Over the past 12 years, foster dad Guy Bryant has opened his East Flatbush home to more than 50 teenage boys in need of support, love and guidance.
By day, he uses his gift working with troubled teenagers and young men as a youth advocate for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, where he has worked for more than 40 years.
Then, in 2007, when the city began breaking up group homes, the place Bryant had found his passion for being a house parent, he decided to become a foster parent and joined the Rising Grounds fostering agency.
“With foster kids, nobody gives them a chance,” said Bryant. “They need somebody who tries to understand where they are coming from.”
Currently, Bryant fosters two 21-year-olds and a 23-year-old; at times he had up to six boys in his care. Every boy gets his own key to his apartment, and with it his trust they treat it as their home.
Bryant said there is a lot provided for foster children in the system. But often they don’t take advantage of it because they’re young and think there’s a lot of time. He tries to identify and activate his boys’ skill sets to prepare them for productive lives.
“I always encourage them, whatever they want to do,” he said. “It’s not about what you want to do, but that you follow through.”
He meets them where they are, lets them know they are loved and nudges them towards planning for the future.
“My whole thing is: You have to do something, you can’t sit here and do nothing,” said Bryant. “The ones I see, who aren’t as motivated, I ask: ‘What is your plan today?’ Not in a brash way, just to remind them that you have to do something each day towards bettering your life.”
Raised in a Brooklyn brownstone, where his parents and aunts shared the three stories, and everyone in the neighborhood was welcome, he learned that every person has value.
“It was the ‘Kool-Aid‘ house because people would come to sit on our steps in the summer and drink Kool-Aid,” he recalled. “If you had no place to go, you could come to my house, eat, take a shower. At any given point, I’d wake up in the morning and there would be somebody on the couch sleeping.”
Bryant wants to pass this spirit on to his foster kids, and he has been doing so successfully: The boys he’s had living with him still come by regularly to hang out.
Initially, Bryant had planned on retiring at 60. But the now 61-year-old foster dad couldn’t stop, especially knowing how difficult it is to find homes for older boys. He encourages more people to get involved as foster parents because the kids need them.
“I keep saying every year, I’m going to stop I want to retire, but I see more kids coming in and out of the system and not being productive,” he said.