Their stories begin with heartbreak. A family unable or unwilling to care for them. Parents dead, addicted to drugs, absent.
About 400,000 children in the U.S. live in foster care, according to federal officials. Entry into the foster care system is meant to keep them safe, but the reality is often fraught with its own dangers and disappointments. Times photojournalist Robert Gauthier interviewed more than a dozen young men and women from the Los Angeles area who were on the verge of being emancipated from foster care or had recently aged-out of "the system."
Many fight a daily battle to shed the label of "system kid." Often they are ill-prepared to survive on their own, let alone succeed. They talked to The Times about their past, as well as their dreams for the future. Asked to describe themselves in one word, they answered "survivor," "driven," "adaptable."
Additional credits: Interactivity, Armand Emamdjomeh | Design, Lily Mihalik