baby

"My mom is deceased. Drug overdose." by richard ross

My mom is deceased. Drug overdose. I stayed with my auntie until I was 11.  She was abusive, verbally and physically. I went to maybe 15-20 foster homes. They were all ladies, no man in the home. My baby is one. His daddy’s family took him to see his daddy. He wouldn’t give my baby back. The baby was in the hospital with a lung problem. I asked my social worker if I could go to see my baby. She said I had to wait until my next court date in two months to see the judge. So I went AWOL to see my baby. They picked me up and now I am 241.1—dual custody between dependency and delinquency for going AWOL. I just wanted to see my baby.

I like Ms. Perez, one of the corrections officers. All the staff here just order you. Ms. Perez talks to me.

—T.L., age 16

AO9A6335

AO9A6335

"My dad lives in Mexico. I’m not sure if my mom has papers." by richard ross

This is my first time. I was in LP for a few days. I was just AWOL for a few days from my foster home. I’m there with my biological brother and my foster mom’s daughter and another foster girl. I was with my aunt for two years. I was eleven when I was taken from my house. I didn’t know what was going on. My mom didn’t know what it meant for me to be detained either. The cops found a weed plant in my brother’s room and then they started investigating my mom and my step-dad. They smoked crack. DCFS took me, my two brothers, and my little sister into custody. My mom was pregnant and when the baby was born they took the baby away. My dad lives in Mexico. I’m not sure if my mom has papers.  My foster home is pretty good, no foster dad there. There was really no reason for me to go AWOL, I was picked up for truancy but I had gotten into trouble for graffiti. Putting white out on a bench in the park right next to school—during school. I was with a friend and we were waiting for nutrition class to end because we didn’t want to go to nutrition…so we went next door to the park for that period. They called it pen tagging. Then I lied to the police about what my name was. They handcuffed me. I went to court two months ago and they gave me probation. Then I violated by running away.

I’m in 9th grade. My mom was in AA rehab. There’s no abuse in my background. I’m fighting going to camp. The judge is making me go to placement although I have no idea why. They want me to go to a group home when I’m doing well in foster care. My boyfriend is 17. He’s a sophomore in HS. I stopped going to school in January. I tried going to continuation school. But I couldn’t get anyone there to help me enroll. I must have gone at the wrong time. I missed a court date and they issued a warrant. I’m not even sure why. I didn’t want to go to court. I was going through stuff with my mom. She talked to me about her drug abuse and how she couldn’t stop.

—Z.O., age 15

AO9A6306

AO9A6306

"I don’t know my mother. My dad lives in Mexico." by richard ross

I’ve been here five days. This is my first time here. I’m 13. I was in LP for one night when I was 12. I’m being charged with B&E (breaking & entering) at my school. I’ve been here now because I was charged with assault with a deadly weapon at school, but I didn’t have a weapon. I don’t trust anybody but my family. I’m not a gang member and I live in a pretty good neighborhood. I’m in the eighth grade. I got in a fight with a security guard; they had my phone, my money, and my bus pass. It was a new security guard. They switch them everyday. They fired the other one that knew me for something that she did. I was going to a special high school. It was for kids who were kicked out of regular school.

My grandma visited me today, it’s Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is a court day. I sleep in my room with one of my brothers, the little one. He’s 14. My oldest brother is on house arrest for possession of a controlled substance. He was in LP for a month.

My grandma adopted me when I was a baby. I don’t know my mother. My dad lives in Mexico. I have five brothers, but I live with two of them. I also live with my auntie. I saw my mom two or three weeks ago.  I remember when I first met my mom—it was at a park. She’s tall and skinny. Me and my brothers all had vanilla ice cream cones with her. She kept on crying the whole time she was eating it.

—B.B., age 13

AO9A4885-Edit

AO9A4885-Edit

"Then he raped me. My mom didn’t believe me. " by richard ross

I’m dual. No one visits. I was in placement. Then I was in a facility up north for two weeks. I’ve been here five days. There is A/C in the day room but not in the cells. I live far from here with my grandfather, mom, tío, and younger sister. Me and my mom got into a physical altercation over me smoking some weed. She roughed me up so I went AWOL and stayed with my friend just around the block. My mom reported me missing. Then I went to school after being truant for three days with a busted lip, black eye, and a broken nose. When they saw how beat up I was, they took me and my little sister away and put us in a foster home—this lady with two kids—a son and a granddaughter. My dad was incarcerated for 14 years. I was having attitude with my foster mom so DCFS put me living with my dad when he got out of prison. I was living with him and my half sister for four months. Then he raped me. My mom didn’t believe me. He wasn’t held behind bars—he was just walking around. Then when they found out, they re-incarcerated him for coke and being a pedophile—for having sex with a 13 year old. This was my biological dad. No one believed me and I ran away to the valley and had to find a police station by myself to report him. I was in junior high. I went to a foster home. My little sister was able to go back home to my mom, but I have an order that I have to be separated from my mom for six months. I had attitude so my foster mom gave my social worker seven days notice to evict me and move me.

They found me a place at a different facility. I was there two months and I AWOLed. I was supposed to do six months there, but part of their program is family counseling and I was too far away from my grandfather to meet with my mom as part of counseling. My social worker knew I was on the run and she called my mom. My mom knew I was trying to get home and when I got home she snitched me out. I was standing on a corner in my city at about 10 PM and a police officer asked what I was doing out after curfew. They took me to DCFS headquarters and had me stay there overnight because they didn’t have a place for me. Then they found me a group home on a Thursday and I was supposed to stay there for a month. I got in a fight with another girl and accidentally socked a security guard. They put me in a place that used to be a school for girls. They gave me another chance there. I was there for nine months and then AWOLed—for a guy. Yeah, it’s always a guy. I thought he was the one.

AO9A6797.jpg

I was on drugs a lot: doing weed, PCP, Angel Dust, Meth, Uppers, Downers. There are no NA or AA meetings here. In order to help me they told me I had to admit my addiction to myself and I wasn’t willing to do that. At that point my mom didn’t want me. I was living in an abandoned house for three weeks. I would go in and out of this boarded up house through a ‘doggie door.’ Or I would sleep in a van.

My mom moved out of the house so I have been living with my grandfather. I’m here as a runaway. My first case is closed. My grandpa always gave me what I wanted and what I needed but not my mom and certainly not my dad. I’m in 10th grade but I have junior credits. I’m smart when I’m sober. I’m catching up on schoolwork a lot. I have two kids. The first I have from my dad when I was 14. The first thing he did when he got out of prison was to rape me and get me pregnant. I didn’t show until I was eight months. The baby was tiny, so I didn’t know I was pregnant. I had irregular period all the time anyway. I was still doing a lot of drugs, heroine and coke and crystal meth. The baby was born three pounds eight ounces.

When I came here a month ago I was only 50 pounds. I’m 4’8”. My second baby was with my boyfriend. He’s 18. I was off drugs and by then I was only an alcoholic. I don’t believe in setting goals, but I would like to stay sober. I’ll get off probation as soon as possible. I want to build a relationship with my mother. My boyfriend has two other kids, both are from another girlfriend. I asked my mom for help, but she said I ‘should learn the hard way.’ My mom was abused by my uncle when she was a kid and she was bullied back in her high school days. I think she is 53 now. I’m 16.

I get interviewed on Friday. I may go to a new placement.

—B.E., age 16

AO9A6793.jpg

"We were too scarred." by richard ross

I live with my mom in Brownsville. That Flexin’ dancing is called Getting Light. They do it on the A train and C train a lot. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters. I live with my stepdad. My dad is locked up. He has always been locked up and not really in my life much. I like my stepdad. He is very respectful. He spoils me. I went into foster care the first time when I was seven. My baby brother died and they said early that my stepdad murdered him. They took him to prison. They took all the kids away. I ended up with two sisters, living right up the block. We stayed there four or five years. They would threaten me and best me up. One of them (other kids in the foster home) stabbed me in the back. We didn’t report them. We were too scarred. I tried but they told me if we did, they would lie. I AWOLed a lot. My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious. My sisters and brothers were beat by my mom all the time. She was charged with neglect. I’m not sure if she is getting any mental health services. She’s a great liar. She even accused me of murdering my baby brother. I ask myself why she brought me into the world. She has nine kids all together now. Some days she loves me, other days she hates me. She can give a fake smile that can convince anyone that the lie she is telling is the truth. She abuses us all the time. She beat us with a belt buckle. Then she goes out clubbing. She was in foster care once. Now ACS pays for it all. But still, I would rather be home. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I just go out and run away from my home. How can you earn trust if you are not given any standard to shoot for? I’m not allowed to go out at all instead of being given a curfew and see if I come home on time.

My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious.

O., age 15

O., age 15

We don’t get any family counseling. But I think we will get some soon. She has an order of protection against me so I can’t go home. I was fighting with my older sister and I smacked her with a lamp. It was kind of serious. I was locked up and in jail over on Atlantic Mall jail. Then ACS picked me up. I was at the Children’s Center for two weeks. Now I have been here five months. I’m already stressing out. I got into one fight. Sometimes you have to show people who you are. Sometimes you have to forget about everything else that happened to you. I have gotten MAC awards in different classes I get 80 or 90s. I’m in 10th grade. I was held back in 5th grade. I had ADHD meds when I was younger. I’m on bi-polar meds now. Feel like I don’t need them all the time. I am not extreme bi-polar. I made a big mistake throwing the lamp . . . that’s why I am here. And all the other stuff too.

— O., Age 16.

"My mother lost her rights." by richard ross

I’m in 10th grade. I was three or four when I entered the foster care system. I’ve been to 13 different homes. I just didn’t fit in. The case worker didn’t feel I fit in and I would go to a respite foster home. I would still be going to the same school and they would try to help me out. When I come back from school I would pack and go to a new foster home. My cousin was trying to take care of all my brothers and sisters but that didn’t work. I was suspended from kindergarten for throwing chairs. My mother lost her rights. No one ever told me why. They just told me she’s in jail. I still haven’t figured out why. I can’t speak to her until I’m 18. My cousin came and took care of me when I was a baby, and all my brothers and sisters.

It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic.

C., age 15

C., age 15

The first foster home I remember was just a woman and she took in me and one of my brothers. My brother and sister went back to Oklahoma. They’ve been in 13 different foster homes. I saw a lot of stuff happening. A lot of abuse the whole time I was growing up. My 6th foster home worked for three years, then my anger came back. It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic. Part of it is my aunt came back took me from the foster home, and then my anger came back. My caseworker took me to a psychiatric hospital. My anger and my temper, they were all afraid I might have a back flash. They said I had anger management issues. They gave me Depacote, Resperdol, and Clonadine. I want to be an artist. I like doing anime. I’m up for adoption right now to the right home or to a foster home but I haven’t found one yet. I’ll get done with my cottage, processing with skills and then I step down to cottage with more free will. Then after that, if a parent wants to adopt me, they talk to a case worker and we would have to have court approval.

- C., Age 15

"They're giving me another chance." by richard ross

I was with three kids and they did an armed robbery. This was my third offense. They’re giving me another chance. I’m moving across town. My mind is set on one thing and one thing only: to achieve my goals. I don’t know how they got a gun and how it got into the robbery. But you can get a little gun here for $50 or $75. Revolvers go for cheap $30, $40 with ammo. A 9-millimeter will be $100. A 40 caliber is $40 and up. You get a gun you call a connect. A connect is someone who knows people. My homeboy got a revolver for cheap so you can sell it for cheap. I’ve been growing up since 11 or 12 knowing the streets but not running the streets. That means I was running with older kids. I’ve been smoking marijuana since I was 13. I’d like to go to the TCT, Tuscaloosa Center Technical. That’s after and between normal school.

My mind is set on one thing and one thing only: to achieve my goals.

M

M

My mom’s a phlebotomist. She works at the VA and at MDs offices. My mom, my brother, and I live with my grandma who owns three houses. My brother just got out of Mount Meigs. It’s baby prison. It’s for 16 to 21. Under 16 you go to Vaca. Detention is county. Prison is state. My dad was drinking a lot. I think he’s working but I’m not sure. No there’s never been any domestic violence in my house. When I have to go to drug classes there’s a bus that picks me up or my mom drives me. I’m really a nice kid. They dropped the charges from robbery 1 to robbery 3 because I was telling the other kids not to do it. So you saw me in the courtroom. I won my trial. It wasn’t really a trial. It was the DA, my PO, and my lawyer having to agree on something. They give me a little bit of string or rope and see if I’m going to hang myself. But I really believe they want me to succeed. If I don’t I go to baby prison.

- M., Age 15

**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.

"I hope I can go home. . ." by richard ross

Central_CA_4.20.14-17 I was in GH. They thought I was 14. I was in a month. I was released and then violated. The teacher told me that if I ever came back to school they would get the students to beat me up. Teacher said I was cursing and intimidating in school. I have to be in court in three days. I hope I go home to make my life. I’ve been here two times. I was here from March to April 3rd. Then back on the 25th. The teacher said I was talking smack to her. I had to wake up at 5:30AM to get the bus to school. I’m in ninth grade. I just kick it with my homies. I don’t bang. I got the three dots tatted when I was about 11.

I’m going to take care of my baby.

I took classes on how to change my baby’s diapers.

I have a tat on my back with my daughter’s name. My girlfriend is 13. I took classes on how to change my baby’s diapers. I called my baby mama yesterday and I know the baby was born, but I don’t know when. We get phone calls Thursday. We don’t have to pay for them, but we only get like four minutes. Her mom is taking care of the baby. I’m going to take care of my baby. I have a friend that sells sodas and juices. I know how to make pupusas. No, I don’t know how to make the masa, but I can make like the tortilla flat and then put the stuff in the middle. I am half Mexican and half Salvador. At home there is my mom, my sister (she is 21) and her baby - my nephew - and my mom’s boyfriend. My dad? RIP. He died when I was young. I was six or seven when he died. He packed his stuff and never came back. My mom said they killed him, but they never said who. He used to kick it with his homies once in a while, but he never was affiliated. I hope I can go home on when I talk to the judge.

- B.S., age 13

 

**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.