A new foster care documentary, Breaking the Cycle, explores exactly how intertwined the foster care system is with homelessness and human trafficking.
Filmmaker Arzo Yusuf captured multiple perspectives from people with close connections to the pipeline of living in foster care to becoming homeless or being sexually exploited, including a former foster youth and professionals who work with young people in foster care.
Personal accounts from former foster youth speak to the circumstances that led to their getting taken into foster care, as well as what it was like to reside in the care of strangers.
As Yusuf explains, when a predator is scoping out potential foster youth to turn on to trafficking, they manipulate these young people by mimicking the love and dependability that the foster youth feel they’ve lost in the system. Because most foster youth are not prepared to reject the false projections of security and personal investment that an exploiter may throw their way, the foster care system becomes a playground for opportunists to impose their will on impressionable youth.
Yusuf first got involved with the foster system when she started working for Angel’s Nest, an organization that assists young adults who have aged out of the foster system. It was there that she learned how the foster care system often serves as a pipeline into homelessness and commercial sexual exploitation.
“The system is incredibly broken,” Yusuf said.
The realization of how unaware the general public is about an issue that impacts all of society is what motivated Yusuf to create Breaking the Cycle, in hopes of using art and the media to bring people into this world and get them to care.
Georgette Todd, author of Foster Girl: A Memoir, appears in the documentary to offer the foster child’s perspective of the system.
“I am not destroyed by this, I’m wounded by it, and there’s a difference,” Todd wants people to know. “I am hoping this film will help survivors speak out more, only if it helps them heal, and I want people to know what we foster kids go through. You can’t expect people to be empathetic if they’re not fully informed.”
Breaking the Cycle will debut at a March 30 screening in Los Angeles. Yusuf has coordinated several organizations that will be on hand at the screening to provide more education and resources to those in attendance.
Face Forward, a nonprofit that works to empower survivors of human trafficking, will share information on their efforts to aid victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking by offering them pro-bono plastic surgery.
Connect Our Kids, a nonprofit building technology that will locate and connect extended family members quickly and efficiently to children languishing in the foster care system, will be opening the documentary with a commercial on how their technology will help social workers with their family recruitment process.
In addition to raising awareness through the film, Yusuf will donate proceeds and products from the cosmetic company she runs, Sexy Boss Babe, to organizations that aid human trafficking survivors.
The March 30 screening will be at the Husar Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills at 6 p.m., followed by a Q&A panel with the filmmaker and other advocates. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite; 100 percent of ticket sales will be donated to Face Forward.
Correction: This article originally misspelled the name of filmmaker Arzo Yusuf. It has been updated to correct the error.
This article has been updated with additional information.