It was a chilly November evening. My oldest daughter Jada walked quietly next to me as we made our way to the shelter. It was getting late, and I knew beds would start filling up quickly. Jada’s sister Jasmine was with my mom trying to find their own place to stay that night. As I looked down at Jada’s little hand in mine I thought about how big she’s gotten. She was five years old now, the last time we were in this situation, she was barely one.
Jada was growing in my belly during my eighth grade graduation. In the hallways, I could hear kids and teachers say comments like, “You know what she was doing on the weekends that’s why she was never around,” and they would compare me to the new MTV show Sixteen and Pregnant, pointing out that I was barely 14. I made it through eighth grade, but high school was just a summer away, and the same kids would be transferring to my new school.
The first time I was put out, was shortly after having Jada. I wanted to be with her father and my mom refused. I was 15 and he was much older. To me, the age difference didn’t seem like an issue, but my mom wouldn’t have it. One night we fought so badly that she said I couldn’t stay with her anymore, I had to find my own place to go. As it turned out, I couldn’t stay with him either.
For three nights I was homeless and it was terrible. I slept on playgrounds, on the metro, at bus stops, anywhere. I finally was taken to the Child and Family Services Agency and placed in a group home then a family, then another family. In the end, I lived in 12 homes within a year and a half. The process of a foster child is just crazy, you meet a person, and then five minutes later, you’re left alone with the person to live with and you don’t even know how it’s going to work out. Jada was with me, experiencing each situation as we bounced around DC and Maryland. We were placed back with my mom after CFSA found out I was pregnant again. I had my second child in February and by June my mom and I were evicted. Four years later, it became the same process all over again.
Jada and I walked up to the shelter, a line had already formed. By the time we got to the check-in desk, there were no more beds left and they were turning everyone away. As the sun was going down, it was getting noticeably colder. Frustrated and beginning to worry, I asked the workers at the check-in desk where we should go. They told me to head to the monuments. At least there would be light and some protection from the night. Jada and I left to find money for the metro.
Charmia Carolina is currently a trainee in the Sasha Bruce program YouthBuild and graduates on November 6th, 2013. Through YouthBuild, Charmia was hired for her first job with the non-profit Promising Futures. She mentors young girls in the Anacostia high school about the importance of making healthy life choices.
Read the report "Connecting Youth to Opportunity: Better Understanding the Needs of Disconnected Young People in Washington, DC"
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