This story is part of a series examining Texas foster care. It looks at who’s involved and affected by what has been deemed a “broken” system.
Enriquez entered the Texas Foster Care system when he was a teenager and says he experienced its dysfunction first hand. He bounced from emergency shelters to Residential Treatment Facilities (RTCs) – a type of live-in group therapy home – and foster homes. Now he lives at LifeWorks, a non-profit organization in Austin that advocates for and provides housing to youth aging out of the foster care system.
LifeWorks feels like home, he says. Enriquez is sitting down on a couch in the LifeWorks administrative office. He’s a stylish 18 year old. He’s wearing a printed white button-down t-shirt covered in tiny bird silhouettes. His easy-going demeanor doesn’t betray everything he’s been through.
Enriquez was born in Mexico and raised in east Texas. His mother had left his family when he was young.
The reason he wound up in the system isn’t tracked by the state – at the age of 12, his father was deported. With neither parent available he was left to fend for himself.
“I was homeless with me and my brother,” he says. “My little sister got sent to my aunt’s but me and my brother were left in the house and no one knew about us. So me and him had to do our own thing, until he ended up leaving to Mexico too somehow – I don’t know, he got a ride – and I was left alone.”
Enriquez spent several years taking care of himself. His father’s co-worker asked Enriquez if he wanted to work in his father’s stead. Enriquez said yes.
“I started working from 13 all the way to 16 until I actually got an injury and they found out that I didn’t have – that I didn’t have parents here,” he says. “So they put me in [Child Protective Services].”