Monday, September 03, 2007

COM: Jacob's Story

Today's San Antonio Express News featured a story about Jacob Favela, his music and where it's taken him. I did his first film Forgiven, and Carol Priour did his second For the Kids. Both can be seen below.

Young songwriter hoping to beat odds
Nancy Martinez, Express-News, Web Posted: 09/02/2007 11:03 PM CDT

When smooth-talking Cuitlahuac "Jacob" Favela raps about child abuse and neglect at a local fundraising event Tuesday night, he will be telling his own story. His raps are testimony of growing up in the state's child welfare system.

"I write about what life has taken me through," he said.

Between the ages of 6 and 18, Favela, who now lives at Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram, has lived in an emergency shelter, one foster home and four group foster homes.

In the past few years, Favela, whose videos featuring other foster children can be found on, has performed at so many festivals, schools and social service agencies across the city that it's evolved into a part-time job of sorts for him.

His is a story of success.

In Bexar County last year, Child Protective Services was legally responsible for 5,197 local children. Most of those children were in foster care; others lived with relatives.

Research has shown that youths who age out of foster care at 18 are likely to be incarcerated, unemployed or homeless, suffer mental illness and drug addiction, become young parents and become violent crime victims.

But Favela plans to break that cycle for himself. He is a senior in high school this year, and he plans to go to college using the state's free college tuition program for foster children.

"I want to study architecture," he said. "Since I was real young, I always liked putting things together. I'd tell my mom that I wanted to build a house for her."

The key to his success has been music. He's realized that there's something therapeutic about sharing his story and helping others — young people identify with him, and adults learn about young people's struggles.

"I've always been good with words, so I put it all down on paper. It's self-therapy. Little by little, I'm overcoming what I went through. Each time I turn a page, each time I perform, I'm getting over it a little more."

The fundraiser is the 12th annual "Justice is Served" event for Child Advocates San Antonio, a group of volunteers who serve as court advocates for abused and neglected children. The event will include dinner and an auction. In keeping with the "Justice is Served" tradition, local judges will serve dessert.

Last year, the group raised $81,000. This year, its goal is $120,000.

Jessica Muñoz, spokeswoman for CASA, said Favela gives a unique insight into the reality of being a child in the system. "This young man is incredibly talented. He deserves for his story to be told so that others can appreciate what it truly means to be a survivor."

Favela, 18, says his mother abandoned him when he was 6. "She left me standing outside across the street from a bar."

Favela, a kindergartner at the time, was taken — along with his two younger brothers — from that bar and placed at an emergency shelter. From there, the boys were placed by CPS caseworkers in a foster home.

"For those two years, my mom worked real hard to get us back. She did the plan of service and everything they asked. For the first time, she was sober — she was on top of her game."

Favela says he and his siblings were placed back with their mother for five years.

But CPS would step in again. He was 13 and his mom was pregnant.

"We didn't have food or a place to stay; we were living in some pretty bad conditions," he said. "I hadn't been to school in a while."

He stayed at Boysville, a group foster home in Converse, for a couple of years, then moved to Boys and Girls Town, where he stayed for several months before moving to a foster home for a year. But Favela, then 16, ran away from the home.

Eventually, he called the runaway hotline number. "I want to turn myself in," he said.

So far, Favela has written 11 rap songs.

He said he wrote his first song when he was living at Boysville. Titled "Forgiven," the song won first place at a few talent shows. The video, which was produced at Hill Country Youth Ranch, had more than 7,400 online hits. It is one of two songs about his mother:

"Hey mom, it's your older son talking to you. I want to do what's right, mom. I'm trying to reach out to you. I love you, mom. But your love hurts. Said you'd give me the best but you put me through the worst."

Favela said he's forgiven his mother, with whom he's lost touch.

"I love my mom. She's gonna be my mother no matter what. All I can do is forgive her, have faith and pray. But I also forgive her for me. I don't want that weighing me down."

When Favela writes his songs, he also wants to teach people about the CPS system.

"The children in CPS (custody) have an amazing struggle. Some handle it better than others, yes, but automatically when people hear I'm a foster child, they put that bad-kid label on me. But no, I am not a trouble child; I am a troubled child. But I don't let that change me. I keep my head up, and I encourage others to do the same."

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