Our fifth blog post in our National Foster Care Awareness Month blog series dedicated to teen males in foster care focuses on fatherhood. Dyral Brown is the single, foster father of two teen males ages 14 and 16. As a young professional, Dyral realized that he could connect with and have a positive influence on young men. He became a foster father in 2009 in his home state of North Carolina. He has fostered five teen males and on occasion has provided respite care for girls.
Dyral is a positive role model with a successful career in criminal justice and mental health. In many instances, youth are labeled and grouped in the same category. He describes part of his responsibility to “tear labels off”. He doesn’t believe that any youth should be written off. He stresses to his foster sons that they should not look down on themselves and they should use foster as a stepping stone to a brighter future.
Dyral believes that his young age and youthful appearance have served him well as a foster parent. He describes himself as easy going and fun but also as a straight forward and honest disciplinarian. When young men enter his care he lets them know that he is available to assist and support them but he also academic and behavioral expectations that must be met. Dyral explains that he provides structure (discipline) as a means of helping and not hindering growth. He also believes in rewarding good behavior. Dyral has only had one teen that left his home prematurely but that young man asked to come back. Because Dyral had already accepted other youth he was unable to accept him back.
He is very involved in their school lives. He shows up and is available. When they arrive home from school each afternoon they must call him at work and check in. He teaches them to strive for excellence. Most of his foster sons improve their grades with the structure and support that he provides. Dyral was foster father to another young man who he supported through high school graduation and obtaining a driver’s license. They still communicate by email and text messaging.
Dyral says he overcomes obstacles and challenges through the support of his family and friends and his KidsPeace Family Consultant. Dyral’s foster care experience with KidsPeace has been a positive one. He hasn’t had any major issues or concerns. He is even a speaker at new foster parent orientation session. Some of the advice he shares with parents and want to ensure is shared with our readers is that good communication is key to establishing trusting relationships. He wants to encourage all foster parents to make their home their foster child’s home. He wants to remind us that as parents we can’t have our way all the time because relationships are about “give and take” and we should “pick our battles”.
Dyral is a good listener. He gets to know each child individually and suggests that all foster parents do the same. “You have to know your kids and find out what works best for them,” he said during our interview. Dyral drove this point home with the example of a teen that whenever he picked him up from school and the child was quiet he knew he didn’t have such a good day. He would not press the teen for answers. After getting home, the young man would come to him and explain what was bothering him when he was ready to talk. He also advises parents to be mindful of their own moods as young people can sense when they are not going well and be equally as aware of the words that you speak.
Dyral applauds the work of his KidsPeace Family Consultant and the KidsPeace Independent Living Curriculum. He believes that all youth in the process of aging out of the foster care system should receive independent living skills training. He believes every young person should have basic knowledge and understanding of how to secure and maintain housing, create and stick to a budget, enroll in secondary education or training, and pay bills on time.
According to Dyral, we can best support teen males that are currently in the foster care system by showing them positive influences and the positive side of life, developing leadership abilities, and effectively communicating with them. When his foster sons make mistakes or have bad days he doesn’t allow them to beat themselves down. “I will uplift them”, he said. He helps them process their behavior so they learn from their mistakes. He supports them in moving forward so they don’t repeat the same mistakes and continue destructive cycles.
Dyral Brown became a foster father because he wanted to fill a void and be a father figure for teen males who were striving to improve their lives. The foster care system has allowed him to fill that role by shaping, molding, and motivating young men and helping them become productive citizens in society. He says “It allowed me to instill in the minds of young men to develop a plan, follow it, and assess the positives and negatives of the plan and how to achieve the initial goal set in the plan.” Dyral Brown is changing the lives not only of his foster sons but of other foster families as well by opening his heart and sharing his wisdom.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.