StoryCorps: He Traded Single Life To Be Foster 'Pop' To More Than 50 Kids Guy Bryant has fostered dozens of children over the past 12 years. At StoryCorps, he told one of his foster kids that he wants them to pass on what they've learned from him.

He Traded Single Life To Be Foster 'Pop' To More Than 50 Kids

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Today on StoryCorps, Guy Bryant worked with teenagers who'd been in foster care and were transitioning to living on their own. But after 30 years as an administrator in the child welfare system, he still felt like he wasn't doing enough. So one day, he brought his work home with him. Twelve years later, he has fostered over 50 young people in his New York City apartment. He came to StoryCorps with one of the kids, Romario Vassell, to talk about the early days.

ROMARIO VASSELL: What were you feeling when you brought your first kid home?

GUY BRYANT: Nervous. I was nervous because I lived alone at that point, and he was a kid that nobody wanted to take because of his behaviors. He got in a fight, and he appeared at my house. And it was late, so I called and let them know he was with me, and I agreed to take him.

VASSELL: How did your family react when you became a foster parent?

BRYANT: They thought I was out of my mind (laughter). They were, like, you live alone so long. And my ex-wife was, like, I don't know about this. You's (ph) just so set in your ways. And I said, I can do this. And she said, I know you can if you put your mind to it.

VASSELL: The first time I met you, Pop, I think it was at the office.

BRYANT: Yeah. I remember that you came in, and you were disheveled. You were still in the shelter, and I presented to you coming into foster care. And at first, you were hesitant.

VASSELL: Because I didn't know how foster care was. I've heard crazy stories.

BRYANT: But then you were, like, I - it was definitely one of the best decisions I made in foster care.

VASSELL: Definitely.

BRYANT: You know, every time I turned around, there was a kid who needed a place to stay. And I felt like it's so simple. If you have the space in your home and heart, you just do it. You don't really think about it. At one point, I had nine kids in my house and had to move to a bigger apartment. The old kids still have their keys, and, you know, usually, everybody's in the house on Sundays.

VASSELL: Old kids, new kids.

BRYANT: I usually cook a lot. Last Sunday's dinner was barbecued chicken, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese...

VASSELL: The macaroni was good.

BRYANT: ...Collard greens, cornbread. I try to cook enough to last a day or two, but that never works out that way (laughter). What has changed since you started living with me?

VASSELL: If I feel down and like I'm cornered, I have someone I can reach out to and talk to, and that's what I really love.

BRYANT: Whatever you've learned from me, I want you to teach it to someone else because that's what's important to me.

VASSELL: How do you want to be remembered?

BRYANT: As Pop.

VASSELL: OK.

BRYANT: That says it all to me - that I can be somebody's Pop without being biologically connected to them.

VASSELL: But you know you're mine.

BRYANT: Yeah, I know I am. And I love you to death.

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KING: That's Guy Bryant and Romario Vassell at StoryCorps, and that interview will be archived along with hundreds of thousands of others in the Library of Congress.

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