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Actor Blair Underwood to Pitch TV Show on Foster Kids, Social Workers

Blair Underwood. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

Rob Woronoff, a former program director at the Child Welfare League of America, knows the public often has a poor image of foster care and the social workers, case managers and others who help children in the foster care system.

“There are so many great stories about kids in the system,” said Woronoff, who lives in Los Angeles. “People only hear the crap in the news and it keeps them afraid and away from the system.”

So Woronoff decided to write the script for a positive television series about foster children. Fortunately, Woronoff has a friend in a high place to help him — actor Blair Underwood. The two became friends when they majored in drama at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama in Pittsburgh.

Woronoff went out to Los Angeles, met with Underwood about his idea, and along with others formed a small production company to bring Woronoff’s stories to life on the small screen.

It is not a surprise Underwood, who recently starred in NBC’s sci-fi TV series “The Event” as President Elias Martinez, is interested in such socially relevant topics. One of his sisters was in foster care before Underwood’s parents adopted her. Underwood, who also starred in HBO’s “Sex and City” and NBC’s “L.A. Law”, has also spoken on behalf of children in foster care and other humanitarian causes.

In fact, Underwood last year told ABC television reporters (click here to read and watch the full article andnews clip) he was interested in doing a show about foster children but people thought the idea “too depressing.”

“There are painful things yes, but there’s hope,” he said.

Rob Woronoff

However, Woronoff said response to the proposed television show among studio executives has been encouraging and the team plans to soon pitch it to a television network.

But along the way the focus of the project has changed. At first Underwood was going to star in the drama but now he is more interested in development and directing, Woronoff said.

Woronoff, who got ideas for the show from volunteering with children and working with the Child Welfare League, at first wanted to do a program modeled on “Law and Order” where there would be a different story about a foster child each week.

For instance, in the pilot episode he wrote a homeless woman with schizophrenia lived in a box with her three children behind a donut shop. One of the children sees a billboard with an advertisement seeking foster parents and decides to call the 800 number for help.

That phone call sets into motion a story involving mental illness, homelessness and the push to help a family caught in bad circumstances.

However, entertainment industry insiders said in order to sell the show to a network it would be better to have a recurring team of social workers that helped children each week.

 “We have spent the last months changing it,” Woronoff said. “I can sell the show about advocates — as triumphant social workers who help kids in peril.”

“We can get in the back door if we can get the show about social workers,” he said.

To learn more about how social workers help families, including children in the foster care system, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Kids & Families Website by clicking here. You can also visit Rob Woronoff’s Website by clicking here.

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2 Comments

  1. I think this is an image long overdue in the media. It could help improve the face of social work in child welfare. There are so many families that could benefit from the involvement of social workers but the social stigma attached to this profession prevents them and the communities that they live in from seeking help. It would be great to hear more positive outcomes in the media:-)

  2. Finally, As a Liscensed Clinical Social Worker, with a Post Graduate degree from The New York Institute For Psychotherapy Training In Infancy, Childhood and Adolescence (a program that trains therapists to work with children in need) I applaud this effort to reduce the stigma and fear that the word “Social Worker” means to families in crisis and families who would love to be truly helped. So many familes could be transformed and really improve the quality of their own and their kids lives!! Among the different hats I have worn as a Social Worker my favorite was when
    I worked Early Intervention, making home visits in New York City (to mostly all of Brooklyn areas) advocating for needy people, crisis situations, kids with disabilities, mom’s and dad’s both who needed serious support mentally, emotionally, abused and neglected kids…… I visited Safe Houses, Crack Houses, Shelters, homes with only soda crates for furniture the list can go on…. I loved each and every one of the people I met and I was serious in helping them, understanding them and making them safe and reducing their pain and problems. Connecting was so hard with some. I recall visiting a 1 bedroom apartment where ACS made the referral and I knew they were in there strung out and paranoid but with a little baby………….I not only got in but got their trust and got them help and their real story and explored with them their dynamics, the situations, traumas that led to their current life situation and the worked to get them the things they would need to hopefully overcome their obstacles and learn to parent or decide what they would want for their brand new baby. Social Workers who assess the needs and priorities of their clients in the most nonjudgmental of ways. I have seen such pain and made sure I developed the skills us social workers sometimes doubt we have (but they grow with every experience) and make emotional connections to help provide safety and to serve who I needed to in a way that the families were willing to cooperate and then follow through that the would get the help they need. I look forward to your work and hope that the portrayal of Therapists and Social Workers as Humans who really care for other humans no matter where they come from, what lifestyle they lead, what you have been, no matter what terrible traumas you encountered, the skills you may lack and want to learn, and promote healthy change in a humble dignified way and to be able to reflect to people the reality and if its working and make a plan to make life better.
    Signed A Social Worker who listens Elissa Grunwald,RLCSW

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