Jiangmei has kept a book, My Happiest Memories, which contains photos and handwritten stories of the children who she and Liangshan fostered, many of whom have been adopted. Often, as Jiangmei finishes a day’s work, she sits quietly on the couch, looking through the pages, fondly remembering the children she cared for over the years.
“How can I forget Yanyan, such a lovely and sweet girl,” Jiangmei says. “She gave me so much hope and confidence when I first became her foster mom!”
Yanyan entered the foster family as a toddler in 2009, and Jiangmei immediately felt a deep, loving connection to her. The young girl was born with a congenital heart defect and, fortunately, recovered completely after surgery. “In a short time, Yanyan grew very close to us, affectionate and loving. I could tell that she trusted us.”
Within a year of her recovery, Yanyan was adopted and moved to the United States. When they said goodbye to her, Jiangmei and Liangshan felt many emotions — sadness, pride and excitement for Yanyan’s new life. As foster parents, they understand that those feelings would arise again and again.
“I can’t help but think that Yanyan is 16 years old now. If I saw her today face to face, I wonder if I would recognize her. We still miss her,” Jiangmei says, noting that she and her husband still talk about her on occasion and wonder what she is doing.
Meimei, another of their foster children, struggled with a medical condition that kept her chronically underweight. She was four years old and was receiving ongoing medical treatment after her surgery. Meimei made progress day by day, and her attachment to the couple grew deeper because of the love and care they showered on her. She also forged strong bonds with her foster siblings. Like Yanyan, Meimei was adopted into a loving, permanent family. “I can’t believe it,’ Jiangmei exclaims, pointing to a photo of a young girl in her memory book. “She would be 17 years old now.”
Liangshan spots another child, Lanlan, in the memory book. In the photo, she wears a red flower hairpin and is happily scooping sand, while Liangshan stands beside her.
“She made a deep impression on me,” he says. “It’s been 13 years since her adoption, but I still remember quite clearly that every time I came home from work, she would run and take out my slippers for me. She especially loved playing outside with the whole family,” Liangshan recalls.
On weekends and holidays, Liangshan likes to drive the family to local tourist attractions. He remembered one time when they decided to take a boat tour on a nearby lake. When the conductor found out that they were foster parents and all five children were from the orphanage, he decided not to charge boat fees and even bought food for them. Jiangmei and Liangshan were so touched by the conductor’s kindness and felt hopeful and proud of their family.
When asked to pass on any important advice to new parents, Jiangmei and Liangshan say they value love, patience and keen observational skills the most. “Without those qualities, parents can easily miss the particular needs of each child. Sometimes when emotions are high, you need to take time to calm down so you can talk to your children and come up with solutions,” they share.
Holding her memory book tightly, Jiangmei adds, “I will keep this book forever and share it with all of my friends even when I’m very old. I feel so blessed!”
Jiangmei and her husband sometimes imagine if they were to meet all the children from the memory book in person now, and how excited they would feel. “Just thinking about it makes me emotional!” she says, smiling.