New public service announcements are being released today to encourage more adults to get involved in the lives of youth in care. As part of National Foster Care Awareness Month this May, both the Stuart Foundation and the Walt Disney Company came together to produce three commercials aimed at galvanizing communities around supporting youth in care.
“I am amazing. I’m not a sad case or a broken kid,” says a young girl in the opening of the videos, in an effort to destroy the stigma and stereotypes of youth in care. The video ends with a call to action not to just become a foster parent, but to mentor or become a friend – one of many ways to get involved in supporting foster youths’ success.
“I want someone to see the best of who I am,” says the young narrator.
These commercials will be released throughout 200 of Disney’s media affiliates nationwide. The message that will be permeated from these commercials came from the hearts of former and current foster youth themselves.
David Ambroz is the Director of Corporate Citizenship at the Disney Corporation and a former foster youth. He reached out to the Stuart Foundation and said Disney has great opportunity to spread messages across its affiliates and radio stations, and wanted to spread a positive message about youth in care.
“We recognized the majority of existing PSAs portray foster youth in a sad and negative light – images of neglected, rejected kids who largely unsuccessful in school in life – that without adults swooping in to save and fix what’s wrong – they [the youth] were toast,” said Michelle Francois, associate director of child welfare at the Stuart Foundation. Francois is also a former foster youth.
“And we wanted to shift that message so that the general public makes a connection with foster youth in a positive way and feel compelled to help them realize the potential that already exists within them. Adults – teachers, coaches, mentors and foster parents are not there to save foster youth but help lift them up,” said Francois.
So the Stuart Foundation and Disney convened a group of foster care experts to plan a vision for the commercial messages. Foster youth groups like Foster Club and Foster Care Alumni Association were included. Fostering Media Connections, the parent company to the Chronicle, was also involved.
Soon after, with a Stuart Foundation budget of $20,000 and the donation of time by a number of filmmakers, the commercials were published. They will run intensively throughout Disney networks during advertising time worth close to 100 million dollars. The airtime Disney can make possible is unprecedented, especially for this issue.
“We really wanted to be sure it was out there and out there as broad as possible,” said Francois.
The commercials direct the audience to a website called Fostermore.org, which lists key partners in child welfare and lists ways to get involved in the lives of youth. Also featured on the website are personal stories of former foster youth produced by Mission Pictures, who has worked with Stuart in the past.
“We felt that all the media that came from foster youth was very sad, and while a lot of negative outcomes are true, that’s not the reality for most of foster youth, said Francois. “We wanted to create a positive message of foster youth that is inspirational and casts foster youth in a positive light.”