This past December, Bruce Castro beamed as he walked down the aisle arm in arm with his former YCS foster parents to his waiting bride. The journey to finding his life partner, his faith, and a job he truly enjoys was fraught with many painful childhood memories. But now, Bruce, 27, wants to share his experience in hopes of helping other young people who are struggling. 

Bruce's Childhood
"My mom struggled with addiction and sold drugs to feed her habit. The court kept giving her chances, but she couldn't get clean," recalls Bruce. By the age of 5, the state removed Bruce from his home. He was eventually placed with family members.  On a visit with his mother, she discovered he had been the victim of multiple abuses. The state stepped in again, and he was removed from the home and returned to his mother.  However, the trauma proved too much for him to bear and he was temporarily placed in a children's psychiatric hospital.
 
For six months, Bruce languished in the hospital. "I barely ate or talked to anyone.  I knew I wasn't crazy.  I just had all these terrible things happen to me and I was confused."   His one distinct memory of his time at the hospital was the day his mom had promised to visit him for his birthday. "I waited and waited, but she didn't show up," said Bruce.  "That day they had to restrain me."
 
Bruce was around eight years-old when he was transitioned into the YCS Laurie Haven group home.



 
"When Bruce came to us he had so much anger and rage.  It was like he was fighting the world," recalls the home's administrator, Etta Sample.  "We saw a little boy that was crying out for help."  She describes Bruce as an affable, resilient child who could  be very caring, but that side was often buried under fear and mistrust. 
 
For Bruce, the home was just one more stop in a succession of failed placements.  However, things were different this time.  According to Ms. Sample, once Bruce began to trust the staff enough to express his feelings, he began to heal.
 
History repeated itself when his mom again failed to show up on a visit for his birthday.  But, this time, he had Ms. Sample on his side. Bruce vividly remembers how Ms. Sample later confronted his mom at a family conference. 
 
"I love that lady...she always tried to protect me.  If it wasn't for her, I would have ended up in another group home.  She saved my life"
 
Bruce should have aged out of the home when he turned 10, but Ms. Sample 
fought to keep Bruce at Laurie Haven till they could find a foster home. 
Bruce, 17, at YCS H'Olympic Games

Since Bruce had reached all of his goals at the home, Ms. Sample knew he could continue progressing if he lived with a family.  

Patrick Jeune, one of the home's supervisors felt the same way. "From the beginning I felt very connected to Bruce."  After a number visits with the Jeune family (Patrick's wife Kelly and their 3 children), they became Bruce's foster parents. 

Bruce was still haunted by his past and struggled with anger.  "I fought with everyone, in the house, on the block and at school," Bruce says with a laugh.  He admits that the hardest thing for him was believing that the Jeune's really cared about him.
 
According to Bruce, Mr. Jeune gave all his attention to his son Anthony.  Bruce and Anthony were about the same age but went to different schools and participated in different sports.  In Bruce's recollections, Anthony had everything he wanted - he was a great athlete, student, and son. 
 
"I felt like I was giving Mr. Jeune my best but he wasn't really seeing it."
 
When Bruce looks back he can see things a little differently. "I understand where Mr. Jeune was coming from. He went through a lot of hard times as a child and he wanted me to be strong so I would not have to go through any more hard times."
 
Mr. Jeune agrees that it wasn't always easy. "Kelly and I continued to believe in Bruce, and no matter what happened, we always let him start over."
 
Bruce lived with the Jeune's till he graduated high school.  Although Mr. Jeune always pushed Bruce to exceed academically and encouraged him to go to college, Bruce had his own ideas. 
 
Bruce candidly admits that he took the hard road for the next few years. "I wanted everything my way...It was Bruce's way or no way." Consequently, he bounced from job to job, living in one friend's apartment after another. 
 
Yet, he always stayed connected to the Jeune's.  "He'd call us when he was struggling and we'd help him process the situation so he could find his own solutions," says Mr. Jeune.
Today, Bruce has stable employment as a CDL driver for an asphalt company; he loves being  a husband and father to his two step children and is deeply committed to his faith and parish. Recently, Mr. Jeune told Bruce how proud he was of him.  "It meant a lot to me," whispered Bruce.  Bruce has also never forgotten his appreciation for Ms. Sample.  Every year, he calls  to wish her a Merry Christmas. It is a phone call that she admits she always looks forward to receiving.
                                             
Mr. Jeune says Bruce is the one giving him advice now.
Anthony Jeune was best man at Bruce's wedding
"When I was ver y concerned about Anthony, Bruce encouraged me to be patient and allow my son to find hi mself a nd God."  It worked.  Anthony and Bruce are now best friends, and with Bruce's support they are they are both active in the same church.  
 
William Waller, vice president of the YCS foster care program felt honored to attend Bruce's wedding. "Bruce has been able to move forward positively in his life because he has made peace with his past and has forgiven his transgressors." 

For Bruce, the sky's the limit and he is not looking back.
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