I’ve been here and there for a month at a time. I was a month in girl care. Mom and dad don’t live together. If I get out, I really don’t have anywhere to live. The last time I lived with my mom was in a shelter, four years ago. It was a shelter for kids as well over on Gower in Hollywood. I had just turned 12. I remember it there was never a birthday cake for me. I’ve been in group homes where there’s a lot of dual supervision. One group home had boys and girls together, DCFS and probation. And they were completely out of control. They were crazy. They be peeing on other people’s beds, or taking a crap . . . they’d be having sex . . . I stayed there for three days, and then I got kicked out. One of the staff was very provoking, so I choked her and went. Then they put me in another placement. It was a six-bed place, three different houses.
They were trying to get me to stay with my sister . . . but she don’t want me.
I’ve always been fighting a lot . . . I just don’t like to be disrespected. I should get a high school diploma soon. They were trying to get me to stay with my sister—she’s 22—but she don’t want me. My days here are me just sitting here, until like, at least next year. My mom is a meth addict and she sells crack out of our house. My dad, he’s a pimp. He’s also on drugs. My mom started doing drugs when we were taken from her…or maybe before then. My dad, he was doing drugs since forever. I went AWOL from placement just so I could go to a mall and chill with my friends. Usually I just do some weed. When I was 13 I drank for two weeks straight. I poisoned myself and I could have died, but I didn’t. I would get real bad beatings from my mom. She kicked me in the face when we were living in the shelter. She started choking me, they pulled her off and took me away.
I’m mostly here because I don’t have a place to go to.
I barely talk to my dad. I’ve never been to a foster home. Nobody wants any older body in a foster home. I think foster homes are a lot quieter. Group homes I get into lots of fights just because I’m the new girl. I was gangbanging but they never caught me or charged me. When you bang you protect your territory, nobody can touch your property, or make any money on the property you own. If they try, the gang put on a T.O.S.—termination on sight. Means you kill them, hurt them, or beat them up bad. I’m part of BPS, the Jungles. Black Peace Stones. The Jungles are the projects; they’re in Crenshaw. They run from Coliseum all the way up. Girls get humped into the gang. Means they have to have sex with all the gang members. If you’re gay or a virgin, then you have to fight. You fight to get your rankings. You fight boys or you get jumped on or you do one-on-ones. Honestly I don’t know where my case stands. I might get camp, or lockdown, or placement. But nobody from placement has come to get me. Most of the places I’ve been are dual custody. I’m mostly here because I don’t have a place to go to.
-T.U., Age 16
**Interviews with youth are recorded to the best of our ability. All personal histories and anecdotes are self-reported by the children. To protect confidentiality of the youth, identities have been obscured, initials have been changed, and identifying details have been removed. Interviews have not been edited for content.