This is my first time here. I’ve been here six weeks. Actually this isn’t my first time here. I was here when my mom was pregnant with me. So maybe I was here 16 years ago. I went to foster care, and then I got back in touch with her some months before I got locked up. I lived with my uncle, my mom’s brother, who fostered me and then adopted me until I was 15. I was there most of the time, but then I got kicked out because I argued a lot. I would go live with other people . . . friends. Then I lived with my boyfriend and his mom. I got kicked out and needed somewhere to go. My boyfriend works at a warehouse.
Everything was ok until I was about 13. Every adult I was with said I don't care about you no more.
I was going to school in 12th grade recently. I would go back to school. I do an online school, it’s easy. I could either do it from home or at the teen center at 88th and Vermont. I was born with a lot of drugs in my system. Sometimes I process things slower. I smoke weed but that's about it. I tried meth and coke but it wasn’t for me. Everything was ok until I was about 13. Every adult I was with said I don't care about you no more. I buried both my parents. It’s time for me to take care of myself. When you’re on your own you’re on your own. When my uncle was in a good mood it was ok, but when he was mad he threw me out of the house in a tank top and shorts with no shoes. I had to call my brother who was in the house to throw me down my shoes. It was winter and I went to my friend’s house. He was doing drugs so I just started doing it with him.
You do what you gotta do to survive. It sucks.
This wasn’t my first choice, this life. I would do things like babysitting, but selling weed is a lot easier. I use the money for clothes and food. I would stay mostly with friends. It's a rough life, as some would say. If you had the same life, people would understand. But if they haven’t had this life, people, they can’t believe it. But for someone who’s been through the same, it’s no big deal. You do what you gotta do to survive. It sucks. It's a world of no Christmas presents and no birthday presents. One night I got chased by somebody with a gun. No shit you could lose your life doing this. But being depressed doesn't hurt anybody but you, so you might as well have a smile on your face.
-L.T., age 17
**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.