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It is NOT normal for parents to hang the threat of homelessness and poverty over their teenage child's head.

Ask the Bitches: “I Just Turned 18 and My Parents Are Kicking Me Out. How Do I Brace Myself?”

Today’s question is from a Patreon donor I’ll call Star. It will include a lot of discussions about abusive parental relationships, so please be forewarned.

Star is in a Patreon tier that guarantees we will answer one question. We often do so privately, as the circumstances are often quite particular. But sometimes we post them publically as articles if we think they would be helpful to others. That’s the case with today’s letter.

Hello! I just became a Patron. I’m currently in a situation where my family has been threatening to kick me out of the house. I just turned eighteen two weeks ago, so my adult legs are a bit wobbly. I’m trying to save up for a car, as that’s most important to me right now. My question is: Do you queen genius bitches know if there’s any way I could get government assistance? Or any advice as to how I can move out from my abusive home on my own terms, but as soon as possible? Thank you in advance.

We’re so sorry you’re in this situation.

Eighteen has to be the most fraught age for the relationship between children and parents. It’s normal for once-loving family relationships to feel strained as you all struggle to adjust to the transformation from dependent child to independent adult.

But it is not normal for parents to hang the threat of homelessness and poverty over their teenage child’s head. I really wish you weren’t going through this.

Piggy and I are here in your corner with you, Star. And so is every other BGR reader. We have a substantial population of Hip Mom™ readers, and I am hyper-aware of them right now, because I can feel their simmering rage at reading your letter. It’s warming my keyboard. Ow ow ow.

I hope you have a lot of people in your corner besides us, both because you deserve love and support, and because we’re dumbasses who will probably get plenty of this wrong.

But we’re going to do everything we can to help you regardless. Let’s get into it.

We stan your plan

Setting your sights on a car is probably a good idea.

For one, it’s the idea that you have—and people are pretty good at identifying their own needs, even if they’re poor. Incredible how that works!

But I independently concur because a car is a precious tool for folks in a situation like Star’s. Sure, it’s expensive. Gas, insurance, maintenance, the vehicle itself… these things do not come cheap. But they’re probably worth it.

For readers who haven’t been in this kind of situation… I want you to imagine you’re a teenager. You feel trapped in the house with someone who makes you feel defeated and small on a regular basis. And now Something’s Happened. The tension in the household is rising. The person you are materially dependent on is yelling, crying, threatening, witholding… What are your options to escape, right now, in this one moment of crisis?

  • Call someone to come and get you? (Your self-esteem is in the gutter, so calling someone in the middle of the night to beg them to come get you probably feels shameful, presumptuous, an overreaction, or all of the above.)
  • Pay a cab or driving service to come get you? (Requires you to have money and a phone. And you can only take a limited number of things with you, often not including important things like a bed to sleep in, enough clothing to wear, your pet, etc.)
  • Take public transportation? (Same issues as above. Plus it’s only available in some areas, at some times, going to a limited number of destinations.)
  • Ask your abuser for a ride? (Well, they can refuse. Or the request can “set them off” and kick off a fresh round of hell. Both of those reactions strengthen the existing dynamic and weaken your resolve to leave.)
  • Leave on foot, or on a bicycle? (Fuck, son, if you’re in danger, IDGAF if you leave on roller skates or a riding lawn mower or a camel. Just get your ass outta there. But if you live in an area that’s remote, unsafe for single pedestrians, or struck with cold or wet weather, this is admittedly a pretty discouraging option.)
  • … and then what? (If you remove yourself in the short term, how will the abusive parent react in the long term? Lock you out? Damage or throw away your belongings? Turn others against you by crying and fabulizing about what happened? Push you off family plans for phones or health insurance? Refuse to participate in activities that would increase your independence, like cosigning an apartment lease or coughing up your Social Security Card? These are just some of the possibilities when you’re dealing with an abusive parent. And there are worse ones.)

When you look at each of those options, it’s easy to see why people like Star make the choice to try to brace themselves and endure. But Star is doing a brave and wonderful thing: trying to craft an escape plan. And a car is a great aspect of that plan.

Fixing the transportation issue

Transportation, like money, is an essential tool of personal autonomy. It’s really hard to control your life if you cannot control where you are, spatially.

Cars allow someone in a situation like Star’s to…

  • Escape in the short-term. (When I was your age, I spent a lot of my worst nights driving to an abandoned barn to sit in contented solitude, watching the moon rise while listening to album after album on my Bronze Age CD player. I SSDGMed, obviously.)
  • Escape in the medium-term. (Showing up at a friend’s doorstep, asking to stay for a night or two is psychologically and logistically easier than asking them to come pick you up.)
  • Escape in the long-term. (You can pack your things and move to a new place, a new city, a new state if you have your own ride.)
  • Broaden the number of jobs you can apply to.
  • Broaden the number of apartments and living situations available to you.
  • Improve your school and job performance. (Long commuting hours and potential tardiness are chronic issues for people who have to rely on others for transportation.)
  • Emergency shelter. (Sleeping in your car is obviously not ideal. But it’s much better than sleeping under a bridge—or under the same roof as your abuser.)

So we are into this “getting a car” plan!

We wrote a two-parter on this subject, so please check it out. 

In general, our advice is calibrated to people in slightly more stable conditions than Star’s. Ideally, someone who wants to buy a car will shop slowly and cautiously for a used car that they can pay for upfront.

But honey, this ain’t an ideal situation. So chuck all that shit out of the window if you have to.

When your mental health and physical safety are on the line, it may be worth it to compromise. Take the car with more miles than you wished. Take the loan at a higher interest rate than you wanted. These are relatively inconsequential financial “mistakes.” You will have the rest of your life to address them.

Fixing the housing issue

We wrote another guide on getting out of the house before (or just after) reaching the age of majority. It covers topics like legal emancipation, housing, shelters, and emergency plans.

There’s a lot of advice that’s relevant to your situation, so please give it a read. In particular, I want to reiterate two pieces of advice from that article.

First: consider all of your options for living somewhere else. If your impulse is to dismiss those options quickly, ya need to stop and recognize something: Abusive people train you to disregard, ignore, and fear opportunities to leave them. You’re like a rat in a maze. They’re like a demented scientist, shocking you each time you sniff the exit. It doesn’t take many repetitions for you to stop reaching for change.

Second: Get your hands on necessary legal documents before you leave. You will have an uphill battle getting things like credit cards, student loans, an apartment lease, or an auto loan at your age without a parent’s co-signature. Don’t make it even harder by leaving without your birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, health insurance information, etc.

Fixing the isolation issue

If I could wave my magic wand (cedarwood, twelve inches, reasonably supple) and give Star one gift, it would be the gift of community.

Star’s situation is a really scary and overwhelming one for persons of any age. But Star is young. The people who are in the best position to help them are the ones hurting them. Their peers probably lack the life experience to understand what’s going on—and are themselves too young to have much ability to help. And that sounds like an incredibly isolating situation.

Isolation is the most useful tool in an abusive person’s toolkit. I can’t say if abusers understand this consciously or unconsciously… but they absolutely understand it. Whether it’s family or romantic partners, the cycle is the same: the more isolated you are, the greater control they have over you; the more control they have over you, the more effective their punishments become. It’s what professionals in the industry call “a real fukkin shit spiral.”

Additionally, isolation is the most insidious and damaging symptom of depression. When you’re depressed, what you need most is to name what you feel in a conversation with someone who wants to help you. But the crazy, fucked-up thing about depression is that it tricks you into thinking you can’t (or shouldn’t) ask for that help; that by speaking your feelings aloud, you are losing, giving up, or burdening others.

Star, you don’t say that you’re depressed—but that’s a sturdy-ass limb I’m prepared to go out on! Internal and external forces are probably working together to trick you into trying to handle all of this alone.

And on that note, here’s some of what we’ve written on mental health:

Finding assistance

I’m encouraged by the fact that you’re open about looking for assistance in the form of our social safety net. That’s awesome.

For a list of government, state, and charitable programs to investigate, check out Piggy’s awesome article on this subject:

I promise you will have more money, more stability, more independence, and more agency as you move out of your teenage years. So now is not the time to prove how self-reliant and adult-like you can be. Don’t hold onto the trump card of asking for help, whether from Uncle Sam or your actual IRL uncle.

Ask your favorite teacher for advice. Ask your friends to talk to their parents for you. Ask your librarian to point you towards good community resources. Are your parents estranged from anyone in their family? Check those people out—they might be estranged because they know damn well what your parents are like!

There may be someone who’s hanging back, watching you nervously, not wanting to interfere, but hoping you’ll ask them for help if you need it.

You have to trust me on this one. Going it alone sometimes feels like a stronger, more mature decision. But this is untrue. It is a trick designed to hurt you.

There is no beautiful woman around the corner. Yes, I know you see a shapely stockinged leg waggling; yes, I know you can hear a throaty “yoohoo!” But it’s Bugs Bunny in drag, and he’s holding a rope tied to a big damn anvil, and he will drop it on your head, because I’ve seen his ass do it a million times.

Now please STOP giving us money

Finally, thank you so much for being a new Patreon donor. You’ll be billed for the first time at the end of the month, I think. And once that happens, we lovingly request that you stop being our Patreon donor.

Today is a banner month for Piggy and I. This month, for the first time ever, we paid ourselves for the work we do on Bitches Get Riches. It came out to about, hmm, let me just slide my abacus beads around… oh. $2.50 an hour. WELL! Aren’t WE high-fiving a million angels!?

 The donor-supported model is finally working to the point that we can cut checks for ourselves. They are hilariously tiny checks, but they are still checks! It’s nowhere near what we could get with sponsored posts from big companies, but it’s clean money we can feel good about accepting. And yours is exactly the kind of money we don’t want.

We want money from people in situations like these…

We’d even accept a small amount from teenagers like this…

… but from you?

No.

Absolutely not.

Don’t make me figure out how to refund your donation, because I am reasonably certain that’s a button I saw once somewhere and I am not afraid to spend twenty minutes aimlessly clicking around Patreon’s back end until I find it.

Someday, Star, you will live in your own place and drive your own car. You will have your family somewhere between arm’s length and twenty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole length. You’ll have an okay job, and you’ll be reading our articles for advice on how to alley-oop up to a more-than-okay one. On that day, we promise we’ll take your money. Hell, we’ll snatch it out of your hand at a socially unacceptable speed!

But today is not that day.

Bless your heart for wanting to support us, even during such challenging times. You have no idea how much we appreciate it. Know that you respect us that much is enough.

Well, I just threw $12 out the window. And that ain’t nothing, that’s brow threading money! Perhaps that was a stupid thing to do, but it feels like the right thing. So readers, here’s what I want to ask you…

  • Are you in a pretty good place? (And jfc are ya safe?)
  • Have you leveraged our advice into greater happiness and stability?
  • Did you follow our scripts to ask for a raise or nail interview questions at a new job?
  • Do you value having a source for adulting advice that’s free from paid advertising and sponsored content?
  • Do you want us to keep talking about these kinds of subjects, which so rarely get talked about in personal finance media?
  • Do we give you quality lols?
  • Are you better equipped to voluntarily pay for something than an 18-year-old child being kicked out of her abusive household? Mon dieu, my poor heart…

If so, please become a Patreon donor! Yours is the money we want.

Thanks to Star for writing. Readers, if there’s any other good tips you want to lay on Star, please add them into the comments below. In particular, I have never been on government assistance programs personally, so my direct knowledge is more limited. Any tips on expediting the process would be greatly appreciated!

Liked it? Support us on Patreon!

15 thoughts to “Ask the Bitches: “I Just Turned 18 and My Parents Are Kicking Me Out. How Do I Brace Myself?””

  1. My heart goes out to “Star,” and I’d like to make a one-time donation in her name to your blog without becoming a Patreon. Is that possible?

    1. This is incredibly sweet and we’re very touched by the gesture!
      You can make a one-time donation in two ways:
      1. Buy something from our Etsy store. Link’s in the top right of the home page.
      2. Become a patron, then cancel your patronage after the first of the month when you’ve been charged.

      1. Thanks for this – I’ve been meaning to ask the same thing. Would love to contribute but a larger one-off donation fits into my finances better than a smaller monthly fee

  2. I want to say something for people who might be in a similar situation- or are worried they could very easily wind up in one: Whenever you get your job, and your job asks you for your birth certificate and social security card for the paperwork? ASK THEM TO PRINT YOU A COPY OF BOTH- and then keep it in a safe place. that way, in the event that you ever have to leave home without the originals, you at least have the copies. And I cannot express how much easier that makes it when you have to go replace those documents later.

    1. Yes — and another easier option is to take photos (phone is fine) and then upload those pictures to the cloud/Google drive. This also means that if, say, you lose your passport overseas, you can access the copies and so make getting home & replacements all that much easier…. (yes, that is the voice of experience!)

  3. I just want to tell Star that I’ve been there. You aren’t alone. Gaining financial and emotional freedom seems like an impossible task. I felt hopeless for a long time. But now I’m happy and independent, and it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Stay strong, Bitch. We’ve got your back.

  4. Hey Star! To reiterate what others are saying: you have a whole bunch of Bitches rooting for you! I’m going to link a couple of different resources:

    General Info: the United Way has a 24/7/365 resource called 211 (find it online at http://www.211.org/ or dial 2-1-1 on your phone to speak to a person). You’ll share your zip code/some general details about what you need and an expert in the local resources available to you will help you find social service programs that can help you. This is 100% free to use and totally confidential.

    Education Support: If you are considering post-high school education, you should get familiar with how to complete a FAFSA (because free/subsidized government education $$$) without parental information. https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#special-circumstances

    The Trevor Project: while this resource is geared towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, there are still good resources listed here. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/homelessness/ The Trevor Project also runs a number of 24/7/365 hotlines, chats, and online support spaces for folks that identify with the community.

    Also, if you’re in school, see if your school has a resource counselor (sometimes called a student advocate) available. Unfortunately, their own personal knowledge/ability may vary, but *most* schools/school districts will have someone that can assist you. If you’re not sure how to find this person or where to go, try talking to a trusted teacher or school staff person.

  5. Dear Star, I hope things get better for you soon!
    And I absolutely agree with others here that you N E E D to get your hands on your documents, but I’ll remind of a specific one not yet mentioned; your shot record too! It can help with getting certain other documents if you need to get more copies/replacements, especially with how young you are. And most schools want you to be up to date on your immunizations.

    You can ask for grant money to cover living on campus or in student housing of any kind, and any university you attend should have information to help you with that. Make sure they know you are looking into that and include it when applying for your FASFA. Also, you don’t have to accept any and all loans or grants you see the first go around. You can ask your financial aid advisor to look again for more, that you can’t accept this or that loan. They are there to help you get through this, and if it means getting you and those sweet sweet grant dollars in their institution, and thus asking for what you need so you aren’t stuck with a loan that has crazy interest rates later on or whatever.

    SNAP benefits [aka ‘food stamps’] are something you should be eligible for if you go to school full time, regardless of your state.

    That’s everything I can think of for right now, so I’ll offer an internet hug and sign off.

    1. Rain, I am a fabulously cool Mom and I agree with your suggestion to find and take the immunization records if possible. Although my guess is that an abusive parent probably didn’t keep good immunization records, a pediatrician could also re-create the records
      .

    2. This reminds me! I started university again recently, and as a result had to do more things on my own than I did the first time. One of those things was getting my high school transcript. It was pretty easy, and because most schools require proof of immunization, there might be some confirmation of your shots on there. Also, in the worst case scenario, your doctor should be able to do blood tests for immunity. I had a friend who had to do that since she had issues with abusive family members refusing to take important documents out of storage for her.

      Also, while I’m here: if you don’t have a passport and you do have the documents necessary to get one, it might be worth it. I’ve used my passport within the US as a form of ID more often than I’ve used it traveling. Especially since you can keep it separate from a driver’s license or other form of ID.

  6. Eeesh, my heart goes out to you. My bio mom kicked me out when I was 19, too. You can do this.

    I want to add a couple things:

    – Monitor your credit (I believe the Bitches have some information on how to do that?). Some abusive parents will use your social security number and take out a credit card in your name, to limit your options. It is super illegal, but it can also screw things up for you later.

    – Once you get your legal documents, *keep them safe*. They’re expensive to replace. I have a fire safe now, but I started out using a special folder that I kept in a ziplock bag, so it wouldn’t get wet.

    – if there was ever a legal name change that means your legal name is different than the one on your birth certificate, you need a certified copy of the court order for that! (Due to my parents’ divorce and my biological father’s parental rights getting severed, my last name got changed when I was 10, and it has been *annoying* ever since.)

    I hope things get better soon

  7. To echo Ariadne’s point on protecting your credit – it’s free now to just lock those credit reports DOWN. You can unlock and relock them at will as needed for free so you can access your credit if and when you need to, but otherwise just keeping it locked is IMO the safest way to deal. Prevention is so much better than being alerted to fraudulent activity that you would then have to spend precious time and money cleaning up.

    My financially abusive biodad hadn’t shown that kind of enterprising spirit when I cut him off but I take zero chances that he won’t get creative when he gets desperate.

    As to this point: “There may be someone who’s hanging back, watching you nervously, not wanting to interfere, but hoping you’ll ask them for help if you need it.”

    Even this was true for me! I didn’t know that I had a few relatives in my corner who couldn’t say anything to me until I said something to them. I was in a much more stable place so I could take the risk but it was still a risk that they’d report back to my biodad. I’d advise you to be cautious in feeling them out to be sure they aren’t actually the type to leak info back to your parents BUT if they are truly estranged or independent thinkers, you might find you have allies. And you need all the allies you can get.

    And maybe this is filed under paranoia but in an abuse situation, I don’t think any caution is a bad thing: If and when you set up a bank account, hide the evidence as much as you can. Go paperless immediately, set up an email address that’s only for bank accounts and other money stuff that they never know about so that they don’t ever get a whiff of your escape plans or resources.

    Related tech stuff: Make sure that you delete all texts from your phone that might point to any of this, clear your search history and cache regularly or at least scrub it of financial institutions and say, this URL. Abusers snoop.

    We’re rooting for you!

    1. Also, make sure you don’t use your phone, computer, or home internet to do so! Just because your family isn’t the type to know how to pull your passwords etc. from the router/modem thingie doesn’t mean they can’t retroactively have someone do so in the effort to find ‘their dear, loved, runaway’. Also, if they are paying for your phone they can have the phone carrier pull your texts.

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