When the ABC Family show The Fosters first came out, it seemed everyone was talking about it. Inter-racial same sex relationships with adopted kids AND foster kids! And one of the moms is a cop?! Such a striking comparison to what we currently see on television. Finally, some diversity that matches what the REAL WORLD LOOKS LIKE. And, of course, as a former foster youth I’m always interested in seeing us represented on TV. Not only do I want to relate to a character for a change, but it will obviously provide the populous with a view into our reality.
For this same reason, I was a bit wary. What if The Fosters perpetuates negative stereotypes? Foster youth don’t need any more bad press. On the other hand, it could provide some real insight into what life is like for us. With these concerns in mind, I watched the pilot episode a few months ago. I was initially turned off. It seemed unrealistic. Look at these angelic foster parents, they are so good and so selfless. Look at this miserable stray child, she is so dark and negative. Who goes to school on a BEACH? (And, to be fair, I was triggered by the “real kid” – “temp kid” relationships!) I didn’t give the show a fair chance.
A friend of mine, another foster alumna/advocate, urged me to watch the show again. She reminded me that I didn’t watch enough of the show to get a good sense of what was really going on. So when I got home tonight, I decided to pull it up on Netflix and watch. I’m glad I did, because I have a new opinion on the show.
I was talking to my boyfriend after finishing the fourth episode, and we realized that the dynamic between the moms and their clan seemed too good to be true, because we didn’t have parents who treated us lovingly or gave us the time of day. But this is what good parenting looks like, and it’s nice to be able to see an example of it. The characters are in no way perfect – they face problems that real people go through. But they don’t expect each other to be perfect, and they love unconditionally. I’m certainly learning some important life tips for when I one day become a foster parent myself.
I’m also impressed by the portrayal of siblings in foster care – it’s something we’ve been talking about a lot in CYC. (And, as of today’s Advisory Board meeting, the topic of our recommendation for the Day At The Capitol conference!) I never had siblings who were in foster care, but I do have sisters and a brother who I love dearly, so I can certainly sympathize. In the pilot episode, Callie gets out of juvie and has one mission – to see “Jude”, who I thought would be a skeezy boyfriend but turned out to be her brother. She risked her life (and the life of her foster brother – oops.) to make sure that her little brother, who was staying in an abusive foster home while she was locked away, was okay. In a perfect world, no siblings should be separated from each other, under any circumstances – and in a even more perfect world, no sister should have to go to juvenile hall for protecting her little brother. Sadly, this world is not yet perfect, and it’s important people are aware of what really goes on in the system.
Another thing I’m grateful for is that the writers of this show are not blind to the harsh treatment that fosters can receive from “normal” kids who don’t understand what they’ve gone through. It’s frustrating to see the way the other students at the fancy-pants charter school treat Callie, based on their stupid presumptions. But it’s real. It happens, and it sucks. Hopefully some people are watching this and realizing it’s hard to be the Callies and Judes of the world, and that they deserve kindness and respect.
I’m excited to watch more! I’m curious to see what other hidden facets of the foster care system (and foster parenting, which I know very little about) are uncovered. And — who is this Liam character?