Jesus Javier Sanchez - May You find Peace

In my previous blogs, I find that I am usually writing about issues that are close to my heart. This time is no different. In fact, this is the first part of a four part series - highlighting each of the four Sanchez brothers.
Today I am starting with the youngest brother,
Jesus Javier Sanchez.
                                             Jesus -  September 2012

                                           Jesus -  September 2012

 For the past 5 years, I have been involved as a mentor/ advocate for a family of 4 young men, the Sanchez brothers. Caesar is the oldest at 23, Miguel is 22, Manuel is 21 and Jesus is 19. The brothers have all been in the foster care system for most of their lives. I first got involved with the family thru the oldest boy, Cesar. I allowed him to live at my house for about 1 year. In fact, I have allowed all four of the Sanchez brothers to live with me, for about 1 year each, usually when they got out of the foster care system at age 18. I have helped them get their first jobs, taken them each on their first plane rides, helped Manuel & Miguel get their driver’s licenses and generally focused on “quickly learning important life lessons”. Lessons such as the importance of saying “Thank You” each and every time it’s due. Or trying to get them to understand and appreciate their “uniqueness and individuality”. On any given day, I may help two or more of the brothers, depending on what’s happening that particular day. I feel blessed to be of service in this way!
                                      Jesus with Honey - March 2013

                                    Jesus with Honey - March 2013

 Now let me tell you about the Jesus I know. At 19, he is the youngest of the four Sanchez brothers. The Jesus I know can be kind, generous and caring. He likes to share whatever he has with the people around him. While he was living with me, we would chant together. His favorites were Native American peyote prayer chants but he also joined me in chanting some Tibetan Buddhist prayers. It was such an amazing transformation to behold – Calm, Peaceful & Energized. For his first plane trip he chose Denver. We went in November so he got to experience cold and snow first hand. It was wonderful to share the experience with him.
           Jesus in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,000 ft.- November 2012

         Jesus in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,000 ft.- November 2012

We took a camping trip to Bryce National Park in summer. I am interested in seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. Jesus loved being in the wilderness. One of his favorite times was watching a nesting pair of Ospreys. They brought fish back to the nest. He insisted we make a list of all our wildlife sightings. At the end of the trip we were surprised at the quantity and variety of creatures we were able to observe.
                             Jesus with Ellen at Bryce NP, Utah - June 2013

                           Jesus with Ellen at Bryce NP, Utah - June 2013

 A little history might help. I first met Jesus thru his older brothers in 2011. On holidays, I would invite all brothers interested, to be together over at my house. When Manuel moved out of my house to go to Phoenix in June 2012, I got a call from Jesus’ social worker, David. Jesus had run away from his foster family and was at the Polinski Center. David was having trouble placing Jesus because of his age, 17, at that time. He asked me if I would consider being his foster dad. I did all the required paperwork and he came to live with me in early July 2012. I enrolled him in school. Unfortunately, a by-product of his experience in the foster system is under achievement and low expectations in school. His basic skills are terrible. When he was living with me, I made him read for 15 minutes every day, even though it was hard for him. That was part of our deal. I paid attention to many different interests of his: researching his Native heritage – we went to Pow Wows and other cultural events. Then his attitude got bad. He began missing school and lying about it, not coming home as expected and other disrespectful things.
     Jesus with Doug & Josette & family - Pow Wow at Morango - August 2012

   Jesus with Doug & Josette & family - Pow Wow at Morango - August 2012

 In early December 2012, two months before his 18th birthday, I decided to take the unusual step of placing him back into the foster system, for the last 2 months before he turned 18, “to get his attention”. I told him when I did it, when he turns 18, he can come back and stay with me, again. As it turned out it was a good thing.
                                     Jesus on PB boardwalk - July 2012

                                   Jesus on PB boardwalk - July 2012

It gave him time to think about it. The day he turned 18, he came back with a whole new attitude. Also at 18, because he was a foster youth, he was entitled to be on a program, AB-12. If they meet certain criteria (school or work) they received about $800 per month. I made Jesus save half that amount every month in an account that needed my signature to withdraw. He saved up enough to pay his half of a trip to Florida. It was a great experience for him and he appreciated being able to pay his half of the plane fare.
                                             Jesus with Mannie - April 2014

                                           Jesus with Mannie - April 2014

Jesus has always looked up to his brother, Manuel, so when Mannie offered Jesus to come live in Phoenix, he said yes. I drove him there on Sept 1, 2013. It was a tough 45 days for him. In that short amount of time in Arizona, he managed to put his right fist and arm through a glass window. He almost bled to death as he cut an artery. He was mad at Manuel for not opening the door fast enough. Jesus has a temper and often has a hard time controlling it. That incident got both of them kicked out. Jesus ended up in the hospital for 8 days. Fortunately for him the doctors did a great job putting the nerves back in place. Jesus was living in a homeless shelter for 2 weeks before coming back to San Diego. Jesus called me on October 15th and asked if I would send him a bus ticket home. I did.
                                            Jesus at home - June 2013

                                          Jesus at home - June 2013

 When he got back here in San Diego, he met his friend, Steven, who offered him a place to stay. I got him enrolled back into school and found him a doctor. We were in family court on October 29, 2013 for the AB 12 hearing. Jesus was first arrested as we walked out of that courtroom.
 Fast forward to now. Over the past 14 months, Jesus has been released from jail and picked up for probation violations on 4 separate occasions, usually for not checking in weekly with the probation department. It seems like he just doesn’t care anymore and that’s sad. Life hasn’t been easy for him since his first arrest. With a felony conviction on his record it is near impossible to get a job, we’ve tried. When he’s not in jail, he is homeless (he stays with a group of people who sleep in parks and abandon garages). Unfortunately, I have a small place and his brother Miguel is staying with me now, it’s his turn. Jesus comes over when he’s hungry, needs a shower and clean clothes or just a place to be with his brother(s).
            My most recent photo of all four Sanchez brothers. Jesus (2nd left)

          My most recent photo of all four Sanchez brothers. Jesus (2nd left)

I’m happy to be able to do this for him, I wish I could do more. It’s especially sad (for me) when I give him a ride back “home” to the park. I try to keep positive in front of him but when he gets out of the car and walks away, I sometimes feel like crying. Then I say a prayer for him and realize I'm doing all I can.
      Jesus with friend Steven (getting a tattoo) on his birthday - February 2014

    Jesus with friend Steven (getting a tattoo) on his birthday - February 2014

 I just left a court hearing for Jesus. He was in jail on his fourth probation violation. I contacted his public defender and he seems like a compassionate man but he is so overwhelmed with his caseload that he can only spend a couple of minutes with each inmate and usually just before their hearing . I wrote a letter to the judge that I doubt he ever got. It really draws into sharp contrast how the legal system is stacked against people without means and money. It breaks my heart, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve done all I can and I wasn’t able to keep Jesus from going to state prison.
Will I stop caring for him? Absolutely not. All his life he has had people walk away from him when things get tough. I will visit him occasionally, bringing one or more of his brothers along. He likes to read about native peoples and his heritage – the Yaqui. I can send him new books thru Amazon – that will make his time more productive.
                         Jesus in Las Vegas (we saw this show) - March 2013

                       Jesus in Las Vegas (we saw this show) - March 2013

My New Year’s wish for you, Jesus Javier Sanchez – May you find Peace in your heart. You are a beautiful human being deserving of all of life’s goodness and bounty. May you realize this, my friend!

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This is a copy of the letter I wrote to the judge, hoping it might help. Unfortunately the judge never got to see it. 
 

To the Court, Judge                                 December 28, 2014

 Hi. My name is Mike Suess. I am the advocate/ mentor for Jesus Sanchez. I want to tell you about Jesus and his situation but it will take some set up. This is a long, detailed letter but if you want to really understand Jesus, it’s all necessary.
Jesus is the youngest of 4 brothers. All 4 of the boys, (Caesar, Miguel, Manuel & Jesus) have been in the foster care system for most of their lives. Jesus has been in there the longest, at 14 years. I first got involved with the family thru the oldest boy, Caesar. He didn’t have any place to go so I invited him to stay with me to “figure out what he wanted to do with his life”. In fact, I have allowed all 4 of the Sanchez boys to live with me, for about 1 year each, usually when they got out of the foster care system at age 18. I have helped them get jobs, took them on their first plane rides, helped Manuel & Miguel get their driver’s license, etc.
 Back to Jesus. I had known him thru his brothers. When Manuel moved out of my house to go to Phoenix in June 2012, I got a call from Jesus’ social worker, David Salinas. Jesus had run away from his foster family and was at Polinski. David was having trouble placing Jesus because of his age, 17 at that time. He asked me if I would consider being his foster dad. I did all the required paperwork and he came here in July 2012. I enrolled him in school. A by-product of his experience in the foster system is his under achievement in school. His basic skills are terrible. When he was living with me, I made him read for 15 minutes every day even though it was hard for him. That was part of our deal. I paid attention to many different interests of his: checking into his Native heritage – we went to Pow Wows and other cultural events; modeling – he joined an agency and other nice things. Then his attitude got bad.
In early December 2012, two months before his 18th birthday, I decided to take the unusual step of placing him back into the foster system, for the last 2 months before he turned 18, “to get his attention”. I told him when I did it, when he turns 18, he can come back and stay with me, again. As it turned out it was the best thing I ever did for him. It gave him time to think about it. The day he turned 18, he came back with a whole new attitude. Also at 18, because he was a foster youth, he was entitled to be on a program, AB-12. If they meet certain criteria (school or work) they received about $800 per month. I made Jesus save half that amount every month in an account that needed my signature to withdraw. He saved up enough to pay his half of a trip to Florida. It was a great experience for him and he appreciated being able to pay half for himself.
Jesus has always looked up to his brother Manuel so when he offered Jesus to come live in Phoenix, he said yes. I drove him there on Sept 1st. It was a tough 45 days for him. In that short amount of time in Arizona, he managed to put his right fist and arm through a glass window. He almost bled to death as he cut an artery. He was mad at Manuel for not opening the door. Jesus has a temper and often has a hard time controlling it. That incident got both of them kicked out. Jesus ended up in the hospital for 8 days. Fortunately for him the doctors did a great job putting the nerves back in place. Jesus was living in a homeless shelter for 2 weeks before coming back to San Diego. In their time in Phoenix, both of the boys were out of compliance with the AB 12 program due to getting kicked out. Jesus called me on October 15, 2013 and asked if I would send him a bus ticket home. I did.
When he got back here he met his friend, Steven, who offered him a place to stay. I got him enrolled back into school, found him a doctor. We were in family court on October 29th for the AB 12 hearing Jesus was originally arrested as we walked out of that courtroom.
I have visited Jesus at George Bailey detention facility in Otay Mesa. Once in a while I manage to get one of his brothers to go along. He needs to know that someone is out there thinking about him. I have sent him books thru Amazon (It’s the only way they can receive books). I want him to make productive use of his time
Jesus has been picked up on probation violation charges several different times since his original arrest. Up to now Jesus just hasn’t cared. What’s different now is that Jesus is a father and he has not been able to see the baby yet. A complicated situation, the baby’s mother is a minor. They have a restraining order against Jesus. I think what might get Jesus’ attention - the hope that he may one day be able to see his son. I’m sure the probation department will require him to successfully remain in compliance of his probation. The visit will probably have to be a supervised visit with his probation officer in attendance. At least it will give him a positive goal to work towards. 
Jesus and I have been talking about a strategy when he gets out. He needs to get back on the AB 12 program. (The AB12 program was meant for exactly these kinds of kids, foster youth who through no fault of their own, have been in the system for most of their lives). It will mean he has to go back to school. For me it would be good if he got his skills level high enough to get his GED. He is way behind in credits.
Jesus has a tough climb ahead for himself. He needs to get into the transitional housing program and make a life for himself. Poor kid, he's seems to be making it hard for himself. I'll try to be there, as often as I can, to make sure he gets as fair a shake in life, as is possible.
 Feel free to contact me if you need additional information. Thanks
 Sincerely

Michael Suess