Making the decision to adopt is never an easy one, but even more so was a Lycoming County family’s decision to adopt a child with Down Syndrome.  

“I wanted to fill a need I guess,” said Heather Umstead, of Linden. “And I found that the greatest need is kids with Down Syndrome in China.” 

Already a mother of four, Heather and her husband Thomas thought long and hard about adoption. Were they ready? Could they provide the care that was needed? 


After praying in church for direction, Heather said the decision was clear – these kids needed help.  

But it wasn’t going to be an easy task. Adopting a child from China is $40,000 and while the Umpsteads were eager to provide the funds on their own, they knew it would be impossible. 

Support from the community came flooding in, and soon they had enough and it was time to go to China. 

Heather was not prepared for what she saw in the orphanage. 

Small rooms filled up the interior of the building. Each room had concrete floors. Inside one room was 12 to 15 children. One Nanny was assigned to watch three rooms at a time. 

“That’s not somewhere that a kid should be,” she said through tears. 

Looking back now, Heather can’t bear the thought of her children living any period of time in the facility. 

Samuel was the first to be adopted in 2017. While his diagnosis is severe, she is confident that he will not only be cared for his entire life, but she hopes he will be able to learn some simple tasks to make him a part of the community as he gets older. 

This was an opportunity Samuel may have never had before adoption. 

Heather and Thomas were overcome by the need at the orphanage and decided to adopt Samuel’s crib mate of three years, Joy.  Joy, who is now 7, came to her new home in 2019. 

She loves to learn and is picking up some skills quickly. Heather is confident that Joy will be able to get a job outside of the home someday. 

Bringing Samuel and Joy into the family seemed daunting, but Heather now says the task is not so insurmountable as she once thought. She knows that with the support of her family, Samuel and Joy always will be taken care of and will have a place to live. 

“It’s not as scary now as I thought,” Heather said. 

The Umsteads are going back to the orphanage in Spring of 2021 to adopt a third child.

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  • On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

On the PULSE

On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

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