Opinion

We Are New Mexican Foster Youth Who Help Others in the System

foster youth: Smiling male student wearing open blue buttondown shirt over white shirt holds pen while talking to woman seen from back

Daniel M Ernst/Shutterstock

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I am 20 years old. I was a foster kid for the majority of my life. CYFD (New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department) was in and out of our house as I was a child. 

Then my teen years came and that’s when life really started to get hard. When I was 16, I went back into the foster care system for the last time and stayed until my 18th birthday, when I aged out. 

foster youth: Joseph Garcia (headshot), president of Leaders United Voices Youth Advocates of New Mexico, young man with short brown hair in car with seatbelt on wearing jacket over hoodie

Joseph Garcia

The experience is one I’ll never forget, from the good to the bad: It helped shape me into the man I am today. I’ve learned to have confidence in myself, have confidence in others and never stop fighting for what you believe in because you can make a difference. 

When I started my advocacy journey, I was nowhere near where I am today. About a year ago I became president of a wonderful advocacy group to help better our foster care system called Leader United Voice Advocates of New Mexico.

We are made up of former and current foster youth who all strive to better our system for generations to come. A few major goals we have completed have had a major impact on how CYFD is run today: There’s a grievance officer. We also partner with the Foundation of Practice training unit to assist with panels and simulations with new and current employees. 

I am dedicated to this group, hopefully being elected for another term next year. I also am working with the Governor’s Office to help foster youth who have an interest in becoming a CYFD worker to make that goal achievable. I have a few ideas that could make this goal achievable in a fraction of the original time. 

That’s something I strongly want to work toward because my personal life goal is to be a youth transition specialist through CYFD. I also one day hope to be the governor of New Mexico because they have the power to make a change. 

I see a better society all across New Mexico in the future. I also want to show anyone that no matter your background, as long as you work hard enough you can do whatever you put your mind to. 

I am forever thankful for the skills I have learned and the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to encounter. As a foster youth not many have faith in us, so one major life goal I have is to reassure any foster youth that you are valid, you are cared about, you are loved, your voice matters, so don’t count yourself short. 

Some of my favorite pastimes include reading, playing video games, going to coffee shops, driving and talking. I really like to talk. When I was young I knew that I liked to talk and as I grew older I put my voice to good use, having the ability to listen and learn how the system works and how things move in society. I am hoping that others can learn similar skills throughout their journey from working with CYFD and its partners to being and living through the foster care system. 

My last note I want to leave everyone with is: From this point forward, remember that no matter what happens, someone cares about you. Life gets hard but there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, and when you’re feeling alone you have an entire group that cares about you and wants you to succeed in life. 

Also, you are important! Never forget that. 

If you know a youth between the ages of 15 to 23 who has been in the New Mexico foster system or is currently in the system right now, please reach out to Crystil Rosas, our CYFD LUVYANM liaison, at Crystil.rosas@state.nm.us.

Joseph Garcia is the president of Leaders United Voices Youth Advocates of New Mexico. He can be reached at Joseph.Garciaaa12@icloud.com.

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