Monique Luna is a hard-working, caring young mother.
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Crashing Into Adulthood: Monique

Monique Luna is a hard-working, caring young mother.
Monique Luna is a hard-working, caring young mother, but she is also a rebellious, sometimes flighty, young woman. “I didn’t like foster care, so I was really glad when they said they were going to let me go early and emancipate me. I was just like, ‘Oh, God, I’m going to be free.’” (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Graduation festivities at Mariner’s Church
During the emancipation festivities at Mariner’s Church, Monique Luna and daughter Lyla Molina, take a few spins on the dance floor. “I had never been to a prom. That was like my prom. I had my little girl, so it was more than just a graduation. She’s my whole family. Everybody that needed to be there was there,” says Monique. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers at Mariner’s Church lavish the foster care grads, including Monique, with free make-overs
Volunteers at Mariner’s Church lavish the foster care grads, including Monique, with free make-overs before the graduation starts. Never adopted or reunited with their families, they rode the system to the very end--a high school graduation or 18th birthday. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique Luna moves into Stepping Stones
Resembling a storybook gingerbread house, complete with its peaked rooftop and dark attic windows, Monique moves into Stepping Stones, a halfway house for young mothers. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
With only a few hundred dollars in the bank, Monique and daughter Lyla have nowhere else to go.
With only a few hundred dollars in the bank, Monique and Lyla have nowhere else to go. “I wanted my own place, so it’d be just me and Lyla,” Monique says, “Right now this is all I can do. I know it’s a good situation, really, but it’s just for a while.” (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Recently emancipated from foster care system, Monique has a three-year old daughter to take care of.
“I worry about Lyla being taken away. Just thinking about that makes me mad and sad and all frustrated at the same time,” says Monique. She’s been estranged from her mother who abused heroin and she doesn’t know who her father is. Her daughter is her family. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique Luna, castaway of a heroin-addicted mother became a mother herself at 15.
After Monique’s grandmother died, she lived on her own at the age of 15 until someone “ratted her out” and she was taken into custody by child protective services. Still a minor, she and Lyla became wards of the court. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique spends time enjoying interaction with her daughter Lyla looking for bugs in the park.
Monique spends time enjoying interaction with her daughter Lyla looking for bugs in the park. She wants to be the mother to her daughter that she never had. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique and Lyla share a four bedroom house with three other emancipated foster care teen mothers.
Monique and Lyla share a four-bedroom house with three other teen mothers but things aren’t working out and she has been asked to leave the program. “I had been on my own before, and I wasn’t used to the rules. The guy who runs Stepping Stones said it wasn’t a motel ‘cause I’d get dressed, take a shower and leave. I didn’t want to be locked up in the house all the time.” (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
With daughter in tow, Monique works on household chores
With daughter in tow, Monique works on household chores early in the morning before she heads off to work at Anaheim Medical Center where she is a nursing assistant. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique shares a bedroom with her three-year-old daughter at Steeping Stones
Monique shares a bedroom with Lyla. “I had my room with my daughter. It was pretty cramped. She had big toys,” says Monique. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
As a single, teen, working mother, Monique at times struggles with her three-year-old child.
As a single, teenage working mother, Monique at times struggles with her 3-year-old. “I can’t force her to go to sleep. I can’t hold her down and make her do it,” Monique says. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Abandoned by her heroin-addicted mother as a baby, Monique grew up quickly.
Abandoned as a baby, Monique grew up quickly. “I drank beer when I was 11. When I was 13, I did speed. When I first had sexual intercourse I was 11 or 12,” she remembers. She was pregnant at 14 with Lyla. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique is a Certified Nursing Assistant, currently working at Western Medical Center in Anaheim.
Monique is a Certified Nursing Assistant, currently working at Western Medical Center in Anaheim. She works three 12-hour shifts a week doing “yucky” work, she says. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique parties with Diane Lopez, right, and Teresa Luna
Monique parties with friend Teresa Luna, left, and cousin Diane Lopez, right. Tequila and beer are the beverages of choice. They celebrate Teresa’s 21st birthday and have a cake fight. “I’m not old enough to drink but I do. That’s how we deal with stuff,” says Monique. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique and Richard Molina, biological father of her child, together in Juvenile Court
Monique and Richard Molina, Lyla’s father, listen to a Juvenile Court judge’s decision on Richard’s visitation rights and Lyla’s status as a ward of the court. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique Luna packs up her belongings at Stepping Stones
Monique packs up her belongings at Stepping Stones. She is asked to leave after getting in a fight with one of her roommates and not following the house rules. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique has finally moved into her new subsidized apartment
Monique finally moves into a subsidized apartment with assistance from the county. Sparsely furnished, it has only a child’s plastic table, couch and beds for herself and Lyla. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique rises before dawn
Motivated to succeed, Monique rises before dawn, drops off Lyla at day care and rides several buses to attend Newbridge College in Santa Ana, where she is studying nursing. On most weekends she works a 12-hour shift as a nursing assistant. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Waiting for her case to be called in Juvenile court, Monique is hoping to get full custody of her daughter, Lyla.
Monique waits with Lyla in Juvenile Court, hoping to get full custody of her daughter. Though Monique was emancipated from the foster care system, Lyla remains a ward of the court. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Up before dawn, while her daughter sleeps, Monique Luna studies for her nursing classes at Newbridge College in Santa Ana.
While Lyla sleeps, Monique studies for her nursing classes. Up before dawn, by 6 a.m. she’ll be on the bus. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
After a long day of working and riding buses all over town, Monique closes her eyes in sheer exhaustion as her daughter Lyla plays in the bath.
After a long day of working and riding buses all over town, Monique closes her eyes in sheer exhaustion as Lyla plays in the bath. “I leave her in the bathtub a little bit longer so she can play and get more tired so she won’t try to fight me. I try to do little tricks so I won’t seem as tired as I really am,” she says. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Sitting outside Juvenile Court, Monique once again was hoping to get full custody of her daughter, Lyla.
Sitting outside Juvenile Court, Monique once again is hoping to get custody of Lyla. The court denies Monique’s request. She is pregnant again. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Feeling tired and the stress of a second pregnancy, Monique spends some quiet time with her daughter.
Feeling tired and the stress of a second pregnancy, Monique spends some quiet time with her daughter. “I need to be strong for Lyla cuz that’s my whole life,” says Monique. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
Monique, a single, teen, working mom gave birth to a second daughter.
Monique gives birth to a second daughter, Brianna Rose. Richard is the proud father. (GAIL FISHER / Los Angeles Times)
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