“I’ve been here a year. I was 12 on my first visit. Nobody visits me. I only see my mom when I’m in court. I was adopted. My dad’s dead; he got hanged in jail when I was six or seven. My mom lives in Viejo. I started in foster care when I was two. I have one younger brother and one older brother. I went to school in South Central. My first foster placement was for six years; my second was for two years with my younger brother. But I was split with my older brother. Then I went to my third placement with my younger brother, and after two years the foster mother asked my biological mom if she could adopt us. And, she did. The younger brother still lives with that family. I was there three years, and then at 13 I ran away. I AWOLed from nine foster homes. I’d stay for three days, or three months, and then leave. Stay. Leave. Stay. Leave.
I AWOLed from nine foster homes. I’d stay for three days, or three months,
and then leave. Stay. Leave. Stay. Leave.
I don’t have gang affiliation. Sometimes I sip lean. I get it from the homies. Where I get a gun from? From niggas that be on the block. It doesn’t cost you anything if you try to get it. If YOU [Ross] try to get a gun in my hood? You’d get robbed and shot up. If you’re not from there people would say, “What you doin’ over here?” My mom lives in Cal City, its past Lancaster. Two years ago I went to Hawaii. My mom’s daughter is in the military. She’s 28 and trains pregnant women. Hawaii was pretty, but boring. I just got placement. I’m going to a group home in Pasadena for three months. They’re all girls in a group home. I don’t know when I go. This is a waiting game. When you’re in jail you just wait. Then I go home to Cal City. My brother’s on probation for vandalism. I speak to my mom on the phone though. But she doesn’t come here to visit me. I don’t have friends here. Birthdays, they’re just another day. Christmas, nothing…I always like Halloween. Yea, this place is great. Halloween, everybody dresses up in different costumes. We go to cell to cell trick-or-treating. Christmas, Santa comes. We have great parties. Then we have the Wizard of Oz come. [Laughs hysterically] You crazy! We have nothing here. “
-B.K., age 17
**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.