Andre Carter is a friendly 21-year-old who masks his difficult upbringing with an offhand snicker. The details are foggy as he recounts his start in the foster care program. As early as Andre remembers, his father was responsible for him and his two younger brothers. But since his father had a medical condition that hindered his ability to care for them, the boys moved in with their paternal grandmother. Sadly, an uncle, who also lived in the house, beat the three of them on a regular basis. Whether or not their grandmother knew about this is unclear, but their father was unaware.
When Andre was 7, he was taken to the nurse’s office at school and asked a number of questions. He was afraid to tell the nurse about the beatings because he feared that his uncle would find out and hurt him even more. He recounts waiting in the nurse’s office for over three hours until he and his brothers were taken away in a strange van to a strange home. The social workers promised that they had found them a better place to live. The boys spent that night with a temporary family and were then taken to a foster home.
Unfortunately for Andre and his little brothers, the new family inflicted a different kind of abuse. To discipline the children, their foster father forced them to take freezing cold showers. Andre recalls, “some Spanish guy beating us . . . dipping us in cold water as punishment.” This was more frightening than their uncle’s beatings. Andre does not blame the foster care program or his caseworker, who eventually found them a new home with a single older lady. She treated them kindly and they lived with her for about a year. During this stay they attended school and made new friends.
Eventually the boys’ biological mother reclaimed them, and they lived with her for the next two years. Here they got to bond with their half brothers and sisters, until they moved back in with their father. Andre is still close with his stepsiblings.
At age 15, Andre got into some trouble and was uprooted from his home again. This time he was sent to live in a group home for teens, which was operated by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. He continued to be shuttled around to different homes for four more years. From age 18 to 21 he lived at Seaford House, where he had his own bedroom. “It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “I liked having my own room.” The staff motivated him to find a job. After training to become a certified nursing assistant, he realized that he couldn’t stomach some aspects of the profession. He now works for Babies “R” Us and lives alone in a subsidized apartment.
Andre wants to attend college soon, but his current salary is barely adequate to cover living expenses let alone college tuition. He has a positive outlook, though. “I want to be successful. I know how life really is. I’ve been through the lowest of lows, so I’m ready for the highs. Sky’s the limit. I’d like to have a nice home and eventually start a family.”
When asked if he was friendly with his uncle these days, Andre said, “Yah, he’s cool. I’m bigger than him now.
Andre is part of a program called the Nassau County Homelessness Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) pilot program. It helps Andre and other aged-out foster youth with housing subsidies.
Here’s how you can help young adults like Andre in Nassau and Suffolk County: