Thanks to ABC Family’s new series The Fosters for sponsoring this post. Click here to see more of the discussion. Also, watch the series premiere of The Fosters on Monday, June 3 at 9/8c only on ABC Family.
It takes a special person to have the ability to open up their home to a child who they don’t even know and make the commitment to care for and look after this child as their own, realizing that where they came from is not as important as where they are going. It’s also critical to recognize that each child’s life holds value. Even more special are the people who go beyond the act of opening their homes choosing to open their hearts as well. As a former child welfare professional I’ve witnessed a lot of heartache but I have also witnessed kindness and compassion at its best.
I have watched as children’s lives were changed simply because someone cared enough to provide them with some stability during the most trying time in their lives. I have watched as high school age youth triumphed in the midst of adversity not succumbing to statistics but rather experiencing success. For many of the children and youth that I worked with that experienced more favorable outcomes while in foster care, there was a common thread. They had a support system and often at the core of their support system was a foster parent or parents. One individual or two, who decided to take on the role of advocating on behalf of a child who had become theirs for the time that they were in their care. These foster parents took on the role of caregiver and in the best cases cheerleader, campaigning for the children and youth to whom they had opened their hearts and homes.
Occasionally, television has an ability to mirror life and its many faucets. I believe the new ABC Family television show The Fosters will do just that. Not only is it bringing awareness to the notion of foster care but it sheds light on what I believe is a critical component of child welfare – adolescents in care. The reality is sometimes it is harder to find foster placements for older children. People aren’t willing to deal with the challenges that might come with caring for a teenager. While people often feel a sense of obligation when it comes to their biological children this isn’t the case with a foster teen.
The fictitious multicultural family consists of two mothers, a biological son from a previous relationship, adopted twins and a teen who has spent a significant amount of time in foster care. The plan is for her to remain in their home until a more permanent placement can be found. The family deals with issues relative to adoptive and foster parents but also issues synonymous with parenthood in general.
What excites me most about The Fosters is that it represents so much. It is a show that will pave the way for some important discussions to occur with regards to foster care. I also hope that it will result in more people giving consideration to the possibility of becoming one.
In a time when the news often focuses on the negative aspects of foster care and is quick to take a negative stance, it is refreshing to see a show that focuses on the good that can come out of this type of care. Every day there are men and women who choose to commit to caring for a child who despite sharing no genetic makeup of theirs has a small piece of their heart.
When it comes from a place of love these children have the ability to flourish even in foster care. With love, commitment and a strong support system their dreams live on and even come to fruition. Sometimes all they need is a chance and someone in their life who is willing to look beyond their situation or history and believe that they are worth fighting for.
It appears that at the core, The Fosters and some of the lives of real life parents who have opted to make a difference in the life of a foster child are a reminder of the power of the human heart. They show us that while things like genetic makeup, family history, age and culture are important aspects of who we are, so is the innate desire to belong and be a part of something. Family systems give us that. Some provide us with permanency and some are temporary. Our world could use more real life Fosters. People who are willing to step up to the plate to invest in our children from the small babies to the teenagers who could use love and support during what already is a challenging period in one’s life. People who know that the greatest reward is found in making a difference in the life of another.
I look forward to this show and the facilitation of a dialogue that will hopefully follow. A dialogue in which we provide support for foster parents who put their heart into making a difference in the lives that cross their paths and insight for those who desire to open their homes and hearts. And perhaps the realization that families like the Fosters and everyday versions of the Fosters aren’t that different from our own families, something we would realize if we took a moment to look beyond the surface. It is my belief that, at the end of the day when we open our hearts whether it is through mentorship, advocacy or foster care we are investing in our future. We are showing these children — our children– that they matter, their life holds value and they are worth it.