The Fosters: a foster parent’s perspective

If you don’t know, this month ABC Family premiered a new drama about the Fosters, a foster/adoptive family navigating the challenges of parenting teenagers, foster care, a multi-racial family and same-sex parents.
 
Full disclosure: I didn’t have high hopes for this show. I wanted to like it, but I didn’t think I would. I felt like they were piling on a ridiculous amount of extraneous drama and the beauty and realities of foster care would get buried underneath all the controversy and angst.
 
So I was happily surprised when, in the opening scene, one of the most unsettling phrases a foster parent can hear forced Lena to make a decision that she knew would distress her partner and turn her family upside down.
 
The phrase? – “I guess I could take her to one of the group homes.”
 
The decision?  The only one a foster parent hit with “group home” can make – even when you don’t have room for another child, much less one with too much baggage and a questionable history – “Of course we’ll take her. It’s just for a few weeks, right?
 
It was then that I knew they’d nailed it.
 
Yeah, they got some details wrong – case workers rarely ask you to drive to Juvie to meet a kid you haven’t agreed to take. And most (if not all) states have rules requiring that you have an actual bed for any child that comes into your home.
 
But that’s another place that they got it exactly right. When a child needs a place to sleep, and there aren’t any good options that follow all the regulations, sometimes the rules are bent – or blatantly ignored.
 
Later in the show, they nailed it again when Callie asked Brandon why he agreed to his moms bringing in foster kids, and Brandon replied “I figured there was enough to go around.” “Enough of what?” asked Callie. “Everything.”
 
And again at the end when Stef tells Lena that Callie and her brother can stay for a while, because “we are not sending these kids back into that system… We’ll make room.
 
There were smaller moments that were dead-on:
 
  • the morning chaos of trying to get 37-some-odd ducks out of the house on time. And then you add another one and just work them into the pattern.
  • Callie broke what was obviously a cardinal rule prohibiting teenager consumption of coffee, and the only reaction was Lena asking Callie if she would like some cream. Foster parenting requires a delicate mixture of structure and flexibility – sometimes realizing that ironclad rules aren’t as important as making the new duckling feel secure and wanted. 
  • when Callie is absolutely certain that her new foster family will send her away, and Stef knows she has to convince Callie that she’s not disposable.

There were definitely some inaccuracies and some of them probably only recognizable by foster parents. (If you’ve had a home-study, you know the big one I’m talking about). But they definitely got the big stuff right – the stuff that makes foster families wonderful, terrible, insane circuses. 

Those things, they nailed.

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