A New York man is proving that the concept of “family” isn’t just reserved to people we’re related to by blood.
In the last 12 years, Guy Bryant has made good use of the foster care system, opening his home to over 50 young men in need of a safe space.
The 61-year-old has also worked as a community coordinator at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services for 32 years, he tells The Huffington Post in an interview. What makes him particularly well suited for foster parenting is his line of work, which provides services to young adults who’ve aged out of the foster care system.
Bryant knows all too well how crucial it is for children to have a safe home and some sense of stability in their lives. When he was growing up in Brooklyn, some of his favorite memories took place in the three-story brownstone he shared with his mother, aunts and cousins.
“There’s definitely a connection. My family was always willing to help other people. Especially one of my aunts. She was on a community board. So if there was a youth in trouble, she would always try to help him,” Bryant said of his charmed childhood, full activity and community.
Despite his good intentions, he admits to initially having some fears about being a foster parent, as a single man.
“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 concedes.
Much of his work at the Administration for Children’s Services focuses on 18- to 21-year-olds who have recently aged out of foster care. His program, Supervision to 21, locates these young adults and then provides services to help them get housing, employment and access to any necessary mental and/or physical health care.
“It’s a big population,” explains Bryant. “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.”
“The difficult thing about building trust is their past interactions with adults,” he says when speaking of his own foster children.
“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.”