I’m from Pacoima, the projects. You know the buildings? I’m a member of Project Winos. I’ve been living on the streets or else I sleep in the projects with my homies. I don't go to school on the outs. My mom was deported when I was five, then I lived with my dad till I was 12, and then he was deported. I have a brother who’s 19 in jail, and a sister who’s 15 in placement. I was born here. I was living in foster homes after five. The first foster home I was with my sister until I was seven. Then we lived with my dad until my dad found a girlfriend. My dad would abuse us mentally before I was 12. He would talk shit to us, make us feel bad, and hit us. And then I was 12 and he got deported, so my sister and me went to a foster home for three months. Then I lived with my aunt in Victorville, then a foster home in Victorville, but then we ran away to Pacoima.
When I was on the street, we all didn’t have a place to stay, so we would all look out for each other.
My sister and me turned ourselves in. We stayed in a foster home in Palmdale. My sister got in trouble and locked up for ditching on probation. I’ve been in 15 different DCFS placements and probations. Now it’s all probation. I go to trial in four weeks, but my paperwork got lost. I’m five months pregnant. It feels good, and scary. Placement will help me with my baby. I’ve done some meth and weed. Here we have individual therapy twice a week and anger management once a week. When I was on the street, we all didn’t have a place to stay, so we would all look out for each other. We were hustlers. Make our money by selling weed. When I get out, maybe I’ll be a cosmetologist or a psychologist.
-N.K., 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.