3-year-old Raymani and 5-year-old Jesse still talk about Dec. 14, 2017. It was “Big Brother Day,” a day when Jesse showed his new little brother how to build toys at Build-a-Bear and they went to lunch at Noodles & Co. with their moms and 7-year-old sister, Railyn.
Raymani had always been wary of the social workers, who had been in his life since shortly after his birth. All except Sheena, who oversaw his care with the foster family with whom he was placed when he was just 7 months old. Rather than cry or shy away when she visited, he greeted her with hugs and smiles, and cried when she left. For one year, she gained insight into his personality, behavioral dynamics and family of origin while the county worked to permanently place him with biological family.
When it became clear that neither Raymani’s biological family nor his foster family could adopt him, Sheena and her fiancée at the time, Tyrai, welcomed the opportunity to bring him into their family.
“He stole my heart from day one,” Sheena said. “I told Tyrai we’ll never know more about a kid prior to adopting.” They were intent on keeping the birth order of their kids intact. They knew it would be hard for them to find a child younger than Jesse who needed a family.
“I was a little nervous” Tyrai recalled of their first visit. “The more time we spent together, the more we connected! He is such a kind, loving person.” She was impressed by his resilience and ability to maintain a sweet demeanor.
The couple had planned to adopt someday and had begun the licensing process with Children’s Home when it became clear that Raymani needed an adoptive family. When they expressed interest with the county, another social worker assumed oversight of Raymani’s care and his foster family from Sheena to prevent a conflict of interest.
Raymani has thrived since moving into his forever home. He gets undivided attention from “mommy” and “momma” while his siblings, Tyrai’s biological children, are with their father every other week. The solo attention from his parents has helped him expand his communications skills from only a few words and pointing. Today, he’s a well-spoken, inquisitive little chatterbox.
He has also become the “Incredible Hulk,” assuming his superhero persona alongside those of his family members: Sheena is Wonder Woman, Tyrai Superwoman, Railyn Batgirl and Jesse Spiderman. They often wear their respective t-shirts and capes and use their make-believe super powers to overcome challenges they each may be facing. Raymani’s not-so-make-believe super power? Winning hearts and changing lives.
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