Sarah Ford | June 17, 2014

We Know How to Change Foster Care

By Juan Carlos Piñeiro Escoriaza

In 2010 I got a call from the founder of a nonprofit called the Possibility Project, requesting a meeting — they wanted to make a movie that would empower a group of foster care youth to tell their stories.

Originally I thought the film might be more of a hybrid between documentary and fiction, but the point was to give the youth a platform to tell their own stories. The film, called Know How, is a musical drama based on foster care youth’s real life stories.

Before I sat down with the foster care cast, I really didn’t know that much about foster care other than bits and pieces I’d read in the news. We sat at that round table five or six hours straight, story after story, one youth’s voice leading into another, heart wrenching and hopeful at once. It was an eye-opening experience where I learned about a system that had underserved them and many other foster care youth.

Their stories began at home, parent’s drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, stealing to survive, skipping school for months at a time, finding ways to overcome difficult odds. Then they were taken from their home, and dropped into a system where they were seen as numbers, with lawyers and judges who they didn’t fully understand, caseworkers who didn’t advocate for them, abusive foster parents who didn’t give them enough money to live, treatment centers that overmedicated them with prescription drugs, and the list went on. Grievance after grievance piled up, one on top of another, and it was difficult to respond. How did we let this happen? How could their voices have gone unheard?

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