New York, NY — Guy Bryant, a 61-year old man who has been working in the foster system for decades, decided to help further and foster young men who have already aged out of foster care. In the last 12 years, he has become a single father to over 50 foster children and dedicated his life to helping them.
As a child, Bryant grew up in a happy home with his mother and aunts in Brooklyn, New York. He learned from there that a physical home, trust, and stability are necessary to be successful in raising children.
Bringing with him the lessons he learned during childhood, he started to work as a paraprofessional educator for the New York Board of Education in his early 20s before he became a house parent for all-boys group home in Queens for ten years.
Now, it has been 32 years since Bryant worked as a community coordinator at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. His work focuses on the program called Supervision to 21 which locates young adults aged 18- to 21-year old or those who have aged out of the foster care system. He helps provide them services such as housing, employment and access to mental and physical health care.
“It’s a big population,” Bryant told The Huffington Post. “There’s definitely a need for the services because what happens is when a youth gets 18 years old, a lot of times they feel like, ‘I can do this.’ Most of the kids, they can’t admit who they are. Their identity is lost somewhere between the home they’ve lived in and the other 10 foster homes they might have lived in.”
In 2007, one of the young men he has helped asked him, “Will you be my father? Will you take me?” Bryant thought about it and decided to foster the young man, also his friend and his friend’s brother until he had to rent the floor above his apartment for additional space for the nine young men he has fostered.
At first, he had some worries about being a foster parent, especially as a single father. He said, “Some of my fears were this: People say, ‘Why is this man doing this?’ People always think you have ulterior motives, not understanding who I am.”
With a lot of experience having fostered more than 50 young adults, Bryant discovered that spending more time and getting to know them better are necessary to gain their trust. He takes them on fishing trips and cooks meals with them as bonding.
“The difficult thing about building trust is their past interactions with adults. If I can get you to engage in conversation with me about how you’re feeling and what’s going on, then that right there, my job is done. They constantly need to be reinforced that ‘I am here. I am going to do what I say.’ My kids will tell you whatever I say, I’m going to do for you. I always do it because I don’t want you to look at me like one of those adults who let you down,” Bryant said.
Bryant, who fosters through the New York agency Rising Ground, does not plan on retiring anytime soon. He hopes to help more children who need a place to call their own.
“The Mr. Bryant approach is I love you regardless,” he said. “You could become a brain surgeon or you could be a bathroom cleaner — it doesn’t matter. Once you come into my home and you’ve been with me and you’ve been here, you’re my kid for life. That’s my approach. You’ll always have a bed to come to, a shower to take — you’ll always be able to come home. This is home.”