His name was Bradford, Brady for short. He was just seven years old the first time he
went into the foster system. His mom, a single parent, had "gone away.” He didn't
know, or understand at that young age that his mom had gone to prison. The foster system had found him a nice home to stay in; there were two parents, both a mom and a dad, and three other kids for him to play with. They even had a dog! The dogs name was Mac and Brady fell madly in love with Mac. Brady was sad and he often found himself curled up in this new mom's lap crying. He didn't understand what had happened to his own mom and he missed her so much. The new mom loved him and she took care of him, she always told Brady that his mom would be back to get him. Sure enough, one day, two years later, Brady looked up from his play and there was his very own mom, standing in the yard calling his name!
Brady was overjoyed as he packed up his belongings, hugged his other mom and dad good bye, gave Mac a last snuggle, and promised the other kids he would be back to play! He was going home with his very own mom! Brady had thrived with those other parents, he had shared a room with one of the other kids, had lots of toys, his belly was always full, he had loved school, and laughter had often rung out through the house. He thought he had the perfect family back then, if only his own mom had been part of it.
It was different for Brady at his own mom's house. At Brady's new house, he didn't have a room, he slept on the sofa, and there wasn't a lot of food in the fridge. Brady was nine years old by now, almost ten and his mom told him he was old enough to stay home alone while she went to work. Brady changed schools and everyday at 3 o'clock when he got home he would find his mom getting ready for work. Brady's mom always had dinner on the table for him though and she would take a few minutes to sit with him to hear about his day. Brady's favorite part of the day was when his mom would ruffle his hair and wrap him up into a huge hug. She would tell Brady that she loved him and then list all the things she loved the most about him. Brady loved this, but he always knew this meant she was leaving and he would be alone for the rest of the day and well into the night. Sometimes Brady's mom didn't get home until well after the clock struck midnight.
At first, Brady spent his evenings alone in the house, sometimes watching TV, usually doing his homework (he remembered how important homework is from his other family), and often he would crouch by the window waiting and watching for his mom to come home. At school, Brady met some other boys whose moms worked late into the night too. Brady started leaving the house at night after his homework was done to play with the other kids. It wasn't long before Brady found out these other kids had a fort down by the river where they would hang out; there were some bigger boys there too. The bigger boys taught Brady how to steal candy and soda from the local convenience store. Brady really liked hanging out with the other kids; they would gorge themselves on candy and soda and then play in the river until well into the night.
One night the bigger boys came to the fort with cigarettes and beer. Brady learned how to smoke and was excited to try the beer. He remembered how his mom would get giggly and happy when she drank beer and he wanted to be like that too. Every night, at the fort, there was a big party with plenty of beer and cigarettes. It wasn't long before Brady was stealing beer from the convenience store and money from his mom's purse. One night he gave one of the bigger boys the money he had stolen and this kid came back to the fort the next night with a bag of weed.
Things were changing at home. Brady was almost 13 years old when his mom brought a man home one morning. She told Brady that the man was going to live with them. His name was Tom. Tom found a different apartment for them and Brady finally had his own room. At first, Brady liked Tom. Tom bought Brady a bicycle and he didn't leave for work until much later than Brady's mom did. It didn't take long until things got bad at home. Tom always had a beer in his hand and he started getting mean. Sometimes, Tom would hit Brady so hard that he would leave big welts across his behind. Tom would tell Brady that if he told his mom it would just get worse and that he would have to hit Brady's mom too. One night, Tom followed Brady and he tore the fort apart and dragged Brady back home. Tom hit Brady so hard that his nose wouldn't stop bleeding. That was the first time Brady ran away from home.
Brady found his way to his first foster families’ house only to find a big moving truck in the driveway. They were moving to a different state. Brady begged them to take him with them. The mom told him they couldn't take him with them and she called children's services. Brady went back into the foster system for about six months until his mom could get him back. When Brady went back home, Tom was still there. They had a big family "sit down" and Tom told him that he needed to stop lying. Tom told Brady's mom that he had never put a hand on Brady and that he was just a bad kid.
They cycle of Tom beating Brady, of Brady running away, going into foster care and finally going back home began. Finally, one day, when Brady went into foster care, his mom didn't come to get him. Tom eventually came to the foster care home to tell Brady that his mom had gone to prison, this time for selling drugs, and she wouldn't be out for a very long time. Tom told Brady to just get used to living in foster care, that there was no place else for him to live. Brady was so angry, he started being mean to the other kids in foster care, and he began sneaking out of the house at night and going back to the fort.
Brady was moved into more foster care homes than he could count. He became very good at stealing and eventually met up with some even older kids. These kids taught him how to break into houses and just where to look to find the valuables. Brady started doing even heavier drugs and his life revolved around ways to get money to feed his new addiction to meth. Brady was in and out of juvenile detention facilities and foster care homes throughout his young life. On occasion, Tom would show up just to tell him what a bad kid he was and that his mom was still in jail.
When Brady finally got out of jail after serving a whole year he was just a few months short of turning 18 years old. Brady was put back into a foster care home for his last few months, but knew that when he turned 18 the foster care system would no longer pay for a place for him to stay. On Brady's 18th birthday, he was given an old beat up suitcase and told it was time for him to leave.
Brady didn’t know what to do, but knew he didn't want to go back to jail. During Brady's year in jail, he had stopped using drugs and for the first time in a long time, he was thinking clearly. Brady started sleeping at the river but it was wintertime and he was cold. Brady's old fort had been torn down and he knew better than to go looking for Tom. He went to his juvenile probation officer and asked for help. The probation officer had found a place for Brady to stay and got him signed up with a local social service organization that worked with kids who had aged out of foster care.
Brady's first night at the Life Changes sober living home for aged out foster kids was a lot of fun. Some of his old "fort buddies" were there too and they made him feel welcome. A couple of the other kids said they were going out to a party that night and invited him to go too. Brady was afraid of going back out to the streets or back into jail, so he decided not to go. It was a good thing he decided to stay home because Samantha (Sam) dropped by the home to check in on him that night. When she found out the other kids had snuck out to go to a party she called the director and those boys got into a lot of trouble. Brady found out that Life Changes didn't tolerate breaking the rules, that it was a serious program for kids to learn how to live in the real world, and that breaking the rules meant they could be discharged.
Sam set an appointment for the next day for Brady to go to Project HELP Nevada to put a plan together to help him get his life on track. The next day Brady took some assessments at Project HELP and the director over there helped him come up with a plan. Brady decided he didn't want a GED, but he wanted to get an actual High School Diploma! Brady signed up for some life skills classes and entered the workforce development program – Helping Employ Local People. The life skills and career assessment results described Brady to a "T". In fact, the career assessment said that the best career Brady could have would be as a counselor – Brady had always wanted to help other kids! Based on his life skills assessment, Brady got signed up for Budgeting & Money Management, Work Ethics, Career & Education and Meal Planning and Preparation classes. Those were all the areas that Brady felt challenged in.
While Brady was at the Project HELP offices he realized he really didn't know how to live in the real world, he didn't know how to open a bank account, or set short and long-term goals, or get a job. Brady didn't even know how to make a grocery list or prepare a meal. As he left the office, he heard the director on the phone trying to find the money to provide all these services to him.
For the first time, in a long time, Brady felt like someone believed in him, believed that he was actually worth investing their time in and he was excited to think that just maybe life would get better. Brady's dream was to have a life and a family just like his very first foster family. He even knew what he would name his dog – Mac!
Master of Change
For just $15 you could sponsor a kid through a life skills class?
$21 dollars will give them a safe place to lay their head and fill their belly.
For $60, you can buy them a bus pass to get back and forth to school or to the doctor.
$100 dollars will help them with clothing and shoes.
A $500 donation will send one kid through the entire life skills curriculum.
The need for these kids is tremendous and we can't do it without your help. Please join us as we help these kids create a life worth living. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and we would love to list your name on our website site as a Master of Change