Foster Care Stories, produced by local Academy Award winning-filmmaker Bill Whiteford and filmed in cinema verité, captures the real-life stories of a diverse collection of people involved in the foster care system as they attempt to develop a sense of permanency within children who have found themselves in imperfect situations. Featuring children, caregivers and foster parents, Foster Care Stories is a close-up exploration of these children and their fervent hope for the emotional and physical refuge provided by stability.
One child—a 12 year old who was filmed when he was two years old, new to foster care, and whose story from then will be included—brings full circle his life story and his long search for emotional and physical permanence within an imperfect system.
Through master storytelling, the film defines permanency in relation to foster children. Is it a place? Is it a feeling, or a state of mind? Is it a legal goal that must be achieved, or is it an esoteric concept that is difficult to define? Why is permanence important to foster children, and how can it be achieved and nurtured?
Foster Care Stories: A Place to Be—the story of foster children trapped in social, legal and emotional limbo that are eager for reunion with the warmth and refuge provided by family, and permanence—endeavors to answer these difficult questions.
The documentary, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, premiered in May 2008 as part of National Foster Care Month, which serves to celebrate the network of foster parents, relative caregivers, mentors, advocates and social workers that have committed themselves to providing a safe home for the more than half a million children in foster homes across the United States. Foster Care Stories will rebroadcast again on MPT Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 8 PM with a live phone bank to connect viewers to local foster care resources in their communities.
About the Producer
William “Bill Whiteford is the recipient of an Oscar® and a national Peabody Award for the short documentary, King Gimp; also a CableAce Award and national Emmy nomination for the documentary, Bong and Donnell. He is the recipient of six regional Emmy Awards. His documentaries have been acquired and commissioned by HBO, The Learning channel, Discovery, PBS and Discovery Health. He is the co-director of the Video Press program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Bill Whiteford began producing documentaries in 1980, bringing to the screen the portrait of many “ordinary people” who have had exceptional life circumstances. Often Following his “documentary stars” for many years, his films capture the journey of life. His most famous works have featured the lives of children with physical disabilities and the experiences of elderly individuals.
An Interview with Lorelei Schaffhausen, associate producer
How did you choose the particular children in the film?
We wanted to show a combination of diverse ethnic groups, and make a neighborhood, family-based film. We wanted to do a film about permanency, the complicated situations, and multiple possibilities involved in foster care. We wanted to portray children who, after living through hell and unimaginable circumstances miraculously end up on their feet. I already knew some of the children and families personally by working with them for years prior to shooting, and knew they each had great stories to tell.
What is the biggest challenge facing the foster care system in Maryland?
Currently in the US, we have over 500,000 in need of foster care and we don’t have enough foster families & parents to meet that need. The demand is significantly higher than the supply. Maryland’s Department of Human Resources is always looking for families and parents willing to open their homes to kids in need. They supply training and resources to help support these foster families. More info.
What qualities do you think make a good foster parent?
A sense of inclusiveness, nonjudgmental, understanding & compassionate, empathetic, allows others to have their own opinions without taking it personally, has boundaries, and is able to show that they can take care of themselves before they take on others. The greatest gift you can give to any child is to be able to love and let go.
What are other ways that one can become involved with foster kids without becoming a foster parent?
There are many ways! Become a mentor. Donate clothing and toys for kids in transition. There’s always a need for Spanish-speaking tutors. Become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for a foster kid. More ways.