You (yes, you!) should watch  The Fosters Aug29


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You (yes, you!) should watch The Fosters

I started my career as a social worker in a group home for youth with behavioral issues. During the 15 months I worked there I was assaulted with a broken light bulb, chased with a rod from a closet, pelted with raw eggs, and followed by a child crawling down the hallway and grasping at me like the girl from The Ring. I dodged homemade flame throwers, broke up sexual activity happening under beds, and once even pulled in the driveway to find a 16 year old “digging a grave” with a pick axe that the maintenance crew carelessly left behind. All of these behaviors occurred as the end result of neglect, abuse and trauma experienced by children removed from their biological homes before they reached puberty.


I wished many times that these scenarios could be made into a reality t.v. show, partially so that people would believe the stories I told after work but also so that the youth could have some semblance of a voice. “The system” that these children found themselves entrenched in is one that even the most skilled and experienced social workers struggle to navigate. It’s easy for a child to be overlooked by the ensuing bureaucracy , until they suddenly turn 18 and are released into the “real world” and expected to succeed.

ABC’s new show, The Fosters, is the closest I have seen television come to accurately representing what happens when children are neglected, abandoned or removed from their biological families and placed into the care of complete strangers. The show focuses on a multi ethnic family headed by two women: Lena Adams and Stef Foster. Lena and Stef care for Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage (Brandon) as well as twins Jesus and Lexi who they adopted as young children. Callie and her brother Jude become late additions to the family in the first and second episodes, as foster children in need of a safe placement.


The only thing accurate about this photo is Callie's face.

Most of The Fosters.

When I first learned the premise of the show I was skeptical that a show inevitably watered down for family viewing could get anywhere near accuracy when attempting to portray the trials and tribulations of foster children. Within the first half of the first episode, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the brief portrayal of Callie’s experience of getting released from detention: she was beaten by jealous peers in an attempt to foil her successful release and then, because of the bruises she sustained, immediately judged by Lena as potentially unsafe to be around the other children in her home.

It’s a good thing Lena gives Callie a chance, though, because what follows is a beautiful ten episodes reflecting the adventures of a family doings its best to succeed and care for one other despite the inevitable kinks and knots thrown into daily life when so many teenagers are part of it. The Fosters manages to successfully navigate through plot lines that address race, sexuality, drug use and sexual trauma along with truthfully portraying issues commonly faced by foster children.

My only complaint is that they make it look too easy. In Real Life, a family in which both parents work full time jobs (as a teacher and a policewoman no less!) would not be able to be so successful in raising that many teenagers at one time- at least one of those adolescents would be pregnant or experimenting with alcohol by now. In Real Life, Callie and Jude would not be so well adjusted. One of them would be starting fights at school, running away about once a week, or at the very least, developing an unusual obsession with Pokemon. Yes, all of the children get into some sort of trouble at one point or another (cheating on an exam! Stealing and selling ADD medication! Unprotected sex!) but they all seem to happily learn their lessons and continue on with getting good grades, sharing meals together, and being impeccably dressed before the next child takes their turn at getting in trouble.

Callie even looks cute while chewing!

Somehow they have time for a leisurely morning coffee!

This, however, is only a minor annoyance among a season of valuable, eye opening stories. I recommend this show to friends and family whose only experience with foster children is the stories I tell after a long day at work. I tend to highlight the exhausting and the extreme, the ludicrous events at which I can laugh after the adrenaline fades. The Fosters touches on some of foster care’s ongoing obstacles and, hopefully, helps its viewers to develop empathy for the youth who face them.

The Fosters returns to ABC Family on Mondays in January 2014. Current episodes can be viewed on Hulu.