MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Ten years ago, we aired a profile of a boy named Anthony, who was in a mentoring program for at-risk kids in Portland, Oregon. In a story just last month, we caught up with Anthony, who is doing well, a true success story, but there was a problem. It turns out he was the wrong Anthony.

Reporter Colin Fogarty has since found the right Anthony and a very different story.

COLIN FOGARTY: It's the kind of call every reporter has nightmares about.

Ms. JUDY STAVISKY (Executive Director, Friends of the Children): We made a serious error, and we are profoundly sorry.

FOGARTY: Judy Stavisky is executive director of Friends of the Children. That's the mentoring group that tried to help me find the Anthony I interviewed 10 years ago. The group didn't give me his last name back then because he was just 8 years old.

She calls the mix-up an honest mistake.

Ms. STAVISKY: It just took our breath away. It was unintentional and, unfortunately, the result of a series of very unlikely coincidences.

FOGARTY: Two Anthonys, both with last names that start with B. They had the same interest in music; the same trouble, controlling anger; the same mentor, even the same first-grade teacher.

Anthony Blackmon, from last month's profile, is in college, and he said Friends of the Children helped him overcome the odds to get there.

But he is not the 8-year-old I interviewed about Friends of the Children 10 years ago.

Mr. ANTHONY BARBER: I learned to think positive and to be the best I can be. I just try to do the right thing.

FOGARTY: I have to admit, I loved the idea that Anthony did go on to become the best he could be. But he didn't.

Anthony Barber dropped out of Friends of the Children in high school because he moved away. He's now 19 and not what you'd call an inspiration. He's here at the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland.

Barber's attorney would not let me interview him. Friends of the Children would not discuss him in detail, citing client confidentiality.

Let's go back a few years. Here's what I could piece together by reading court documents and talking to those who know Anthony Barber.

He spent much of his adolescence in a series of foster homes. Then, he started to get into trouble. Last year, he got caught shoplifting at a Safeway and fought with security guards.

Around the same time, he threatened to kill his landlord, Ray Ocampo.

Mr. RAY OCAMPO: The guy had a pretty short temper. I mean, he was on the right track for a little bit. I mean, he wanted to do good. He just couldn't stay in that right track.

FOGARTY: Court documents allege on Valentine's Day last month, Barber joined two others in an armed robbery of an apartment. One of them pistol-whipped a man so badly he ended up in the hospital. If convicted, Barber faces nearly six years in prison, possibly more.

Ms. LATONYA FREDUE: I'm just devastated. I'm devastated because that's my child, you know?

FOGARTY: Barber's mother is Latonya Fredue.

Ms. FREDUE: I don't have no money. His bail is a million dollars. I don't have no money. All I can do is sit here and pray.

FOGARTY: Fredue says Anthony had behavior problems from an early age that she was simply unable to handle. Barber's first-grade teacher, Rachael Belcher, speculates constant instability at home contributed to his problems.

Despite everything, Belcher still holds out hope for him.

Ms. RACHAEL BELCHER (Teacher): As much as we, as parents or educators, want every child to be successful, a lot of kids don't make it, honestly, with or without support. So I'm hoping with Anthony, there'll be something that pushes him to find a different way.

FOGARTY: Friends of the Children says only a small number of its graduates get into trouble with the law. The promise of early intervention for kids like Anthony Barber is that, with help, they can overcome the big challenges they face. But some simply can't avoid the undertow.

For NPR News, I'm Colin Fogarty in Portland.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.