Slipping through the safety net for juveniles.

She knows it's going to take time to build her new life. To finish her education, to find a decent job and a place of her own. She thinks she might go to culinary school. She doesn't think she and her parents will reconcile in the near future. "We hurt each other a lot," she says, "and that isn't going to mend easily."

Chris and DeEtte haven't given up on Kaeleigh. They invited her to Thanksgiving dinner two weeks ago, and she came. And DeEtte decided to file a police report on the theft of her bank card, even though it might end up costing her more money than she can afford. It's important, she says, to send the right message to her runaway daughter: that her mother cares enough to hold her responsible for her actions, even if the system won't.

There is a school of thought -- or of sentiment, anyway -- that if you care enough about a wild creature, you set it free. But there are also strays wandering the streets because nobody gives a damn about them, and her parents don't want that to happen to Kaeleigh.

"I'm not going to stop," DeEtte says. "I want her back. If she wants to emancipate, I will help her. But she must get a GED. She must get a job. I will not turn a sixteen-year-old girl loose on the world without any skills."

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