Growing up in the foster care system isn’t always an easy experience for children and teenagers. Those who are lucky are taken in by people who care for them and love them genuinely. But for the others who aren’t so fortunate, living in a foster home becomes their worst nightmare.
Guy Bryant is a man who understands this system very well. The 61-year-old single dad has fostered over 50 young men in his Brooklyn apartment over the past 12 years, and he makes sure that every single one of them receives unconditional love and support.
Guy is highly-experienced in social work, as he had been a community coordinator at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services for 32 years. The work involved providing services for young adults who have aged out of the city’s foster care system. Although he was already doing so much in that role, Guy felt that he could do more for the community. This belief led him to the decision of becoming a foster parent in 2007.
Today, his work at the Administration for Children’s Services focuses on a specific age group: 18 to 21-year-olds who have recently aged out of foster care. The “Supervision to 21” program locates these homeless youths and provides them with services such as housing, employment, and access to mental and physical health care.
“It’s a big population,” Guy said. “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.”
During his first year as a foster parent, one of the young men in Guy’s caseload asked him: “Will you be my father? Will you take me?” After thinking it through, he decided to take a chance and do it. He even went beyond that and decided to foster the young man’s friend as well as the friend’s brother. Guy ended up having nine young men under his roof at one point, and he had to rent the floor above his apartment just so he could accommodate them all.
As a single father, Guy had his doubts about becoming a foster parent.
“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,” he said.
Having fostered over 50 young adults, Guy has found that the best way for him to earn their trust is by spending more time with them and making an effort to get to know them better. On a few occasions every year, he holds fishing expeditions and sometimes cooks meals with them as a way for all of them to bond.
“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,” he said.
Knowing that there are more children out there in need of a home, Guy has no plans of retiring.
“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.”
Guy Bryant is a great example of a man who recognized a need in his community and took action to fulfill it. He has changed the lives of all the 50 young men that he fostered by providing them with unconditional love and support throughout the time that they were with him.
Watch the beautiful reunion on Good Morning America of Guy Bryant with his chosen family below:
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