Foster Dad Has Taken in More Than 60 Teens: 'Everyone Deserves a Home To Go Back To'
When you give love, you're surrounded by love on all sides. That seems to be the theme of Guy Bryant, the "forever foster dad" lovingly known as Pops by the kids he takes in. The Brooklyn native has opened his heart and home to more than 60 adolescent children since he began fostering in 2007. At one point he had as many as nine kids in his home at once.
Though it seems most foster parents prefer to take in babies, Bryant routinely welcomes older teenagers ranging from 16 to 21, and he wouldn't have it any other way. "The teenage to young adult years are tough to navigate, but everyone, even older adolescents, deserves a home to go back to," he says. His ability to bring in strangers, make them feel at home, and turn them into family is exactly why they continue to check on him as well and come back long after they leave home.
Bryant makes it clear that he's truly just following what he's meant to do. "The younger kids don't align with my purpose," he says. "I teach them to live independently and it's nice to see what they can do so I prefer the older kids. It's my calling."
Setting Rules and Earning Respect
Calling or not, to onlookers, a home full of young men and hormones sounds intimidating, yet Bryant assures there are rarely issues and no physical fights. "They know Pops doesn't play so they don't fight. I set the rules. A lot of them actually do better because of the rules and boundaries," he says. "Some of them were lost in previous homes in which they were never told what to do." Plus, it helps that kids who arrived earlier set an example for the new kids at the home of how to act and what to expect with Bryant as Pops.
Their biggest issue as of late is a common one for families—usage of electricity resulting in a higher than usual bill. "I have to get on them about it. I'm reminding them to turn the lights off because the electric bill is a lot more and that money has to come from somewhere. That means I have to take $100 out of something else so they can see that when the bills get higher, there's less money for other things."
Becoming a Family
Somewhere mixed in with the life lessons, teaching them to turn the TV off when they leave the room and how to find an apartment to live in, are family vacations, encouragement, and a lot of affection. According to Bryant, a few things have become apparent over the years as he cared for children from many walks of life. They may come from troubled backgrounds but all kids need the same thing: love, boundaries, and to know they matter.
It's the glue that holds them together. Many of the children in the foster care system are alone and don't fit in anywhere, he says. Bryant is intentional in not treating them as troubled youth, but instead treating them as family. "A lot of these kids come from situations where they weren't heard or made to feel like their existence isn't important," says Bryant. "I want to show them that."
That means instilling discipline and affection, but it also means giving them freedoms and allowing them to feel at home. It's rare for children in the foster care system to receive keys for the homes they're living in. However, it's a common occurrence for his children. Additionally, he keeps his fridge well-stocked with food for them, which is an anomaly in foster homes. "Food is love for them and I always have an overabundance of food." It is a combination of all these things that lends to their ability to grow together and independently in his household.
It Takes a Village of Love and Support
And though his kids defy the stereotype of "the troubled and disobedient teen," he wouldn't be able to foster without support. With the help from friends, Bryant does take advantage of his alone time when he has the opportunity and his kids respect that. "I take my trips from time to time and the kids like to call it my adventure time," he says. Like many parents, Bryant leans on his community recognizing that no one accomplishes anything alone.
And he hopes it's a lesson his children take with them. "I tell them I'm not gonna be here forever. I need you all to support each other."
So far it seems the message has been received by many. As the kids grow up and move out of his home, he's constantly kept up to date with what they're doing. "I know what goes on because they tell me. I know who's doing well when they move out and who's not because they keep in touch and let me know what's going on."
They continuously show up for him as well. "I had surgery earlier and the nurse told me one of my kids came to see me and was praying to not take me from him. I was shocked." They come back home for the good times too. This year he held a Father's Day cookout for him, his kids, and those he fostered who now have kids of their own. "Some of them came over and we talked about how to show up for your kids and how to be a father because that's how you break the cycle." Breaking that cycle is the goal, he says. And while it's a tall order, he maintains that if you have space in your home and your heart you know it's the right thing to do.