This weekend I was on call for most of Sunday during the day. I only got two calls luckily, cause I was super tired. But the second one was so heart-breaking. Sometimes I really think nothing can shock me - only to find out they can. Most of the time I am glad for this reaction - I hate to think of the day when this all really becomes "routine" for me.
This call was for a 16 year old girl who was at the Juvenile Detention Center because she'd been picked up for being a runaway. When I got there a detention staff greeted me and told me that she was in a suicide gown and in her own room because she'd been threatening to hurt herself. I walked through about 6 locked doors that had to be unlocked remotely before I got to her. When I walked into the room it was gray, about 6X6 and had a hard bed, a toilet & a sink. The scratchy looking green cover was pulled up over her head until the staff told her to sit up and talk to me. (This is always a great was to get kids to open up - demand it.) When she did I was taken back by what a 'normal' girl she was. I don't really know what I was expecting. But I'd heard enough of her history to be expecting someone a little more... i don't know, hardened? scary? thugish? Something besides the rumpled, blotchy faced, girl that I could tell was probably even pretty when she wasn't in a holding cell going through detox.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes and then promptly told me the didn't need to go to the hospital. 'Okay...' I didn't argue with her, I just told her that since they had already called me out I had to ask her some questions so that I didn't get in trouble. She seemed fine with that. So I started by asking her why she was there at Detention.
"Because I ran away."
"From your foster home?"
"No, from the [substance abuse treatment center]."
"How long have you been on run?"
"Where were you?"
"At a motel."
"Were you with someone or alone?"
"I was there with this guy."
"Were you using?"
"What were you using?"
"Heroin, X, Crack, some pot... anything and everything."
"How many times a day?"
"Have you known this guy since before you ran away?"
"No, I just met him."
"Who is he?"
"Just a pimp."
"How did you meet him."
"Just walking down the street."
At this point I just had to stop. She wasn't being sassy, or cocky, or even defensive. That was what struck me. She was so matter of fact, so unassuming... so defeated. After just a few more minutes of talking about her week and the court hearing tomorrow she broke down and said she thought maybe she should go to the hospital. I started filling out the paperwork. When all was said and done, I wished her good luck and left. But she's stuck with me this week.
How did it come to this? How does an average, pretty sixteen year old girl end up addicted to heroin, running away from rehab, getting picked up by a pimp and secluded in a dirty motel for 8 days doing every drug with the pimp doing God knows what else to her body?. How does a pimp walking down the street see this girl and know that she is vulnerable? I know just a little about her history. She's been in DCFS custody since she was 9 years old. Chances are - she wasn't the start of her problems. She has never gotten to be in control of her life. Likely she was been at the mercy of foster homes and caseworkers and judges who have never met her. But at what point does a person have to be responsible for their future - even though their past sucks? Can we even expect a 16 year old to be responsible for making 16 year old decisions when no one ever even taught her how to make 13 year old decisions? Or 8 year old decisions? Or probably even 5 year old decisions? I don't know. I don't have the answers today. Just lots of questions. Especially - how does it come to this?