Kelly (name is changed to protect her identity) was a friend of mine in high school. She was a year younger than I was, and her home life was a crazy chaotic mess, with her mother hopping from unhealthy to abusive relationships with men that often weren’t kind to Kelly and her siblings, and some even hurt her. But it wasn’t until her mother got involved with a sort of religious cult that Kelly was finally removed from the mom’s home and put into foster care. Her foster care situation wasn’t ideal – obviously, living at home with loving parents and being with her siblings would have been better – but it offered a temporary refuge and sanctuary during a challenging time in her life.
Once I left high school, I worked at an animal hospital in Philly in what is now known as the “Gayboroughood”, and many of our clients were gay and lesbian families. This was back in the late 80′s, so AIDS was a huge issue with people (including our clients) dying from the disease with frightening frequency. One of the families I remember the most from that time was a lesbian couple that were fostering (with hopes to adopt) a little boy that had HIV. I remember them telling me about the challenges they faced for adopting their son because of being a same sex couple, and the legal tricks they planned to do so they could both legally parent him. The last I heard, they had been able to adopt him, and his HIV was manageable. He’s probably graduated college already.
I feel like I know more folks that have been through foster care than most; I’m a recovering alcoholic, and since alcoholism is usually a family disease, plenty of other recovering drunks I know had chaotic families like Kellys and spent some time in foster care. Most of them had good experiences in foster care – since most people that foster kids are doing it because they genuinely want to help – but they are all a little broken because their family situations caused them such upheaval.
I was excited to see that ABC Family has decided to tackle this complex mess of issues with their new show, The Fosters. It really is a “kitchen sink” kind of show; it features a bi-racial lesbian couple raising biological children while also fostering troubled kids at the same time. It tackles birth parent issues, relationship issues, coping with challenging kids, and the myriad of issues that such a story would face.
Frankly, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this show being made. The first episode is gripping, and I can’t wait to watch more. I hope you’ll watch, too, and maybe even with your older kids. This show will inspire amazing discussions about what makes up a family.