"I DON’T TRUST ANYBODY." by richard ross

I’m from here, pretty much—from the system. I don’t know my parents. I only know the system. I have been here 8 months. I am going to graduate and then join the Marines. I would be the first of my family to graduate high school. One of my sisters lives in Florida. The other? Who knows. I first met my sister when we were in Foster Care together. She taught me how to tie my shoes and play chess. She was adopted out of foster care and I haven’t seen her in five or six years. I had a lot of anger. They put me on meds but I wouldn’t take them. They put me in the hospital. They said I was hyper, but every kid is hyper. In school, kids would know I was in foster care. I was in 45 foster cares but none worked out. I’ve always been in places like this. They have been in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and the Bronx. Never out of state. I have never been out of New York. I’ll be looking at doing that one day, not now. I have a vision of these places. If I can remember that, I must be closest to home. I DON’T TRUST ANYBODY; people use your feelings against you. If I am in an emergency I call my social worker. I don’t go home. THERE IS NO HOME TO GO TO. In these places you meet a lot of kids just like yourself. We have been through the same stuff.

K., age 17

K., age 17

Once I was in foster care Miss B. We would be abused. She locked us in the basement. She would hit us. I would say she hit us, but no one would believe us. My sister I think dropped out of high school and is struggling. The other sister has fallen down the same path as my parents. She said she would work through it when stuff was bad. I’M REALLY LIVING A SHIT LIFE. When you are older no one cares about your story. Your history doesn’t mean anything. It’s who you are in the present. It’s about being successful. Some of the foster homes were nice but I was going through a lot of shit—they couldn’t deal with it. I ran away from a lot of foster homes. I was angry at everybody. I’ve spent my life in group homes and hospitals. They would say “He needs a therapist” but I denied that. Now I just keep to myself. I try and keep mentally and physically fit. What will I do in the future . . . maybe after the military do something with measurements maybe flooring or carpeting or walls.

We would be abused. She locked us in the basement. She would hit us.

I keep to myself. Once I ordered two garlic pizzas and soda. I shared it with my house. I paid for it with money I earned. We get paid 6-7 dollars an hour. We work our ass off. It sucks. But then my housemates stole the rest of the pizza. It doesn’t pay to be a roll model. This place is ghetto. The vans they have are falling apart. We use the money we get to buy phones or clothes.

— K., age 17