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Short Term 12 offers glimpse into world of foster children

Official movie poster. Image courtesy of Short Term 12 website.

Official movie poster. Image courtesy of Short Term 12 website.

In “Short Term 12 Grace (actress Brie Larson) is a supervisor at a residential home for foster children.

Grace is strongly committed to helping her charges recover from abuse and neglect, and uses a mixture of charm and tough love to connect with them.

But little do the teenagers know Grace has a lot of psychological baggage herself, including being abused.

This baggage becomes almost too heavy for Grace to carry when early in the film she discovers she is pregnant by her boyfriend/co-worker, her father will soon be released from prison, and a new resident named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives who reminds her of her traumatic past.

Destin Daniel Cretton, 34, director and writer of “Short Term 12,” told SocialWorkerSpeak.org he decided to do the film to show the public what it is like to be a foster child and to work with foster children. Cretton also worked in a foster care facility himself, and some of the plot of the film reflects his experiences.

Other than the ABC Family drama “The Fosters,” very few television programs or movies feature foster children, Cretton said. However, there were an estimated 400,540 children in foster care in the United States as of September 2011, with about half living in a non-relative’s home, according to Children’s Bureau statistics.

“I hope it’s an important film for anybody to watch,” he said. “For somebody who doesn’t know anything about the foster care world I think they can find the movie interesting on that level — just being introduced to what it looks and feels like to work in that environment.”

Short Term 12 writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton and actress Brie Larson, who portrays Grace, after winning an aawrd at the 2013 SXSW Film Awards in Austin Texas.

Short Term 12 writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton and actress Brie Larson, who portrays Grace, after winning an aawrd at the 2013 SXSW Film Awards in Austin Texas.

“Short Term 12″ will premiere in Los Angeles and New York today and run in limited theaters in weeks ahead. Although it is being shown on fewer screens the small film with a big heart is getting favorable reviews from The New York Times, Huffington Post, and other major news outlets.

Some news reports identify Grace as a social worker but Cretton said he intended her to be a counselor who gained a supervisor position by “sticking it out and working up the ranks.” However Grace’s boss Jack (actor Frantz Turner), who Grace says has a master’s degree, is intended to be a social worker, Cretton said.

There is an emotional scene where Grace goes to Jack when Jayden tells her a make-believe children’s story that hints she may have been abused by her father. However, Jack says Grace must get solid evidence before he and staff can act to stop Jayden from visiting home and alert authorities about her father.

Cretton says from working in a foster care facility he gained much respect for social workers and other professionals who work with foster children. Cretton’s sister, Spring Cretton, is also a hospice social worker and he learned even more about the profession through her.

“I see how much strength it takes to go to work every day and go home and not let it weigh you down,” Cretton said. “I feel like social workers, psychologists, teachers and counselors are on the front line of a very important war that is being fought right here in this country.”

“I think they are some of the bravest and most caring people I’ve ever met,” he said.

Social workers play a key role in helping create new families for children through adoption, find foster homes for children who need care and protection, and work to reunite children with their families whenever possible. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Adoptions and Foster Care website.

 

 

 

 

 

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