Adoptive parents nurture both health and identity
January 15, 2020
Many foster parents will tell you that fostering a child, while emotionally challenging at times, is an incredibly rewarding experience. This is certainly true for Jeremy and Lauryn, two local educators from Centennial. Since adopting their son Kai from foster care, Jeremy and Lauryn have not only nurtured Kai’s health, but have also made profound efforts to create a diverse and inclusive environment that is reflective of his racial identity.
“It is such an honor and a blessing to make children feel loved, connected, adored and safe at a time when they need it so much,” said Lauryn. “To open your heart and your home fully while not knowing the outcome can be unnerving at times but it is the greatest risk my husband Jeremy and I ever took.”
A Leap of Faith
Lauryn and Jeremy were having difficulty growing their family biologically, so the two considered foster care and adoption. While attending a Project 1.27 foster care information night, they gathered additional information on local child placement agencies (CPAs). Project 1.27 is a faith-based organization that recruits foster, adoptive and respite placement options in local Christian churches throughout the nation. After attending the information night, Lauryn and Jeremy partnered became foster parents through Hope and Home.
A few months after completing their training and certification, six-day-old Kai was placed into their home. Because reunification with parents is the goal of foster care, Lauryn and Jeremy did not know how long they would have Kai in their care.
“This experience was a huge lesson in trust and letting go,” said Lauryn. “It was a tough and trusting phase, but we were willing to accept whatever happened.”
A Fierce Advocate
From the beginning, Kai spent a tremendous amount of time at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and Lauryn was always by his side.
Lauryn reflected on one of the events, “I remember one evening Kai went limp in my arms and was unresponsive. It shook me to my core. I immediately contacted local paramedics and 9-1-1 as an effort to save his life.”
“Even in the hospital he was very happy full of light and joy,” Lauryn said of Kai. “He has always been ok with people helping him. He is very relaxed and a good patient.”
When necessary, the family knew they could turn to the department’s caseworker, their CPA caseworker and Kai’s guardian ad litem (GAL) for backup support. “I felt like I could do anything because I had a great team of people around me, which made the biggest difference,” Lauryn said.
Thanks in part to Lauryn’s advocacy, Kai has received many in-home services including sensory and speech treatment, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
After almost a year and a half, Lauryn and Jeremy were able to adopt Kai giving him a forever home. While valuing biological family connections, Lauryn and Jeremy maintain email communication with Kai’s family. Communication includes monthly updates and pictures of Kai. In addition, Kai maintains regular contact with his biological half-sibling who resides in the state.
Looking to the Future
In addition to looking out for Kai’s physical well being, the family has done a great deal to ensure that Kai will feel welcome and supported growing up in a home as an African American male with two caucasian parents. Both parents are constantly reading, educating themselves, and gaining awareness to learn how to best guide Kai through situations they have never experienced. From the time Kai was placed in their home, the family realized how their immediate friends and relatives lacked diversity. Lauryn and Jeremy felt it was important that Kai grow up in an environment that is diverse. They quickly changed churches and began to build relationships with individuals who reflect Kai’s race and ethnicity.
“He will face stereotypes and microaggressions that we will not and have not faced due to privilege. We want Kai to grow up surrounded by individuals who understand what he is going through and can offer advice and guidance. We want him to have mentors, black men, in his life who he knows and can talk to. We can be as informed as possible, but we won’t be able to relate to everything he will go through and want to connect him to people who will be able to relate to those experiences,” said Jeremy. “We want him to have a good idea of what his culture is and how we can celebrate it. We have learned a lot and now find ourselves educating those we have known our entire lives about race and justice.”
At home, Kai has an extensive library with books that have characters reflective of his race and ethnicity. Some of the books discuss topics including adoption in families different than yourself and African American history.
As Kai grows up, the Zemans are excited to share the things they enjoy doing with him. Jeremy got a bike trailer for his bike to take Kai on bike rides in the spring and summer and is excited to introduce him to being outdoors in the winter sledding and skiing.
“There have been many unforeseen challenges and we had to go with the flow and rise to those challenges,” said Lauryn “This experience has been very humbling and has required us to lean on God and accept what we can’t control. It has been beautiful and challenging and has made us better parents and has made him (Kai) more resilient.”