Larry Shows Kids in Foster Care the Ropes
Some people are born to teach. They have a natural ability to guide others and help them choose the right path in life. And when a great teacher comes along, they make an impact that lasts a lifetime. Ask any child in foster care that has come through Larry’s doors and they’ll tell you that he’s the best teacher they’ve ever had. Since he became a foster parent he has changed the lives of many of New Jersey’s foster youth—nearly 300 if you’re keeping track. And after 15 years, every day still feels like the first for Larry.
“It seems like yesterday,” says Larry, who recently adopted the first child he fostered. “To me helping kids learn how to become responsible adults is just such a joy. I get excited about teaching them something new and it’s amazing to see how they change when they realize that someone is there for them.”
Larry has always been a role model to youth in his community. Through his volunteer work with his church, he saw many kids whose lives were anything but stable. But Larry believed that with the right guidance and a little encouragement, he could help them reach their potential. Soon after becoming a foster parent, it was clear Larry was right.
Over the years, Larry has welcomed many children into his home. But as he saw foster kids moving onto higher levels of care, he realized they needed more than just a positive role model. That’s when he stepped up to the plate and became a Therapeutic Foster Care parent with New Jersey MENTOR.
“New Jersey MENTOR gave me the tools to help kids become more independent,” Larry said. “I think every foster child can benefit from this level of support and I’m excited that I can make a difference for kids with tough challenges. With New Jersey MENTOR, I learned new ways to keep them engaged and everyone on the treatment team worked with me to help these kids really go places.”
This is especially true for one teenager, who has reached new heights under Larry’s roof. Growing up, this young man struggled with emotional challenges and spent most of his time at home. He was afraid of trying new things or doing anything on his own, including going to school and learning how to read. But after a short time with Larry, this young man has learned that practice makes perfect.
Together they talk about his fears and plan for new experiences. Recently, Larry challenged the teen to learn how to take public transportation on his own. They practiced the route and talked about it at length to ensure the teen felt prepared. As a result, what could have been a frightening experience became a sense of accomplishment for this young man, who continues to flourish in Larry’s home. Thanks to Larry, he has learned how to read, is attending school and thinking about what he wants to be when he grows up—like maybe a dog groomer or an artist.
Larry continuously challenges the kids he supports, but he also challenges himself. Years ago, he had a successful career as a project manager but felt he was destined for something more meaningful. His work with his church led him to foster care and further ignited his passion for helping children learn. Eventually, Larry went back to school, earned his master’s in education and became a second grade teacher.
For Larry, being a foster parent and a teacher is just part of who he is. Growing up he watched his father bring up eight children on his own, so it was natural for Larry to follow in his footsteps. As a single father, he raised two kids of his own, but it’s clear that Larry made an impact on the lives of so many more. Just ask any of his former foster kids, who still swing by Larry’s house for dinner or ask him to join them in a baseball game. Many of them will tell you that Larry, who they affectionately call “Popi”, forever changed their lives.
“These kids just need someone they can count on,” said Larry. “They need people in their lives who can show them the ropes in life. I’m lucky that I’m able to help them understand their problems and make good decisions at home and in the classroom. It’s truly rewarding and what I was meant to do.”