Guy Bryant grew up in what he calls a “Kool-Aid house” in his Brooklyn, New York, neighbourhood.
“Everybody on the block came and sat on our steps and if somebody had no place to go, my family was always taking them in,” Bryant told InsideEdition.com. “I think that’s what this is all about.”
And by “this,” Bryant means the fact that he’s fostered more than 50 teens and young adults in the past 12 years. Bryant, a single dad who has been divorced for several years, sort of stumbled upon his first foster child.
Working at the Administration for Children Services (ACS) for decades, Bryant, known to many of his foster kids as “B,” was trying to find placement for an 18-year-old, and it was becoming difficult to do so, he explained.
So the boy eventually asked if Bryant would consider being his dad. “We respected each other. We talked about all kinds of things,” Bryant said of the teen.
Bryant wasn’t convinced of the idea at first.
“I was, at the time, recently separated and I didn’t know if I wanted to have anyone else in my space,” Bryant said. “But then as time went on… I really realized how much I enjoyed his company and liked being with him. I decided that it was the best thing to do.”
Then, that teen also had a friend who needed a place to stay, and then that friend had a friend, and things unfolded from there, Bryant said.
Bryant never would have predicted that more than a decade later he’d have a hand in helping raise dozens of young men. Today, Bryant calls himself a “forever dad.”
Still living in Brooklyn, but in a different neighbourhood, Bryant is currently a foster dad to four boys, some of whom have aged out of the foster care system
He fosters through an organization called “Rising Ground,” a non-profit that helps match children who have been placed in ACS’s care with foster parents.
“Once a child is with Guy, he is responsible for helping this person to adjust what has happened to them,” said Rising Ground CEO Alan Muscatel. “It takes a really special person like Guy to help a young person makes sense of all of that.”
Bryant takes older boys who usually have the hardest time getting placed. One of the keys to connecting with the boys is simple: food. He says foster children aren’t much different than any other child.
“My whole thing is food is love,” Bryant said. “If you feed me, you love me. And I always stressed that. If you can feed a kid, half your battle is done. So I always had an open-door policy with food.”
Bryant also gives his young men keys to his home — a rarity in the lives of many foster children.
“When you’re living in a shelter, they don’t have keys. It’s not a place that they can call their own. Even sometimes being at home, kids are not given keys, for one reason or another,” Guy said. “So, to give a key is saying, ‘I trust you and this is our home.”’
A home is exactly what Bryant wants to provide for them, along with guidance. He hopes to prepare the young men who come into his home for a bright future.
“We were born to the streets,” Dior Dillard, 15, told InsideEdition.com. “We had to look to the streets for things, hustling, stuff like that. Now that we have Mr B, he saved all these people that came into his possession.”
Dior has been living with Bryant for about six months. He was placed in Bryant’s home after growing up in the same neighbourhood. Dior explained that Bryant is the closest thing to a “father figure” he’s had in his life.
“I appreciate the support, the love, the care,” Dior said. “He also helped me to relax and lower my energy down because I usually have a mean demeanour. I’m an aggressive person sometimes, but he helped me to look at things differently and take a different path.”
Dior shares a room with three others: 16-year-old Romario Vassell, 23-year-old Shallah Dawson and 20-year-old Gregory Bell.
Four bunk beds line their room in the small two-story home. Bryant’s room is a few steps down the hall.
Living in close quarters with one another can be tough at times, but the young men said it’s inspiring to watch each other going after their dreams. They have built bonds along the way.
“My last foster home I was in my room by myself. I didn’t have anybody to talk to,” Shallah said. “When I came here, it opened me up a lot, because now I have people that I have to talk to.”
Shallah has been in foster care since he was 16. He’s lived in several homes and has even been homeless, he said. He said in others homes he felt unseen, but with Bryant, he said it’s apparent that he’s cared about.
Bryant gives each of them a $200 allowance a month to spend how they want. And each week, someone comes in to cook for the family.
Gregory, who has lived with Bryant for two years, said living with Bryant has been an “amazing experience.” He lived in nine foster homes before arriving at Bryant’s.
He works and goes to school, and he said Bryant helps him stay on top of what he has to do.
“He basically challenged us to use our brains to actually get the things we want,” Gregory said.
“Over the couple of months that we have met each other… the only thing Mr B ever did was support and give everybody an idea for what they want to do for the future,” Dior added.
Romario, who’s been in the house for about five months, said if there’s anything Guy taught him, it’s “Don’t limit yourself. Go for more.”
Bryant stays in touch with about 80% of the men he’s fostered, he said. Many come back to eat meals with him and spend time.
He doesn’t have any biological children of his own, but Bryant makes clear that “this is my family. And it just makes me feel good to know that I’m a part of whatever successes they have.”
The sentiment is understood by his foster children.
“I don’t think he just takes people and puts them in a better place,” Dior said. “To be honest, Mr B saves lives.”
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