Film and Music
LIGHTS, CAMERA, AND LIFE
Our lives can easily be paralleled to a football game. In the first quarter, everything is new and happens quickly. Players are moved to center field without hesitation just as children are removed from their families and placed into the system. Before there is time to even focus on the consequences of the first quarter you have already entered the second quarter, which is a critical point for children in the foster care system. Foster children begin to understand the system and adjust accordingly to the new way of living. Some adjust better than others, but in many situations that I have witnessed, children have little hope to push them forward. But it’s already halftime and now you are facing aging out of the system. The first two quarters were important, but they still weren’t enough to prepare you for the last half of the game. You have seen the first half of the game and the outcomes are not looking favorable. In the first half, you were told about your mistakes and errors, but now it’s third quarter and it’s your chance to change the momentum and put the game in your favor. Only once you come to this realization will you push forward and determine the outcome of your game or how you will make it in the real world. This may seem daunting, but once you reach the end of your game, you can share your experiences with others and give them the strength to play the best game they can. However, if you do not make it to the end (you forfeit, you give up on yourself, or you let the opposing team take over) then you cannot be a teammate to lead or inspire others. If we support one another to play the best game we can, we will no longer find negative statistics when we Google search “Foster Youth Aging Out.” Instead we will find success stories from our fellow foster youth and increase our WINNING record!
I know that by using this analogy, many of you are thinking about the story of Michael Oher and the movie the “Blind Side.” (Warner Brothers 2010) Most fail to recognize that Oher’s early childhood is very much like foster children’s situations. Furthermore, few realize how many famous individuals we recognize by name who have made it through the foster care system. (ImAFoster.Com 2017) These celebrities are far different from society's “Lil Annie” stereotype placed on most foster children. These success stories are heartwarming and comforting for foster children to see and there are many similar success stories that are simply untold. However, such success stories about an average citizen are hard to find. (Barth 1990) I have heard the phrase “overcoming the negative statistic” many times during my time in and out of foster care. Many children freshly out of the system are making positive impacts, but unfortunately, they are constantly reminded and defined by society’s belief that they will fall into the overwhelming negative statistic. Children are doomed to face a label as a negative statistic even before they enter the system because foster children are labeled with a negative identity. This unfortunately leads many impressionable children to fall under the pressure of this stereotype and accept this negative identity. This negative statistic has been imposed on foster children for several reasons, but first, what is a negative statistic? In terms of foster care, these statistics refer to children in the system who are unable to reach success or progress forward with their lives and ultimately turn toward delinquent paths. (Reilly 2003) The support behind this theory is the percentages of foster children that drop out of school and do not seek future education, end up on the streets, or find themselves behind bars. (Nunn 2012) It would be deceitful to say these statistics are not oftentimes the future for these children. In my own foster experience, many of my brothers and sisters entered these paths of delinquency and some saw the end of their journey far too soon. I believe these impressionable children fell victim to these terrible decisions and fatal endings because they were never shown the light of a brighter future. To change your own story and put it on a path toward success, you need hope and an understanding that you are not alone in this world. No story is too difficult to change, just as no happy ending is unreachable!
In school systems, there are many different educators and administrators who use academics and the institutional environment to teach students how to live their lives and conduct themselves within society. However, what many academic figures fail to realize is that youth today oftentimes learn more through extracurricular activities, coaches and sports programs. Two movies that share this methodology are: Gridiron Gang and Coach Carter.
Gridiron Gang tells a story about two correctional officers at a juvenile detention institution who were struggling to find ways to stop the growing trend among juveniles to commit the same crimes repeatedly and irreparably damage their futures. (Sony Pictures 2014) The officers decided to start a football team to help teach youth how to break down their walls and coexist with others (different races and gangs) so that they might live in society. In the end, 75% of the football team attained success later in their life and did not fall back into their poor routine habits.
MOVIES AND TV SHOWS
Gridiron Gang (2006 Movie)
Coach Carter (2005 Movie)
The Fosters (2013 TV Series)
Goodwill Hunting (1997 Movie)
The Blind Side (2009 Movie)
Juno (2007 Movie)
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006 Movie)
Foster Care Film uses film and media to give foster youth a voice to share their stories and hardships in a way that will inform and instruct the public on the impacts of foster care. Through their program, they connect children to different role models to help youth find a happy ending of their own! Check out their film series and reach out at http://fostercarefilm.com/
Michael Giannini was contact I made through one of many support groups for foster kids on social media. Michael comes from the foster care system, but has found a way to express his memories and feelings through his own gift of music. Listen to his song DCYF that tells his story.
Barth, R. S. (1990). Improving Schools from Within: Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
Hallam, S. (2010). The Power of Music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education , 28(3)
ImAFoster.Com. (2017). Some Foster Kids That Have Gone On To Become Famous. Retrieved from http://www.imafoster.com/2011/09/some-foster-kids-that-have-gone-on-to-become-famous.html
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. (n.d.). AGING OUT. Retrieved from
Nunn, N. (2012). Culture and the Historical Process. Economic History of Developing Regions, 27, 108–126
Reilly, T. (2003). Transition from care: Status and outcomes of youth who age out of foster care.
Child Welfare, 82(6), 727–46
Sacks, O. (2006). The Power of Music. Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 129(10), 2528–2532.
Smyth, P. (2013). A Different Approach to High-Risk Youths. Social Work Today, 13(9), 10
Social Work Policy Institute. (2010). Child Trauma. Retrieved from
Sony Pictures. (2014). Gridiron Gang. Retrieved from
Warner Brothers. (2010). The Blind Side. Retrieved from
"Gridiron Gang" (2006)
Gridiron Gang based upon a true story
In a similar way, Coach Carter used basketball as a method but focused lessons of the game and applying them to real world scenarios. In the movie, the coach graduated from the same school he is coaching and his methodology was a result of witnessing the failure of his teammates to succeed beyond high school. As he transitions to coach, he sees similar trends repeating from when he was a student where the boys are expected only to be “hoop stars” and nothing more. Coach Carter wanted more for his players, but even more than that, he wanted them to expect more out of themselves and their futures. These men learned the importance of protecting their school basketball record and you can go the extra mile beyond the court. This helped them acclimate to the mindset of academics and personal life decisions beyond sports. In the minds of many, basketball seemed like a small variable, but from the correct standpoint, one will realize that basketball was the framework for this group of men to become great citizens for society instead of forgotten high school players.
"Coach Carter" (2005)
In many different scenes throughout movies, foster youth can correlate different situations and experiences that follow suit within their own lives. In the very beginning of the Gridiron Gang, the officers begin to discuss how the system and policies in place for institutions are non-void. This is because they keep releasing children back into the streets and they ultimately return to jail or die once released. Foster youth understand this same principal after seeing many fellow fosters released at the age of eighteen who are unable to properly adjust to society. (Badeau 2009) Like the movies suggest, the solution would be to create functions that would help guide the children on the principals they need in order improve their chances for success. (The Jim Casey) In The Blind Side, Oher took a strength test to assess his mindset and his sense of character. It was no surprise to his mother that he scored incredibly high in the protective section. The mother helped the coach to realize how this attribute would help Oher to be successful on the field and in life as well. Social workers have the hard task to connect with children who come from difficult backgrounds and past traumas. (Social Work Policy Institute 2010) Not many people have been properly trained to conduct the correct methods with foster youth and therefore many are moved from home to home or end up in terrible situations. By understanding the meaning behind human behavior in foster youth, some social workers have been able to adapt these children to their methods so that growth and progress can be initiated. (Smyth 2013) However the responsibility cannot only rely on these individuals. Foster youth have a responsibility to overcome their own obstacles and share their stories with fellow foster youth. To be alone and on your own is terrifying. However, these characters in these movies were not alone because they had their team to rely on. In the same way, you are not alone because you have your fellow foster family to lean on!
When watching these films, the famous actors or the entertainment is not the main message that should be taken. Many people often reference foster care youth based off the simple movie that society believes is a clear representation of this topic. From personal experience, anytime I would share my story or situation with someone, they would compare my story to that of Annie’s. The movies I presented in this assignment help represent my story, but also present a relatable story and outcome that many foster youths can look toward as opposed to the happy ending Annie receives when a family adopts her. These movies taught the values a foster community should provide for youth to channel their struggles and hardships into productivity. These movies are just examples and you may find more relatable stories in other films than these.
In conclusion, these movies provide the necessary lessons for our foster youth to learn because they provide real accounts on life and its possibilities. At a certain age, children are expected to leave the system and prove they can be successful members of society. With these movies, I believe that they help teach the needed discipline that will push foster youth to face the odds and create their own successful future! You can use the chat below to share additional movies or TV Shows that inspire you so that you may inspire others! Why wait for someone to tell you how your story will end? You have the power to create your ending!
“This is my temporary home; it's not where I belong. Windows and rooms that I'm passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where I'm going I'm not afraid because I know. This is my temporary home.” This lyric comes from the song Temporary Home which was performed by Carrie Underwood in 2009. Before this first chorus, the song talks about a young boy who has been passed around from home to home in the foster care system. All who see his life from the outside are frightened and disheartened for his future of what will come of his life. Constant moving always brings new changes so he is always adapting. Although this may just appear as a captivating song, this truly happens to foster children. When the foster care system finds a placement for the child, there is never a guarantee that it will be the final placement. As children are moved from home to home or institution to institution, their emotional response to this chaos is never truly heard or understood. During this arduous journey, most of the children feel lost and have no sense of belonging to one place. When I was going through the foster care system, I experienced many of these similar feelings. Once I aged out of the system, I managed to defy the overarching negative stereotype of foster youth and so have many other beautiful foster brothers and sisters. There is a light at the end of tunnel and your temporary home will become permanent someday!
"Temporary Home" by Carrie Underwood 2009
Just as we discussed the power of movies above, many other forms of art can create the same passion and the same lasting effect. Paintings can captivate the hearts and soul of their viewers and sculptures can create a moment in time. However, many people do not realize the power of music since it is common in society and easily attained. To many people, music creates an emotional release to either stimulate them to dance, nod their head, or sing the lyrics in unison. Oliver Sacks (2006) elaborates that these muscle movements are so much so an instinctive responsive that we hardly notice the gentle tap of our foot when a song comes on. Something as powerful as music could be used for far beyond selling out stadiums and creating moments of silence. The power of music is astounding, but furthermore, it has no limit nor can it be measured. One of music’s main objectives is to bring people together in harmony and allow people to ignore their differences and create one identity. (Sacks 2006) Music has gone beyond entertainment and created a powerful avenue for self-expression. If music can create such a dramatic movement, why can’t it do the same thing for foster care youth?
Many artists who create their songs often tell stories of pain and strife or positivity and triumph. We like to sing along because it includes us in the song but when we recite lyrics, we are doing more than simply singing. I remember many times in foster care that I would find a song correlating with my situation and when I recited those lyrics, I not only sang along, but I empathized with the writer on another level because I understood their story. Many artists tell stories and share emotions with which we connect beyond musical enjoyment, if we listen to the lyrics. Susan Hallam (2010) shares how music can provide relief and therapy for certain stressors. Music can indeed give the common foster youth a reprieve from their own reality so that they may reexamine their situation with a refreshed and engaged outlook. Understanding how to use the benefits of music can make a difference for those aging out of the system. Music is played at sport games or the climax of a movie to tap into our internal rhythm and sync us together for the common goal of the scenario. In the same way, music can light the motivation needed to press foster youth on through its catchy beat and heartfelt lyrics. The only way to truly understand the power of music as a discipline is to plug in your headphones.
Below in the chat, you can share songs that also inspire you so that I can add them to the playlist above! If you are looking for music that might relate to foster youth’s experiences, listen to the Real Life Annie Spotify playlist!
It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.”
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”