"She had me when she was 16." / by richard ross

O.E., age 17

O.E., age 17

I’m here for two weeks. This is the first time I have been here. I live with my mom, daddy, and grandma. I have seen them twice on a Saturday. Once on a Wednesday. I have five sisters, from three different dads. All the girls live with my mom and me. I am close with my sisters. I am the oldest. The youngest is five. We don’t have a problem visiting together. I see the judge in three days. Hopefully, she will send me home. I was on probation for GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and was doing well. Now I am here for robbery. I am in 11th grade, but I don’t go to school because I am home-schooled. My mom has me enrolled in a program called ECOT. It is computer schooling. I do better at home. At school I get distracted easily. People say stuff to me and I go off. I don’t like to argue, I just go straight to fight. I don’t have any gang affiliation.

I see the judge in three days. Hopefully, she will send me home.

My dad works at a car wash and my mother is a home health aide. My great grandmother is taking care of her brother. I have my own bedroom. They let the little ones sleep together. I hate the food here. It’s nasty and they don’t give you enough—for real. Like we had broccoli, salad, a little meat, chicken, rice, and macaroni. My great grandmother cooks for everybody. We may be at my grandma’s house. But, I am MOSTLY there on the other side of town. My auntie drives me over there. My auntie lives in a two family house. My grandma is 56, My mother is 33. She had me when she was 16.

— O.E., age 17