A few weeks ago, I was asked by a dear friend to share some of my experiences about growing up in the foster care system after she watched the short film “ReMoved.” I went into it knowing it made my friend ugly cry, so I decided to watch it while alone and with numerous tissues nearby. While the film didn’t unleash the floodgates, it brought back plenty of memories of my youth. Our foster care system is overworked and under-appreciated, which is why films like “ReMoved” matter so much, especially in the adoption community.

“ReMoved” is exhausting and haunting. The film showed the main character basically being looked through before her removal. She would go through her day, including school settings, without anyone truly batting an eyelash at her bruises and pure exhaustion. This happens all too often, and it is blatantly obvious that we are failing our youth. Even mandatory reporters tend to turn a blind eye. While there is a common misconception that the foster care system houses mainly infants and toddlers, the average age is actually over 9 years old. I was 12 when I was removed from my biological mother’s house. While I am stronger because of the adversity, social services and the adults who saw me in school failed me. Can you think of a situation where you might have seen something questionable and either turned a blind eye or decided it wasn’t your place to get involved? When in doubt, speak up and be an advocate.

Our little protagonist in “ReMoved” is adept at building walls and keeping her support systems at arm’s length. Children in foster care are truly damaged individuals. I would obviously never say this to be callous, but realistic. Children in foster care have learned to rely on themselves. They are great at pushing people away because most adults in their lives have failed them. Children in foster care also learn that nothing is permanent. About 25% of our youth in foster care will be moved three or more times in any given year. It takes a truly unique individual to become a foster parent who understands this.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 54% of foster care alumni suffer from some form of psychiatric problem, compared to 22% of the general population. That is a significantly high number, especially if the child is diagnosed with more than one disorder. The study by the American Academy of Pediatrics only focused on children with diagnoses of anxiety disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and substance abuse.

Thankfully, I only suffer from anxiety disorders, PTSD, and depression, but it is difficult to find a foster home willing to show love to a child who is hurting and has not learned how to accept help from adults yet. I remember the first time I was hugged by a foster parent; it was a surreal experience that actually sent me spiraling into a panic attack. We need more foster parents willing to adjust to a child’s timeline. I’m still not an affectionate individual and honestly assume I never will be.

While the protagonist warms up toward the end, she still does not know how to express her conflicting emotions. While I understand the mother hen mentality where you just want to scoop a child up that was placed with you and protect them from all harm, I wish we could be more aware of boundaries that need to be in place for the child to be more comfortable. Foster homes one through four taught me all about creating and maintaining boundaries, which is quite unfortunate. Love your foster children, but love them at their pace.

While “ReMoved” doesn’t exactly show the adoption take place, one can assume, judging by the ending, that the foster mom’s goal was to adopt the family group. Why are we not advocating for this in larger numbers? In 2012, over 23,000 children aged out of the foster care system. This means that on or around their 18th birthday, they moved out of their foster home or group home and hoped for the best. Research has shown that teens aging out of the system are highly likely to experience homelessness, poor health, and unemployment. Since more than 58,000 children in the foster care system have had their parents’ rights terminated, why does it take more than two years for these children to find permanent homes?

I realize every day how lucky I am. I finally found a home in which I was allowed to blossom. My foster parents not only recognized my talents and ambitions, but helped tap new experiences for me. When someone looks at me, they usually just see a well-adjusted college student who is determined to save the world. I have moved forward from the “Oh! You don’t seem like a foster kid” labels that once overshadowed my middle and high school experiences. They don’t see my internal battles or my past because I refuse to let my past define me. I refuse to accept responsibility for it anymore.

However, I am the minority. Let us work together to turn my story into the majority. Even if you aren’t sure if you’re ready to become a foster parent, consider volunteering or donating to a foster care cause. Think of something unique that not everyone would think of, whether it be mentoring a young adult or donating old prom dresses to make sure they also get a night to remember. Be that change.

If you have watched “ReMoved”, what are your thoughts? Do you believe it portrays foster care in a realistic light?