mental health

"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.

"There was a lot of violence." by richard ross

I’ve been here six months. I’m from Washington Heights. I’ve been in ACS since I was 12—four years now. My home is my mom and three siblings: my eight year-old sister, my seven year-old sister, my eighteen year-old brother, and my one month-old baby. It’s four all together. My mom is a home health aid. I don’t talk to my dad. There is no stepdad. No I don’t have kids. I was 12 years old when I was taken into foster care. There was a lot of confusion in my family. There was a lot of violence.

K., age 16

K., age 16

The first foster home was in the Bronx. I was there with a family. There were a lot of conflicts. They took all my siblings into foster care. No, my mom hasn’t had any mental health treatment. She did have anger management counseling though. My mom would cook at home. She would make Chicken Alfredo. I’m in ninth grade. I have been in 18 foster homes. There hasn’t been a lot of abuse, but lots of drama. Me and my sisters were split up after the 6th foster home. My sisters went back to my mother. I would like to be there, but me and my mother don’t get along.

— K., Age 16.