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Juvenile justice - Girls who were in the system

January 14, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Amanda and Kaady readily admitted they're no angels.

The women, both 18, spent much of their teenage years in foster care, group homes, juvenile detention and residential treatment, but appear to have emerged from the juvenile justice system intact, if not unscathed.

"I got in a fight and the cops got called, but I didn't get locked up then," Kaady recalled of her first brush with juvenile justice at the age of 14.

"I got on probation when I was 11," also for an assault, Amanda said. Figuring she was going to end up in juvenile detention anyway, Amanda continued to break the law, stealing cigarettes and other items, then a woman's purse.

"I was only supposed to get a little bit of time," but her misbehavior continued in juvenile homes and detention, Amanda said.

"The juvenile system is so crooked. The staff used to give me cigarettes," Amanda said, referring to one group home where she lived. "I've been through, like, 20 group homes."

"I freaking hated it," Kaady said of her experience with a group home. She left her last juvenile placement in March, she said.

"I spent half my teen years locked up," Kaady said of the 2 1/2 years she spent going from one form of placement and detention to another. Her juvenile probation ended recently, she said.

"I had a long, long journey with the juvenile system," she said.

The women said their violations in group homes and detention included fights with roommates, smuggling in cigarettes and drugs, failing drug tests and not returning from furloughs.

Eventually, the futility of their behavior began to sink in and they turned themselves around, the women said. Both were in job training.

"I think they pushed me further than I would have gone myself," Kaady said of the juvenile justice system. "They helped me get back on track."

"A lot of it was kind of self-discovery," Kaady said.

"It sounds conceited, but the people I was locked up with, I saw so much more in myself than I did in them," she said of her moment of self-revelation. "I'm better than this. I don't need to be here."

Amanda had her complaints about the system, but said, "I think the juvenile facilities made me what I am today."

She had one piece of advice for parents.

"Don't let your kids outside after 7 o'clock," said Amanda, who said her mother worked nights when she was growing up.

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