I have had very little experience with the Foster Care system in America and don’t really know a great deal about what living in a Foster Home would be like. The film “Short Term 12” provides a powerful and brutally honest introduction to something that I still cannot fully grasp, but would like to become more involved with.
“Short Term 12” gives insight into the lives of a few children living in a foster care facility for at risk teenagers as well as into the lives of their adult supervisors, who have shared similar hardships as adolescents. The characters have been left emotionally fragile by the hardships that they have endured and I found myself continuously rooting for them to overcome their difficult backgrounds and enjoy true moments of happiness, which they do at various points in the film.
The characters in the film face very real problems: abusive and neglectful parents, abandonment, the loss of loved ones, and the fear of facing the world as an adult. While it appears that they have been flooded with advice and help from a variety of professionals, a significant portion of this advice and help seems to miss the mark in getting to the heart of the problems that these children face.
The only people in the film that are able to truly understand the raw emotions of the children living in the home are their caregivers who have been in their shoes and experienced similar trauma. They do not try and correct the minds of the children or offer advice in an attempt to change them, but instead realize that they are there to create a safe environment. The caregivers recognize that no matter what they do, they will not be able to erase the trauma and hardships faced by these kids but understand that by providing them with a caring environment they can lay the foundation for a meaningful future.
The film made me realize a few things. First, it gave me a better understanding of just how severe and awful some of the problems foster kids face really are. The basic understanding of foster kids that I think a lot of people have is that they are simply children without parents. Most people are unaware of the magnitude of the problems foster kids, such as the ones in the film, face and that in many situations these children have been sexually abused, beaten, and then abandoned and left alone without anyone to love them. The film did a good job of presenting a multitude of issues faced by foster children, such as child abuse, without making them seem unrealistic.
The film also made me realize that foster children need help on many levels. However, they don’t just need help from legal advisors and psychiatrists, whose only qualifications are graduate degrees, but rather they need people like Grace, the film’s heroine, who understand their problems and know where they are coming from. People like Grace can provide foster kids with the love and support that are needed to help nurture them until the day they turn eighteen and are set off to face the world on their own.
“Short Term 12” is a brilliantly made film that takes its viewers on an emotional rollercoaster and has you cheering for the mental, emotional and overall well being of the characters, for the entire ride.
Evan Molineux is a summer intern Fostering Media Connections.