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Without family, C’arlos decides between the streets or foster care

Fellowship Story Showcase

Without family, C’arlos decides between the streets or foster care

C'arlos is alone, again.
C'arlos is alone, again.
Friday, January 11, 2019

C’arlos, 16, was is mixed race and has a deep, sleep-sounding voice. He was born in Cincinnati but later moved to Cleveland.

When I was eight my grandmother went to heaven or wherever people believe you go when you pass.

I was too young then to realize that meant my older brother James and I were on our own.

My mother, Amber, was not around due to going in and out of jail. She did plenty of drugs. My father was never around.

So life was already confusing. Losing my grandmother made it even more difficult.

My grandmother was there for us in our darkest moments. She and I formed a bond through the love of listening to jazz and country music.

A little about me. My name is C’arlos and I grew up on a street named Kingsford, there were plenty of abandoned houses and raggedy parks. The streets were messed up and you often heard gunshots and arguments from broken families.

After my grandma died, we went into foster care.

My first year in the system was difficult because older kids bullied on me. However, if it wasn’t for my brother James I don’t know where I would be. I remember when I went to school in hand-me-downs from my foster parents’ actual children. I wasn't thrilled about the type of clothes I received. I felt less of a person. I know many dudes do not care about the clothes they wear, however I take pride in what I wear. Students talked about the way I dressed, they would push and trip me in the halls. By this time, I would be pushed over my edge. A spark of anger would tingle in my spine. I kept most of my anger inside because if I would've fought, I would be taken away. I chose to hold it in and receive an education because I love learning about everything. I especially liked to write poems.

Around the time I was in the sixth grade, James started selling drugs to help me with my wardrobe and school supplies.

Things have been stolen from me. Honestly, it seems like I went into the system with more things than I left. I remember getting jumped, moving, arguments, foster parents reporting me, running away and repeating the whole thing. By the time I was fourteen my mother came back into our lives trying to manipulate me.

When I was curious to know who she was. I reached out to her. She always needed money, or her boyfriend was going to beat her, so I gave her the money James gave me. Later on, in the week she needed more money, I kept giving it to her. I finally told her to stop calling. That was the last time I've heard from her. So don’t ever tell me family is the most important because they are the ones to stab you in the back. What type of mother takes advantage of their own child?

James promised me that he’ll come back for me when he leaves the system. My older brother is the only person I had. James was two years older than me and truly my best friend.

When I turned 16, I decided to leave the system and let James take care of me. We lived together in a house. It was something we could call our own.

The house was decent, food was kept in the cabinets, new unused clothes in the closets, nice furniture and so much more. We didn’t have any arguments and were just chilling. I could sleep in peace, finally.

Until that day.

James got shot at the corner store called Pops, on 131st Street.

It wasn’t his fault. He was just walking across the street. I still remember it like today. I remember the last conversation before he got shot, it went like this,

James: “Ayo”

Me: “Yeah, man.”

James: “I’m going to get some juice from Pops.”

Me: “Alright.”

James: “You need anything?”

Me: “No.”

As James was standing in line, he saw one of this enemies. James’ foes were vicious and didn't appreciate that he was stealing all of his clientele from selling drugs. James was part of the Serpents, a gang, and that added to the built-up energy they had against James.

James’ eyes were as keen as a bat in the dark and his feet were as fast as a cheetah. Sometimes bullets move faster, though. Pow. Pow. Pow.

C’arlos heard the shots from the house and he hit the floor. He knew bullets could fly through anything and hit anyone. A few minutes later he looked up over the couch in the living room, then out the living room window, seeing the gloomy sky. He then stood up in the living room, and finally saw the crowd gathering around James’ body.

“James! James!” C’arlos cried as he ran out the house into the streets of Cleveland. He then called police, but all they did was put a sheet on James and then told C’arlos to get some rest.

That night, C’arlos knew he had to make a decision with his life. Either he was going to go and live on his own or go back to the place he despised and hated most “the system.”

He went into his room and sat in anger. Then he started to knock over mirrors and shoes. He looked down and saw a crumpled piece of paper that had the last poem he’d written He read it out loud, but nobody was here to hear it but himself.

All my life

I wanted you to hear me

Can you hear my mournful cries of abandonment when you look into the sky full of stars?

Can you remember the pain you put James and I through?

The strength I cannot regain is because of your selfish pain.

You've always taught us to never give, we must take.

But honestly you took everything from me

My peace, freedom, love, childhood, and respect for you.

James has played all the roles -

A brother, friend, uncle, father, cousins, and most importantly

A mother

The feeling I have for you I cannot explain

It's like you threw me in a gutter to suffer not only once or twice, but numerous of times

As I walk through my thoughts the words that keep re-appearing are

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper”

But, you're my biggest weapon

I don't know how to refrain from thinking of you

Maybe it's God telling me something

I'm not sure, but one question I have now is

Can you hear me?

He thought for a moment. The word “myself” seemed to be everywhere. Now C’arlos was alone.

Unless he trusted to let complete strangers take care of him, once again.

He remembered Mrs. Coco, his social worker, told him. “You can use my number and come back whenever.”

He’s was sure what to do. This decision can change my life for better or worse.


C’arlos made the choice to run, to keep running. He didn’t have any money so he reluctantly decided to start selling drugs. Sometimes he had to steal, following in his brother's footsteps with a twist. Unlike James, C’arlos got caught stealing once and got a warning. The second time he got caught he was put in jail for a week. Then he got caught selling drugs and was put in jail for 2 ½ years. By the time he got out of jail he was eighteen. C’arlos decided to continue his education and went back to high school to get his diploma.


C’arlos returned to foster care. He hated it. He got stuff stolen, got into fights. But he had food every night and a roof over his head. He didn’t have to worry about getting everything on his own.

[This story was originally published by]