Foster children have been portrayed in movies and television shows as rogue, mysterious and badass. Often, these kids are branded heroes for disobeying the status quo and making their own rules as they go along.
Not only does this paint a bad image for the community, but propagates a false narrative of what foster care is really like.
“The only thing I could think to do was to welcome them into my gingerbread home that smelled like cookies, where I thought everything was perfect,” said Michelle Burnette, a foster parent for more than 40 kids over the course of 15 years in an interview with NPR. “Instead of that happening, I was met with ‘don’t touch me,’ ‘you’re not my mommy,’ and these screams. And I started to panic, thinking to myself ‘I want my own mommy.’”
The media chooses to ignore the reality foster families face, allowing room for movies and television shows to subjectively brand foster kids—truthful or not.
“They don’t understand that these kids have lost everything,” said Burnette.
In movies and television, foster kids are represented in a series of unfortunate events and they bounce from system to system, family to family. Reporters and writers focus on the negative when addressing foster care. However, not every foster kid is on the run, wearing a leather jacket, or found in a cage awaiting the police or Child Protective Services.
According to children’s rights.org, there are nearly half a million children in foster care in the United States. Yet, these children are not involved in the decisions made about their lives.
Not all foster parents are in it for the money, and what aid they do receive is to help support the child. The process of becoming a foster parent is long and hard. In Texas alone, there are 16 basic requirements all potential foster parents need to complete before the interview and visitation process.
While it is important we focus on the injustices some foster children face, creating a caricature of them in the media is dangerous. Movies such as “August Rush,” “Gracie’s Choice” and “The Space Between Us” paint foster care and adoption in the wrong light by not focusing on family reunions or adoptions.
Children need the help and support from individuals such as Burnette and cannot depend solely on themselves in order to truly be “badass.”
– Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism freshman