When director, Yasmin Mistry asked me to participate in her Foster Care Film: Beautiful Raw documentary, I felt humbled and honored to have a chance to share my story. Honestly, if she had asked me a few year’s ago I don’t know that I would have been as comfortable letting people in, but I’m in a place in my life where it felt right. Being a former foster kid comes with a lot of stigmas and labels that are usually assigned by people who have never known what it is like to be in such a challenging situation. Over the years, I’ve fielded some tough questions about my background and some hurtful glances, but taking part in this project has been a way for me to help re-frame the conversation.
Yasmin, who conceived the film after spending time working as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in New York City is empowering dozens of former and current foster youth to give voice to their stories. The documentary was started as an animated short, but the stories she captured were so inspiring that the project is being expanded to include live-action videos and training assets.
The full-project has grown so big that the editing will take a few years to complete. In the interim, Yasmin’s been sharing clips of the raw footage with child care organizations at educational events. I recently spoke with her at Bronx Family Court in New York City and was able to share to my journey in and out of foster care. The audience was made up of social workers, judges and child advocates. It was amazing to be in a room of individuals so committed to helping kids when they need it most. It was also encouraging to hear how much they wanted to help counter the stigmas that get labeled to foster youth.
It can be easy to forget that foster kids end up in “the system” through no fault of their own. We’re not defective or missing some attribute that robs us of our desire to be happy and loved. Foster youth are simply kids. Kids that were removed from challenging situations, yes. But, still kids that deserve love, understanding and a home (like everyone else).
It was cathartic to be back in a Family Court building again after all these years. I’ve come such a long way from that little girl that felt so alone and am so proud of all I’ve accomplished. I’m happy for the opportunity to share my journey and hope that this project will inspire more people to look at foster youth with clear eyes.
To find out more about the Foster Care Film check out their Facebook and Twitter pages. I’ll also be speaking on behalf of Foster Care Films at the Manhattan Family Court in October. You can email here to find out more or to request a screening/panel talk for your group: firstname.lastname@example.org.