Senior profile: Kody Gaus

At the age of 9, he decided to change his name. The night before his adoption ceremony, he told his parents he wanted a “K” name like the rest of his siblings despite going by “James” his entire life. So, his parents printed him out a list of names beginning with K and let him choose. After some debate, he chose “Kody” (a close second was Kenneth).

Kody Gaus was adopted by his then foster parents three years after living with them. His parents have been fostering children for 19 years, but Kody is the only one they have ever adopted.

“Kody was one of those emergency kids that came to us at night,” Sandra Gaus, Kody’s mother, said. “I was actually in Jefferson County teaching that night and Ron, my husband, called me and said, ‘I’ve got the cutest little boy here.’ [Kody] was 6 years old, but he was so tiny that he wore size 4 toddler clothes.”

Before entering the foster system, Kody lived with his mother, half-brother and grandmother. He said his half-brother and grandmother abused him and his mother was addicted to meth, which resulted in his cleft palate. The night when he was taken from his mother, she had left him alone with his brother, who locked him in a closet. After he got out, Kody left the house searching for his mother and wandered into a gas station, where the manager called the police. From there, Kody was taken to what he described as a “stereotypical” foster home.

“[My first foster mom] reacted poorly to me,” Kody said. “I don’t know how exactly it would start. I’d sneak food here and there…she would get mad. I would be spanked or have to wait until everyone was done eating to eat dinner. I think she got tired of me because she sent me to the hospital for a week for some ‘psychoanalysis.’ But it was a miracle. She tried to get me back [several times], when a man picked me up and took me to my next foster home, where I was eventually adopted.”

Sandra tells stories of him as a little kid passing out cookies to grave diggers at Grandma Gaus’s funeral, pulling a small child out of the way of a car and never mentioning it and in third grade telling bullies, “You better stop it you sons of bitches,” and privately being commended by his principal for the act (after told not to swear again in school). Despite his outgoing personality, Kody said there were times of doubt.

“I didn’t start out with my parents reading to me and learning my ABCs,” Kody said. “It really slowed me down. I never got that father-son-playing-catch time. I was less smart here and there. I’ll bring myself down with those things, but I’ll find a way to be positive.”

Gabe Masi, senior, has been one of Kody’s close friends since middle school. Gabe said he considers Kody to be more of a brother than a friend.

“For everything he’s been through, it’s helped him grow enormously, and it’s helped me too,” Gabe said. “That’s the thing…he’s managed to shed light and shed faith, not hope but faith, for myself that I can get through anything. He’s one of those people [who] if you become close with, you know, you could be brothers for life.”

Kody is unsure about future plans but said he thinks he may go to Meramec since it is an affordable option. Up until a few years ago, he wanted to be a police officer, but with time decided he mainly wants to, someday, be a better parent to his kids than his biological parents were to him. All he knows now is he wants to help people.

“I’m in control of my life,” Kody said. “It doesn’t matter how you start off. It matters how you finish, how you persevere.”