Li has waged a years-long custody battle from North Carolina to Tennessee into Virginia for the sake of her granddaughter, a bright and personable child in spite of the less than ideal circumstances of her bounced-around living arrangements across nine years that culminated in foster care.
Li’s granddaughter is also treated for a number of ailments including Severs Disease (a foot/ankle pain problem), ADHD, a bipolar diagnosis and reactive attachment disorder — the latter three maladies her grandmother believes can be alleviated in great measure by whopping doses of pure, unconditional love administered 24/7 without let up, which appears to be a prescription that works very, very well.
“I never want to leave my grandmother,” a declaration the little girl all but insisted be a part of this article. “She takes real good care of me. I like how she fought for me because I did not like foster care. I never want to leave my grandmother. Never. I love my grandmother unconditional and she loves me unconditional.”
With four cockatiels and a friendly dog named BP — “He was found at a BP (gas) station and that’s why (the people who found him) named him BP,” Li explained — all castaways themselves taken in by kindhearted Li, this is a family sewn together like an award-winning patchwork quilt that not only warms but fiercely fends off stains and rips and all other insults better than impenetrable armor.
Finally getting at least foster care custody of her granddaughter has been a slog for Li, but when things get tough, the tough just get going, at least for this particular super heroine grandmother.
“I just signed papers last week to get the adoption process going,” she said, having finally secured the foster care aspect of her own granddaughter in June.
“I didn’t like her being in foster care, not one bit. I love her unconditionally, too. I feel like she needed to be back home with her granny and fought and fought for it. I would not give in or give up, no way and no how,” Li said.
“I had to get medical clearances and mental fitness evaluations to be declared fit (as a foster parent for her granddaughter). You just name it — if I had to do it, I did. I did everything I had to. I got a lawyer in on it, too, when it came down to that, whatever it takes, for the sake of my granddaughter.”
Li doesn’t have a vehicle and relies on a cousin, also devoted to the cause, for transportation, including the trips to the Shriner’s clinic in Johnson City to deal with the Severs (pronounced See-vers). The 9-year-old got a cast off one foot the previous week and sported another for the other foot, part of the treatment regimen.
Li draws disability and also a foster care check for her granddaughter, “but I only use (the foster care money) for clothes and other things she needs,” Li said. “That’s what it’s for, the way I look at it, because, well, that’s what it’s for!”
Li said sure, she needs her own car, but while that’s not likely to appear magically under her Christmas tree -— parked in the driveway would be way more suitable, of course — with her cousin’s devotion they’re getting along for now as best can be expected. Which is really very well, all things considered.
“As for Christmas, I’m just trying to get everything together for (her granddaughter) for Christmas and (her cousin) is being a big help with that, too. And trying to get everything together for Christmas dinner,” said Li.
“We’re making it. As long as we’re together, we’ll make it,” she said. Asked if there was anything in particular she might like this article to include, Li didn’t hesitate.
“If any grandparents are out there going through what I went through, I want them to know not to give it up,” she said. “Just keep fighting. Don’t ever give in. Don’t ever give up. Because there is always hope and faith.”
Li and her granddaughter are among the hundreds of families across our region who will receive help this year from Kingsport Times-News readers through the newspaper’s Rescue Fund.
All donations will be listed in the newspaper, although donors may choose to remain anonymous.
Many who have donated to the Rescue Fund through the years have done so in memory of a loved one.
Donations to the Rescue Fund are used to purchase food, which will be packaged in boxes and distributed to the families by the Salvation Army of Kingsport.
Rescue Fund families are screened by social services agencies in Lee, Scott and Wise counties in Virginia and by the Salvation Army in its service area of Sullivan and Hawkins counties in Tennessee.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Times-News Rescue Fund, 701 Lynn Garden Drive, Kingsport, TN, 37660.