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I'm 16 and I need to go, but it's complicated.

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  • I'm 16 and I need to go, but it's complicated.

    Hello, I'm a 16 year old gay girl with a "foster family" currently, but I can't stay any longer. I don't really know how to describe the situation, so I'll go by chronological order.
    1. I moved from Miami, Florida to be closer to my father and grandmother in South Carolina in fourth grade.
    2. I was in a house with an abusive alcoholic drug addict mother who grew much worse during her time in South Carolina, along with a drug addict and emotionally unstable on and off boyfriend.
    3. My mother and I lost our home due to too many police altercations between my mother and her boyfriend fighting.
    4. My father is alive but he's emotionally unstable, a truck driver who lives in South Carolina.
    5. When we lost our home, my godmother didn't want me homeless, so my mother sent me to stay with her. This move back to Miami was in sixth grade.
    6. Things were good, I had a fine enough relationship with my godmother. She fed and provided for me well.
    7. Near the very end of eighth grade, I fell in love with a girl. She was a casual group friend, until we grew closer through me talking to her over the summer, and the first day that high school started for us I asked her to be my girlfriend. She's an visual artist, I love who she is and what she creates, how she treats me and next to my own personal career in writing she is the most essential part of my life. She's has extremely restrictive parents so we were only able to see each other about 15 times physically last year, and she moved 300 miles away to Orlando on June 9th of 2016. She struggles with depression and has been through a lot of traumatic experiences.
    8. My godmother is extremely conservative. She is very homophobic, transphobic, pro military and pro capitalism. Generally, me and her are on completely opposite spectrums. I am a political activist and extremely opposed to religion. She is a ballet teacher who's obsession with my weight and body size led to me having a eating disorder, and she is staunchly Catholic and forces me to go to church and attend activities I am morally opposed to.
    9. I am in the closet, but I am terrible at keeping secrets and she very heavily suspects/possibly knows about my girlfriend.
    10. Back when she lived within my same city, my girlfriend and I were in my room and took a nap together after kissing a while. My godmother came home earlier, (she knew that my girlfriend would be over) and knocked on my door while I was asleep and scurrying to wipe the lipstick my girlfriend wore off my face and undo my hair. The door had been locked and my godmother thought we had been having sex, and was furious. I denied that but my girlfriend was not allowed over anymore and she accused me of having a previous best friend as a girlfriend.
    11. Things have grown worse, as both of us have grown much farther apart politically, thus driving a wedge between us personally, I despise her as a person and the house is also inhabited by her ex husband and son, both equally radical and hateful conservatives.
    12. She can visually sense my anger and hatred for her, refusal to be personally involved with her. I comply with her mostly nonsensical rules but refuse to do anything that may separate me from my phone, which is the way I communicate with my girlfriend. Most of my material possessions have been paid for by me. I have had a job since the summer of 2016, about 1000 in cash and 2000 on my debit card, also connected to her account.
    13. She has threatened to kick me out multiple times, and I have not responded to her statements, usually said when she has an episode of fury from something small. She's the kind of person who victimizes herself as being walked all over when she doesn't communicate how she feels clearly, then rages in one furious episode all the emotions that she bottled up.
    14. This morning I missed the bus by 5 minutes due to having a quiet, broken alarm clock after she took my phone, and when I retrieved my phone and school provided laptop from her room, she was furious and told me that we needed to have a conversation about everything, stating "I was one step away from being kicked out". The only mistake I made was missing the bus, due to her.
    15. She wants to take away the phone I paid for, permanently. I refuse because my girlfriend needs me. Between the problems she has at home and her mental health issues and traumatic experiences in the past, I can not leave her alone. I need to be there for her.
    16. I have a close friend going to college this year, and I want to move into a small apartment along with her as my roommate. We both have jobs, mine is dollars an hour and she is a waitress. She will be 18 by the summer and does strongly want to be my roommate, but doesn't feel it would be possible to move out this soon.
    17. I have multiple friends that are very open to taking me in if I come home today and am told to leave the house.
    18. I want to move out soon, and if I am not kicked out I want to leave the house badly. I have enough money to live by myself with my friend, who will gladly move in and help me financially if I am to get a new apartment, which I have looked for and found a few ideal ones that would be perfect location and price range for my job and school. I do not know how to get the lease, however, because I am underage and I'm not sure if I qualify for emancipation. If not my friend will be eighteen and hopefully will be able to sign. I don't have a car but my mother has offered me hers, a spacious and safe car for next year. I have very good grades and go to magnet in my High School.
    19. I own my own laptop, have a school computer as well, mattress and some drawers and a television and PS3 I could sell, sheets and bedding, plentiful clothes and toiletries. I wash and dry my own clothes, know how to do housework extensively, and learning to pay taxes and bills. I have a cat that would come with me that I can afford, the apartment I'm looking at has no pet fee for cats.

    May I have any advice for my situation? Or any help that would be possible? What to do, the Florida/Miami Dade County laws? My mother has "custody" but my godmother is the "legal guardian.". My mother and father are both on good terms with me. Thank you for reading, I apologize for it being long.

  • #2
    Re: I'm 16 and I need to go, but it's complicated.

    Hey there!

    Thank you so much for reaching out to us here at the National Runaway Safeline. We really appreciate all of the backstory you told us about. It really helps us with giving you information that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

    First, we are so sorry to hear that you are being mistreated due to your sexual orientation. It’s not fair and you shouldn’t have to live in an environment that isn’t accepting of who you are. We’re also sorry you have been through so much in such a short time.

    You brought up a lot of issues within your post. We can try to focus on the legal ones first if you’d like. Currently, you are 16. This means you are a minor and from what you wrote to us, it sounds like even though both of your biological parents have custody over you your godmother has physical custody over you. This differs from state and county, but if you run away, any of these guardians who have custody over you may file a runaway police report. A runaway report is not a charge. It is a status offense and should not go on your permanent record. However, you may have to deal with the juvenile justice system as status offenses can be a part of the diversion program. If found you will likely be brought back to your godmother who sounds like she has physical custody over you.

    The other thing to be aware of is the “harboring a runaway” charge. This charge is also something that differs from state-to-state, county-to-county. This is most often considered a misdemeanor. It can apply to any adult who holds you while the police are searching for you. It can apply to the 18-year-old friend you talked about. It can also apply to the parents of an underage friend you stay with. However, if you have permission from your legal guardian—in this case, the one who has physical custody of you—you may stay in another living situation. Please remember that we are not legal experts. So you might always considering checking all of this information out with your local courthouse or police station for absolute clarity.

    Also, there is another thing you may want to check with your local courthouse on. Sometimes when minors reach the age of 17, police are not always as active in a runaway case. In this case, you may not be considered an adult. However, you would also not likely be forcibly taken back to your aunts. You may be able to stay with those friends of yours that you wrote to us about if police and your aunt are on board with the arrangement.

    You brought up emancipation. In our emancipation records, there are two numbers given for youths in Florida to consult experts about this process. Most legal places in Florida say that the first step to becoming emancipated in Florida is to get a lawyer and in most states at 16 you qualify to petition for emancipation.
    GENERAL INTAKE NUMBER – 1-800-625-2257
    GULF COAST LEGAL SERVICES – 1-727-443-0657 Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm

    If you are thinking seriously about emancipation there are a few things to consider. You will probably have to pay the lawyer who helps you whether you get emancipated or not. There will likely be legal fees. The judge who presides over your case will probably be looking for your maturity and an ability to sustain yourself outside your legal guardian’s home. The judge will also probably be looking at whether you plan to finish school, how you’re doing in school, if you have a plan to graduate or receive your diploma by other means. It’s really good that you’re currently in a magnet school right now. The judge will also more than likely look at your financial situation—whether you’re able to sustain yourself living apart from your family. You having a job and some savings can look very good for this as well. Another aspect the judge will probably look at is if you have made adequate arrangements for future housing. It sounds like you have something worked out with your 18-year-old friend, however, the court system may not find that as a solid or viable option because your name will not be on the lease. Your friend would likely have to be the signer and you would essentially be dependent on your friend not kicking you out, which the courts might not be comfortable with. Another aspect of their decision could be looking into your current living environment.

    There are some good resources for LGBTQIA identified people in the Miami area. The LGBTQ Alliance can be a great organization to get involved with. It could help you to be in contact with young people who are currently living your experience in real time or queer people who have lived through what you are going through and may have some advice to give or resources we cannot think of. Here is their number and website:
    Main Office: (305)-899-8087
    Toll Free: (866)-634-8087

    Pridelines is also a good organization. They have resources that can connect you to more literature and social justice work by LGBTQ authors along with connecting you with LGBTQ businesses. Hearing other literary queer voices may help you to not feel so alone!

    And lastly, even though right now you might be told that you are less than by your family or their churches or the government, we want you to know that you are a beautiful, wonderful person of value and that no matter what anyone tells you people do love you. We wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors! No matter what you choose to do, always know that you can reach out to us at 1-800-RUNAWAY via phone, chat, e-mail and post on the forum. We’re always here 24/7.
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)


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