The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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I’ll Raise My Daughter Without My Mother
Z. Oliveras
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When I got home from school, my mom started up with me again. I was 14 years old, in 9th grade. “You are under my house so you follow my f-cking rules! Either you stay in my f-cking house or you get the f-ck out!” she yelled. She wasn’t even yelling about any particular rule. Just yelling.

I tried to back out of the door. But she grabbed me by the hair and yelled, “Go to your room!” She dragged me by my hair like I was a rag doll.

“Get the f-ck off me!” I yelled.

“Don’t…You…Ever…Curse…At…Me!” she said, hitting me with each word. She pushed me into my room and walked out, slamming the door. I grabbed my shoes and opened the window and climbed onto the fire escape. The chilly wind hit my face, but it felt good, like I was free. I hurried down the ladder and spotted my friend Daniel.

“Yo, Daniel can you help me down?” I was about four feet off the ground.

“Just jump.”

I jumped and he caught me. Then I started running.

I wasn’t coming back. I knew I was giving up my brothers, who I love. I asked myself, “Do I really want to do this?” Then I thought about my mom’s abuse and neglect throughout my
childhood, and all the anger and hurt came back to me.

I was 6 or 7, lying in my bed wearing my pajamas and cuddling with my stuffed Winnie the Pooh. The light from the hallway hit my face and I pretended to sleep. From the corner of my eye I saw my mom and a white guy lower themselves onto my bed. My cousin Liz, who lived with us, stood in the doorway whispering, but then stepped out. The bed swayed slow, then fast, as if I were on a swing. I smelled sweat. Liz came back in the room and said, “Jaz, go to your room; your daughter is sleeping.” But my mom and the guy stayed, and Liz left again.

Mom moaned, “Matt.” So I knew her new “friend” was named Matt. The other night I’d seen her on a different “friend’s” lap on the sofa in the TV room, kissing. Tears dripped down my face as I wondered, “Where’s Daddy?” He had moved out that year, and I still missed him.

I tried my best to stay still so my mom wouldn’t know I was awake. I didn’t know what was going on exactly, but I felt mad, sad, and confused.

My mother generally made me feel mad. She called me names like “b-tch” and “stupid” and yelled and cursed at me a lot. She favored my brothers and got them what they needed, but would tell me “another time” or just “no.” She didn’t seem to care about me.

Runaway

So, at age 14, after I climbed down the fire escape, I left home and never went back. I ran to my best friend’s house down the block, heart pounding, mind racing. “KIM!!” I banged on the door. “KIM!!” When she opened the door I ran in and told her not to tell anyone I was there.

“Kim, get dressed. We need to go anywhere but here, please.”

Before she could answer, there was a knock on the door. I slid under the bed, scared out of my mind.

I heard my aunt and mother. “Where the f-ck is Z?” my mom demanded.

“Z isn’t here.”

“Yes she is!” Mom screamed.

“Look she’s not here, so leave us alone,” Kim’s mom said and shut the door. I crawled out from under the bed and Kim and I went out the window and started walking, in no particular direction.

I ended up staying with Kim’s friend Quimico. His mom loved me and even said she’d adopt me. I would have liked that, but my mom still had rights over me. Quimico’s mom would buy me things and give me money when I needed it. For some reason she didn’t care that I was a runaway; she was happy that I was living with her because she didn’t have a daughter.

A Week Late

Quimico was also friends with my boyfriend, Mason. I had met Mason when I was 12 and he was 16, and we fell in love and became a couple when I was 13. Before I got with him, I used to smoke cigarettes and weed. But he told me that if we were going to be together, I had to stop smoking. I did because I wanted to be with him. We had unprotected sex because I didn’t like the way condoms felt. I wasn’t on birth control because I was lucky a few times and thought I couldn’t get pregnant. I was stupid.

image by YC-Art Dept

My period was mostly regular, so when it was a week late, I started to worry. I’d had false scares before, but I wanted to know.

“Yoo-hoo, I’ll be back.” I told Quimico. I grabbed my coat and walked out. In the Rite-Aid, I found the pregnancy tests. I grabbed three of them, a bag of chips, and a can of soda and slipped them into my coat. As I walked out of the store, my heart was pounding.

I headed back to Quimico’s place. I hoped and prayed I wasn’t pregnant. I was only 14. I wanted to be a vet or get a job where I cared for children. I wanted to finish school; I wanted to get my own house and a job before I had a kid.

I rushed to the bathroom and pulled the stick out of the box. I took a big breath, peed in a cup, dipped the stick. I saw one line, then two, which meant I was pregnant. I took the other test—same thing. I just sat and stared at the tests.

I asked myself, Am I ready to be a mom? Well, I’d been taking care of my brothers, cousins, and my mom’s friends’ kids for years. I felt I had a little human in my belly, and I didn’t believe in abortions. I wasn’t going to kill my baby just because I wasn’t ready. I needed to take responsibility for the choice I’d made to have unprotected sex.

“Zay, open the door,” Kim said. I unlocked the bathroom door and sat back down. “Zay, what’s going on?” I showed her the test.

Mixed Emotions

“I’m going to be an aunt!” she yelled. I had mixed emotions hearing that. I was happy that I was going to have a baby but mad because I was a 14-year-old runaway. I was afraid Child Protective Services (CPS) would call me an unfit mother and take my baby away. And I didn’t feel ready to be a mother: I wasn’t in school, and I’d been smoking and drinking. My mom had taken a PINS warrant out on me, so if the police found me, I’d be taken straight to the CPS building. (PINS stands for Person In Need of Supervision: It means your parent told the authorities that they can’t handle you.)

It felt weird having a baby growing in me. I had to be on top of so much. Everyone got on me about eating healthy, drinking water, getting a lot of rest and not drinking alcohol or smoking. It wasn’t just about me anymore; it was about me and my baby. Quimico’s mom was supportive about the pregnancy, maybe even more excited than I was.

One day, five months after I ran away, I bumped into my mom in McDonald’s. I didn’t know what to say. I felt as strongly as ever that I never wanted to live with her again.

“Hi Z.” I saw fireballs of rage in her eyes.

“Hi Mommy.”

“Have you been eating?” She didn’t know I was pregnant, she was just remarking on how skinny I looked.

“Yes, I eat every day,” I said, looking at my shoes. I just couldn’t look at her. I realized that she was not the adult who was going to help me become a mother.

The Best Life I Can Give Her

When I was five months pregnant, in April, I realized I needed to get help for my baby and myself. I didn’t want to risk CPS taking my baby away from me because I was a runaway. Also, if I stayed away, I risked my brothers getting put into foster care, and my mom was a better mom to them than she was to me. I didn’t want them to have to go into care, even though I thought it was the best option for me.

So I went to the CPS building and asked for a foster home placement for me and my child. The first night I slept in the CPS building, I cried. I didn’t want to be there; I wanted to be in Mason’s arms where I felt safe. I stayed there for two days before I got placed in a group home for pregnant and parenting foster youth, where I live now.

The group home is in Brooklyn, far from Mason and his family, which I feel is my family. It’s also far from my friends Kim, Jacky, and Kendra in the Bronx. The place is full of drama: I’ve gotten close to one staff, who also had a baby when she was 14, and other residents and staff don’t like that. They say we’re talking crap about them, but we’re not. Living with Quimico was much better than the group home.

Part of me feels like I ought to be with my family, but my mother doesn’t act like she wants me back. I know I hurt her, and she wants an answer about why I ran away. It hurts that, ever since I left, life in that house seems to have gotten better. My mom gives my brothers everything they want now. She bought them phones, and she lets them go on Facebook and out to the park. None of those things were allowed when I was there.

My dad even came back into their lives! It seems like everything’s perfectly fine without me. My mom hasn’t tried to meet my daughter Arline or see me since she was born. Since she came to the hospital, she kept saying she was going to come see me and she never does. My brothers and my dad have never seen Arline. When I try to reach out to my mom, like texting her Happy Birthday, she picks a fight with me.

I am trying to get placed with a foster mom who wants both me and Arline. I would have AWOLed from the group home if it was just me; I’m staying for Arline. I want her to be safe and grow up happy. When she’s old enough to ask about her family, I’ll tell her it’s only me and her dad. I can’t force anyone to be in our lives.

Mason and I are still together now, and I love him, but I’m doing everything on my own. He doesn’t work or go to school and it’s hard for us to see each other. He’s 19 and I’m 15, so our relationship is considered statutory rape. I can’t count on him to take care of Arline. No matter what happens between us, I will finish school and I hope to go to college. I always wanted to be a pediatrician or a veterinarian, but whatever happens, I will give Arline the best life I can.


What Teen Parents Need

See Being There for Baby—and Yourself for an interview with the author of a report on supporting foster teens who have children.

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