HBO documentary “Foster,” which premiered Tuesday during National Foster Care Month, featured five stories including children in foster care, former foster youth and foster parents in Los Angeles.
Their stories were all unique and provided a small window into the countries largest child welfare system in the nation, which serves more than 34,000 children.
It’s well worth a viewers time to watch the documentary.
“While most films of its type either want to emphasize how bad situations are or how awesome the people trying to help are, ‘Foster’ knows it’s not that simple, that life is more complicated, and that complications are inherently dramatic,” reads an LA Times review.
“Given that pop culture has the power to influence social change … it’s about time for a quality drama that explores the foster care system from all angles and perhaps in so doing encourages more adults with a stable home life to consider fostering,” reads a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
And Decider says, “stream it” in their review.
It also got a lot of love from Twitter users.
@HBO thank you!! As a former foster kid who aged out of the system, this is so meaningful! The more light we are able to shine on this issue, the more we may help these kids & young adults. #FormerFoster #AgedOut #FosterDoc https://t.co/TQx3rebbGO— Jacob Singletary (@BUWolverine) May 8, 2019
I’m feeling all the emotions after watching the HBO documentary #FosterDoc. It takes an in depth look at the foster care system is Los Angeles. I mean just wow. I highly recommend everyone watch it.— Rhyan Gill (@GillRhyan) May 8, 2019
Watching the film is just a start to understanding the problems and challenges foster care presents. It’s impossible to cover everything in one documentary, some of which Twitter users were quick to point out.
So, what’s missing?
I just published What the New HBO Documentary ‘Foster’ Glosses Over About the Child Welfare System https://t.co/yBSieq4Qbg #BlackMothersForChildWelfareReform #FosterHBO #HBO #childwelfare #CPS #TagiSays #AfricanAmericanChildWelfareAct— Latagia C. Tyronce, MSW, CADAS (@MsTagiTyronce) May 8, 2019
The film points out that black Americans make up 10% of the population and L.A., however, they make up 25% of the children in foster care.
But then that’s the only time they mention race.
“‘Foster’ left a bad taste in my mouth,” Tyronce wrote. “Not because of what was said — impossibly high case loads, not enough and/or too few caseworkers, not enough funding — but because of was NOT said, or better yet, barely said.”
She goes on to explain how the documentary failed to explore how race and racism impacts the child welfare system, especially regarding court case outcomes.
In 2017, The New York Times published “Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of ‘Jane Crow.'” It’s an important read to better understand Tyronce’s point and why it’s an important aspect the film left out.
In February, The Chronicle of Social Change reported on Minnesota’s effort to re-introduced the Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act, which would “compel child welfare agencies throughout the state to engage in so-called ‘active efforts’ to keep black families together and, when children are removed, leave no stone unturned to seek out black relatives – not strangers – to take care of them.”
The foster mom is a saint! Caseworkers are heroes! Birth parents are scum! (Unless they repent in which case they are merely sick) And none of that is even the worst thing about @HBOdocs @Participant #FosterDoc https://t.co/5tqubQSYuQ #fostercare #childwelfare #childabuse— NCCPR (@NCCPR) May 8, 2019
There is one storyline in the film where birth parents get to tell their story, but it doesn’t cover the scope of all birth parents.
Hollywood has trouble telling birth parent storylines. I wrote about it when I covered ‘Instant Family’ for The Chronicle of Social Change.
“We aren’t all incapable drug addicts, we are average everyday humans who got thrust into a hard situation. We are mothers, sisters, wives, professionals, successful, adventurous and loving humans,” said Jessalynn Bills Speight, founder and president of Tied At The Heart. “The love for our children and the yearning to hold them never goes away.”
To continue to better understand birth parents, follow Rise Magazine on social media.
This documentary, #FosterDoc, is a biased look at the few good stories within that system. God bless those filmed. In reality, this system is broken and Corrupt.
Read about #PhiladelphiaDHS & a loving Grandmother:https://t.co/koR0RO0qed
Read:https://t.co/Kkw4lw7Q0T— NoBlueLine (@NoBlueLineToday) May 8, 2019
Child welfare is more complicated than the stories in the documentary.
The film seems to wrap up nicely, giving audiences a good feeling. Although, as the credits roll, the film is quick to point out, some of those “feel good endings” the audience thought it was getting, didn’t wrap up as nicely as we thought once the filming ended.
But it doesn’t go in depth about this idea. The system can really fail those who are working hard at protecting children.
I wrote about one grandma who spent $35k on court fees to keep her granddaughter.
It’s easy to switch off @HBODocs‘ #FosterDoc feeling simply overwhelmed. But putting the often sorry reality of the @CountyofLA Dept. of Children and Family Services in wider context can signal what needs to happen in all of our child welfare programs. https://t.co/nmQCMf6ow1— L.A. Times Opinion (@latimesopinion) May 7, 2019
“The documentary is disturbingly accurate in explaining the problems of child welfare agencies, but it is less good at outlining solutions,” Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote for an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
She goes on to talk about the need for technology, quality nonprofits, faith-based organizations and more as solutions to help the state. Viewers can also follow Jessica Chandler, who is in the film, on Twitter for more about solutions.
Overall, it’s a good film about an important topic. If you haven’t watched it, watch it. If you’ve already watched it, here’s a few ways you can make a difference.