Nathaniel Brown’s journey from foster care to PhD. candidate

Nathaniel Brown, 39, of Villa Rica, is coordinator of student affairs operations at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. After years of abuse at the hands of his caregivers, Brown recently defended his dissertation and is on track to receive his PhD. from the University of Georgia in December. GRACIEBONDSSTAPLES/gstaples@ajc.com

Nathaniel Brown, 39, of Villa Rica, is coordinator of student affairs operations at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. After years of abuse at the hands of his caregivers, Brown recently defended his dissertation and is on track to receive his PhD. from the University of Georgia in December. GRACIEBONDSSTAPLES/gstaples@ajc.com

Nathaniel Brown was known as the runaway kid.

In his mind he was just the big black kid who no one loved and, except for monetary gain, no one wanted.

And so, yes, when the verbal, physical and sexual abuse became unbearable at a series of foster homes in South Carolina, poor Nathaniel ran back to the one place – Spartanburg Children’s Shelter — where he felt loved.

In nearly every foster home where he had been placed since age 4, he’d been made to feel like he should be grateful he had a place to live. No one talked to him except to scold or remind him he was nothing.

“I had to hear that over and over,” he said. “It was an awful feeling.”

We’ve known for at least the last three decades that black children in the child welfare system are placed in foster care at twice the rate of white children. And once removed from their homes, black children remain in foster care longer, are moved more often, receive fewer services and are less likely to either be returned home or adopted than any other children.