New Mexico Young Fathers Project
Santa Fe, N.M.
Salary: $11 per hour.
About the Program: The project is designed to help young fathers with various needs, including access to education and jobs. It focuses almost entirely on men who have had run-ins with law enforcement; much of the outreach is done at detention centers and lock-ups.
His Job: Valencia became a client of the project while serving time in juvenile detention. When he was released, his case manager at the project helped him find a job as a crew leader for Youth Works, a service-learning program. He later moved to the Young Fathers Project, where he is a case manager.
His first task is administrative: helping men become clients. After that, he says, “I’m just like an advocate for whatever they need. They can call anytime, day or night.”
Best Part of the Job: “Helping these kids” through something “that I was a part of.”
Worst Part of the Job: “Paperwork,” none of which he has any use for. The program is funded by New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department, and “all of it [the paperwork] goes to them.”
Memorable Moment: “When I met my first young father, he was kind of iffy about me. Once I started talking about my story, that changed. We’ve been keeping up. He’s trying to follow the same road I did, and the guy just asks me how I did it.”
How the Project Helped: “My mom told me my girl was pregnant,” says Valencia. Detained juveniles in New Mexico are prohibited from contacting non-relatives, he says.
“It was hard for me. I didn’t know what was going on. Young Fathers Project kept up with my girlfriend for me. I got out and got to the hospital right before my son was born.”
The Age Issue: The fact that Valencia is still a teen himself “hasn’t been an issue yet” for a client. “I think it might at some point. If they don’t want to talk to me, we have other case managers.”
Pushing Dads Away: Among the project’s clients, some family members on the mother’s side “don’t want the fathers around. That’s a lot of what I see, the fathers getting pushed out of the picture. The grandparents want to take care of everything.”