Fete Lifestyle Magazine September 2017 Family Issue - Page 39

Subverting Stereotypes

Foster Families,

the Untold American Story

By Martha Chandran-Dickerson

here are over 400,000

children in the

American Foster Care

System, ominously

referred to as “the

System.” Despite this

prevalence, the


surrounding fostering

stubbornly persist, partly due to the narratives perpetuated by the media. The press tends to focus on the exceptions versus the norms. Sensationalism cynically sells. Similarly, Hollywood’s perspective on foster families is often reductive; foster parents are deified as rescuers or demonized as predators. Biological parents and foster children are often whittled to caricatures as well. The challenge in scripting authentic accounts is the complexity of these stories, asserts Ari Karpel, rendering it almost impossible for Hollywood to create stories with characters approaching realism. Recently the industry has attempted nuanced portrayals. However, the task to subvert deeply seated stereotypes is overwhelming given that the average foster family isn’t vastly different from the average family. This does not make for particularly engaging TV. Moreover, foster families are misunderstood due to the inherent sensitivity shrouding foster care; people are reticent to dialogue regarding the details of foster care for fear of offending those involved. The reality is however, that there are foster families willing to draw back the curtain, inviting us to take a closer look. I had the privilege of interviewing three foster families, who shared their stories.