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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Stories From the Inside
YCteen staff
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Always in Trouble

By Anonymous

Yo, this is my life and how it goes: I remember being at home around age 3, listening to my mom and dad arguing. I listened helplessly as my father beat up my mother. This happened a lot. As time went on, I became more and more angry with myself. I was also abused and I took it all out on other people since I couldn’t fight back against my father at the time. Because I went through abuse, I started to have behavior problems. By age 8, I’d been kicked out of five school districts.

When I was 9, the city took me away from my family because I always had bruises and other marks on my body. When that happened, I threatened to take my own life. People asked me why and I told them it was because I was not used to being away from my family. So they decided to put me in Bellevue Hospital, where I stayed for a couple of months. They gave me an evaluation and then sent me to Bronx Children’s Psychiatric Center. I stayed there for four or five months, then I got moved to Children’s Village, a residential treatment facility in Dobbs Ferry.

I got into major issues at Children’s Village, and they sent me upstate to another facility. I had a hard time there because I was hardheaded and never wanted to listen. As I got into my teens, I started to become more cooperative and eventually went home. But during the time I was home, I was messing up bad. I felt like I was just adapting to being back outside in the real world, but I got sent back upstate.

This time, I learned from my mistakes and did better because I knew the program. I went home again, but it felt like there was a force trying to stop me from doing good. I couldn’t stay out of trouble.

Now I’m 16 and I’m locked up again, in Horizon Juvenile Center. I feel like I have learned a lot from all this and now I’m a better person than I was in the past. I know what’s best for me and I’m changing my life around. This is the last time I’m going to be in confinement.


A Jailhouse Education

By Anonymous

You can get a good education in jail, just not the best. The teachers are good at their jobs; we just need to participate. They say you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. That’s the main problem in here. We make it difficult to get a good education in jail. We’re so used to the street mentality that we bring it here with us. You have people who never went to school and don’t find any interest in it now. Everybody is an obstacle to everyone else.

It’s like crabs in a bucket: Nobody wants to see the next guy succeed while they’re still “in the bucket.” We keep the good man down so he won’t look better than the rest of us. In the end, we all just look like an ignorant group of kids that deserve to be in jail.

image by YC-Art Dept

Personally, I like learning as long as a topic is interesting. If I can relate to a lesson, I’ll participate and give my thoughts or ask questions. And if a teacher is cool and not strict, kids will participate more. I know that when I’m in a class, I’d like everybody to have input, whatever the topic is. That way, I won’t stick out like a goody-goody and be the target for those who want to pull me back into the “bucket.”

It’s my own fault I’m in here. When I did what I did, I knew what I was doing and what a big risk I was taking. Now I have to deal with the consequences. I have to deal with the people, the rules, and the school arrangement. But we all make mistakes and this is one that I’ll learn from.


From Foster Care to Detention

By Anonymous

I didn’t ask for any of this to happen. I didn’t want to grow up going through foster homes and juvenile centers. I didn’t want to disappoint my mom and stepfather. I wanted to do good and be something in life.

I guess that all changed five years ago. At the age of 10 I got placed in a foster home. I recently returned home to live with my own family again, but when I was in care I went through more foster homes than I can count. (There were more than 10.)

Growing up in foster care is never easy. I lived anywhere I got put – the Bronx, Queens, Harlem. At first, it was kind of scary to live with complete strangers, but after a while you get used to it. The different faces, races, food, schools, friends, you name it. I learned not to get comfortable anywhere.

Before, I’d been a good kid for the most part. But being in foster care brought out a part of me that I didn’t know was there. The I-just-didn’t-give-a-f-ck part. As I reached my teens I began to smoke, fight, have sex, and do crimes.

Every time the caseworker who dealt with my family situation said, “You’re going home soon,” and then it didn’t actually happen, I started to care less and less and get worse and worse. I was on the road to destruction: getting arrested, stealing, fighting, all kinds of stuff. I knew it would catch up to me sooner or later, and it sure did.

I admit that I did stupid stuff and that’s why I’m here. Although, now that I’m locked up, I’m motivated to do better. This isn’t a place I would like to spend my life in, and I know it gets much wilder than this in adult prisons.

When I get out, I want to stay out and do better. So while I’m here, this is practice for how to behave on the outside. When I get out I plan to finish high school, go to college, and become a journalist or a lawyer.

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(NYC-2010-05-17)