"It’s all around me, that’s all I see." / by richard ross

I’ve been here three weeks. This is my third time here. First time I was here I was 14. I was 11 when I started using meth. My mom’s an alcoholic; my uncle and my dad are addicts. It’s all around me; that’s all I see. I live in the valley in North Hollywood. I was abused when I was eight by my mom’s boyfriend. We filed a report, but he split and they never found him. It was a couple of years later that DCFS got involved. The social worker found that my mom wasn’t able to parent me. I wasn’t in school. Later on they found out that she was drinking a lot and she was never at home. I was living on the street at that point. No one was ever telling me anything, that I was doing good or bad. There were no consequences for anything I was doing. There was no involvement by any adults. At twelve I was taken away. This woman social worker took me from school to a group home. I don't know what’s going to happen . . . maybe placement.I’ll never go back to my mother; it would be a miracle if she stays sober. CA_Central_12_15_13-14

They closed my DCFS case recently after two years. The first time I was in placement, it was for six months. They liked me there and said I could go home after a while. But then I ended up in and out of placement and jail. I was in a camp until mid-summer. Then I was released to my mom who I hadn’t seen in three years. It was good—my mom was actually trying to be a mom. But my drug use was affecting me. They tried getting me treatment, but it wasn’t successful. I’ve been to a lot of different types of treatment. The longest I was clean was five months in camp. On the outs I was able to stay clean for maybe a week, but then I would go back.

I had to give her the opportunity to be a mom. I wish she had tried to get sober earlier

I’ve never had to buy drugs, it was always there. I never prostituted, but my mom was prostituting. I chose not to. Or maybe I did in a way. By using drugs and things I had to do favors for the drugs. A lot of my uncles were gang members . . . I grew up with this. I get so caught up in it. I was mad at my mom for a cool minute, but then I had to forgive her. I had to give her the opportunity to be a mom. I wish she had tried to get sober earlier. It was hard on me; I’m the second youngest. I’m happy my mom changed for my nine-year-old sister. I do want to stop coming to jail, but I don't want to lie to myself and say I’m never coming back . . . cause I will.

-S.O., 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.