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I Wouldn’t Change a Thing

I have a partner, a baby and three cats. One of the cats is named Phoenix. He entered my life just as I came out of the ashes. Phoenix was the first time I felt unconditional love, a pure love that I now feel at a deeper level from my son.

I have a great job. I work for You Gotta Believe, a nonprofit that helps find permanent families for young adults and teens in foster care. I am also involved in various advocacy organizations that help kids aging out of the system. This is something I care passionately about. It is unfair and cruel to expect young people who have already suffered so much, been denied support and the unconditional love every child deserves to get no help in the biggest transition of their lives — adulthood. Imagine being expected to pay the rent and be responsible with no information and no resources. Not fair.

I was recently part of a team of advocates looking into the harms of congregate care in New York. We put together an in-depth report that calls out what is wrong, and what needs to change. That includes making sure that people like me are at the table making change happen, pushing for the placement of youth with relatives instead of institutions, and ending the mistreatment and abuse of children in these places.

I feel like I have packed a lot of living into my 23 years. I am a trans male who was born and lived in
Ecuador for ten years and have since lived in Queens, the Bronx, Upstate New York, and Brooklyn. I went into foster care when I was 12 and spent eight years in congregate and residential treatment facilities. I never had much consistency in my life. My mother and father didn’t figure much in it. I’ve had help along the way, but I raised myself.

In care, you never get a chance to breath – you were in survival mode. I know what I didn’t have as a child and I am going to make sure my son gets those things. I am going to teach him how to manage his emotions. To be okay with his feelings, to give them space and understand and learn from them.

At You Gotta Believe I work with an unforgettable team of people. We share ideas and a deep
commitment to our work. Together we train parents on how to ease the gap for young people by giving them the love, attention, acceptance and most of all the patience they need to recognize and understand their trauma. We listen to young people, make them feel comfortable and seen. I only wish I could do more. If someday I have my own nonprofit, I would give them the most targeted and intense services available — whatever it takes to heal and grow.

I’ve been through a lot of hurt. There was a time when I truly believed I wasn’t going to make it. But I wouldn’t change anything. If I did I wouldn’t be me. Maybe I’d be arrogant or closed minded. If I hadn’t gone through everything I have, I wouldn’t be able to help the people I help. There’s no better learning than living.