The new HBO film Foster provides an honest and moving look at our nation’s child welfare system through the eyes of those who know it best—the children, youth and families involved in the system and the foster parents and the child welfare workforce who are working to support them.
The film follows several storylines that capture the many sides of the child welfare system and the challenges that accompany those perspectives: a dedicated foster parent trying to provide a loving and stable home for the children in her care, a young man struggling with trauma bouncing between placements and the juvenile justice system and ending up in group care, a young couple fighting for the custody of their newborn child after the mother tested positive for cocaine while in delivery, a young woman “aging out” of foster care and struggling to transition to independence and adulthood, and a caseworker who herself grew up in foster care and is now working within the system to provide the help and change she knows these children so desperately need.
This film blends what are often portrayed as conflicting sides of the child welfare system: the dedicated and hardworking people—child protection services, caseworkers, attorneys, judges, service providers and advocates—working within the system to help keep children safe, while also balancing the perspectives of the children, youth and families caught in the system and the challenges they face: unaddressed trauma, unmet needs and a desire for permanency and stability. These two perspectives can easily be pitted against one another, but this film gracefully weaves them together to underscore why reform of the child welfare system is so critically needed. All of the storylines in Foster point to the same ultimate truth: we must strengthen families to help keep children safely in their care and out of the child welfare system.
The release of this film couldn’t be more timely. May is National Foster Care Month, a time to elevate the voices of those touched by the child welfare system. At the same time, we have an unprecedented opportunity before us to implement historic reforms to the child welfare system through the Family First Prevention Services Act. The major provisions in this new law become available this October and provide essential services and programs to families to help keep children safely out of foster care. It is critical that all states plan and prepare to reimagine their child welfare systems in a way that better supports vulnerable children and families and prevents crises that lead children into foster care. That’s why the Children’s Defense Fund is working with state agencies, advocates, legal experts and others to ensure Family First is effectively implemented and rolled out across the country.
Please watch this powerful film and learn more about how you can join the movement to strengthen families and keep children safe by visiting our child welfare take action page.