A D.C. teenager who was once classified as “missing” told WUSA9 she actually was “never missing.”
“I left because I felt like my foster mother was mistreating me,” said the teen, who WUSA9 is not identifying.
She wanted to share her story to help other kids in their own desperate situation.
"My friend texted me and said I was on TV and she sent me a screen shot of the missing person flyer, and then people were texting me videos of them crying."
That's when the teenager turned herself in at the nearest fire department.
Her mother is a drug addict. Her grandma raised her, but when grandma died she bounced from big sister to big sister. After a fight with one sister in October, she said she was placed with another foster parent.
While speaking to her social worker on the phone, she was driving the teen from her new foster home in Clinton, Md. to school in D.C.
WUSA9 reporter Delia Goncalves planned to meet the teen after school, but she left early "because these boys were making fun of me saying ‘see no one loves you, you're just a foster kid.’"
The teen said when she ran away she stayed in an apartment building next to her sister's place. She didn't contact her sister because she did not want to go back to foster care.
Instead, she slept in the laundry room of that apartment building in Southwest, D.C.
"People would come in and say, 'you don't live here, get out!’ So, I would leave and just walk the streets until the sun came up. Men would stop their cars and say 'Hey sweetheart, you want a ride?' I was scared and I would run but it was better than living where I wasn't wanted."
When asked what adults and city government can do to make sure she feels safe and stable, the teen offered this advice.
"They can do something about the foster system and see how these people are treating us. I turned myself in so I can hopefully help someone else. If you are on the run, you may not want to go back, but I would prefer you go back because people on the streets are getting killed."
She left the interview with tears streaming down her face.
Goncalves said they hugged and she encouraged the teen to make things right with her sister and call her for help. She told Goncalves she was going to stay with a friend that night. She walked away with a girlfriend who wrapped her arms around her. They promised to keep in touch. She told Goncalves she will not run again. She doesn't want to.
D.C. police now say most if not all the missing children leave voluntarily and most are found or return within several days.
So far this year, 501 kids went missing. Eighteen cases remain open.
For the most recent and most accurate list of children missing in DC, click here.
Police said "at this time it there is no evidence to indicate the children were abducted or victims of sex trafficking."
Mayor Bowser has now created a task force to look into the cases of missing children in D.C.