Broken Places

A film by Roger Weisberg

55 minutes,

This newly released film follows several families from the late 1980s through 2018, detailing the challenges they face overcoming a variety of adversities, including growing up in poverty, experiencing domestic violence, being raised in kinship care.

“Broken Places” highlights the stories of Bobby Gross and his single mother Yvonne, who struggled with his out-of-control behaviors while raising her children in poverty. Also included is the story of Daniella Anderson, who gives birth to Elijah while in foster care and goes on to have her own struggles with domestic violence. And finally, the film shares the story of brothers Danny and Raymond Jacob who are raised by their grandmother.

These personal narratives are woven together with a look at the growing research about the impacts of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, which are believed to contribute to long-term mental and physical conditions. Several experts weigh in throughout the film about the long-term impacts of childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and other common diagnoses people receive after experiencing abuse and neglect. The film looks at how this trauma can be passed from one generation to the next if it’s never addressed.

The stories of the children impacted by these experiences is coupled with the growing research on toxic stress, ACES and other impacts and how addressing these things earlier can improve outcomes for a child’s lifespan.

One of the programs highlighted is Healthy Steps, which operates in 15 states as part of pediatric screening. During regular screening a specialized care team also pays special attention to the attachment of the parent and child and the mental health of the parent.

“Broken Places” showcases stories that filmmaker Roger Weisberg has highlighted in other films, including “Our Children at Risk,” “Aging Out” and “Why Can’t We Be Family Again.”

The film is an interesting look at how traumatic childhood experiences impact people differently, however it fails to address other issues like systemic and institutional racism and those long-term implications as well. While some experiences can be overcome, others suffer a lifetime of negative mental and physical health issues. Foster parents may find the film informative about the children in their homes and how trauma impacts them and their families. However, the film shouldn’t be where education begins or ends on trauma and other issues should be considered more deeply as well.

— Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel


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