Foster: A Documentary

Directed by Deborah Oppenheimer
and Mark Jonathan Harris

HBO, May 2019

Sure to pull at your heartstrings, the new film “FOSTER,” is a close-up look at the Los Angeles County foster care system and its impacts on the lives of children, young adults and families. The film shares stories from multiple perspectives, opening with foster parent Earcylene Beavers, who has been a foster parent for close to 30 years and has fostered and adopted several children.

As the film digs into the challenges faced by youth like Dasani and Mary, it’s difficult to watch without tearing up. Experiencing domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse, separation from siblings and countless other traumas have left permanent scars that they struggle to overcome. The film does a good job of highlighting just how difficult it can be for youth to not succumb to the heartbreak and ultimately drop out of school, enter the juvenile justice system or become homeless.

“FOSTER” also shares the story of a young couple whose infant daughter was removed from their care when she was born because of the mother’s drug use. Following their story through reunification efforts highlights the ups and downs and challenges these folks also face as they work toward reunification. The film created by Oscar award winners Deborah Oppenheimer and Mark Jonathan Harris is a solid intersectional look across the child welfare system and the courts.

It was interesting to see the work of child and family advocates highlighted in the story. It seemed as if their advocacy efforts made a strong difference for the youth and families they worked with, prompting the question: What happens to those who have no one in their corner?

“FOSTER” is a heart-wrenching film that most foster parents will be able to relate to and could benefit from seeing since it covers such a broad scope of the foster care system. The film could also serve as a greater conversation starter in the foster care and juvenile justice systems around trauma and possible reforms of these systems — definitely a must-watch. The film premieres on HBO May 7.

— Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

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