FOS­TER­ING WITH WORDS & PIC­TURES

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week - Jen­nifer Levin For The New Mex­i­can

Each year in New Mex­ico, about 300 kids turn 18 and “age out” of the fos­ter care and ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tems. No longer in the cus­tody of the state’s Chil­dren, Youth, and Fam­i­lies Depart­ment (CYFD), they use what re­sources are avail­able to them through tran­si­tional liv­ing and ad­vo­cacy pro­grams, but ad­just­ing to early adult­hood can be tu­mul­tuous. By the time they age out, most of the kids have lived in dozens of fos­ter and group homes, where they re­ceived in­con­sis­tent lev­els of care and fluc­tu­at­ing lev­els of abuse, and this is af­ter be­ing re­moved from their homes of ori­gin which were, at best, sit­u­a­tions rife with ne­glect so se­vere some­one saw fit to con­tact authorities in the first place.

“The rea­son my brother and I were put into fos­ter care was be­cause mul­ti­ple times my mother proved she couldn’t take care of even her­self,” said Me­gan Re­becca Te­treault, aged 19. “Ba­si­cally, she tried to kill her­self, so [my brother and I] got sent to live with our aunt and un­cle, but that didn’t work out.” Te­treault and her brother were put in mul­ti­ple fos­ter homes be­fore an­other rel­a­tive of­fered to adopt them, but that place­ment turned out to be so abu­sive that Te­treault’s brother ran away and then, a few months later, Te­treault brought the cou­ple’s bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren with her to CYFD. To­day, Te­treault lives in En­gle­wood, Colorado, and works at Sonic. She is tak­ing a break from col­lege to get more com­fort­able liv­ing on her own.

“Go­ing through fos­ter care def­i­nitely gives you a lot to think about,” she said, which is why she started keep­ing a di­ary at a young age. “I started by just writ­ing about my day and how I felt about cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. I wrote why I was sad or mad, or how ex­cited I was for some­thing. Then I turned them into po­ems and short sto­ries.” She is cur­rently work­ing on two nov­els, and three of her po­ems are in­cluded in Ask Me Who I Am: Writ­ing and Art by New Mex­ico CYFD Youth, edited by for­mer Santa Fe poet lau­re­ate Va­lerie Martínez, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Lit­tle­globe, Inc., and Mau­reen Bur­dock, an af­fil­i­ate artist with Lit­tle­globe. (Lit­tle­globe, in co­op­er­a­tion with the Global Ed­u­ca­tion Fund and with sup­port from the McCune Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, was re­spon­si­ble for the book’s pub­li­ca­tion.) The con­tent of the book — po­ems and draw­ings — was cre­ated en­tirely by older fos­ter youth, many of whom are in­ter­ested in ex­press­ing them­selves through artis­tic means. “When the kids are older and they’ve had a lot of place­ments, they’re less likely to get adopted,” said Martínez, who with her hus­band be­came a li­censed fos­ter par­ent in or­der to care for their niece. “I was fas­ci­nated by the older ones who’d made it through with so many place­ments, and the deep well they have to cre­ate from.” Some of the youth read from their work on Satur­day, Feb. 12, at Col­lected Works Book­store. Ac­tress Ali MacGraw also reads from the col­lec­tion. The event is free of charge; all pro­ceeds from the sale of the book ben­e­fit Ade­lante Youth Ad­vo­cates of New Mex­ico, a grass-roots sup­port pro­gram for youth aging out of the fos­ter sys­tem.

Lau­ren Markie Huichan, 18, is serv­ing her sec­ond term as pres­i­dent of Ade­lante. She aged-out nine months ago and now at­tends the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico, where she has a dou­ble ma­jor in psy­chol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy. She de­pends on the monthly stipend and other sup­port she re­ceives from the CYFD in­de­pen­dent-liv­ing pro­gram, which lasts un­til she is 21. Huichan be­gan writ­ing po­ems af­ter she was re­moved from her home at age 12 and sep­a­rated from her iden­ti­cal twin sis­ter. In her last two years in the cus­tody of the state, she was in 22 place­ments, in­clud­ing fos­ter homes, group homes, and psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals. “With writ­ing, I could ex­press my­self with­out peo­ple re­ally

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