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Social Workers Give “The Fosters” a B Grade

Photo courtesy of ABC Family.

Scene from the “The Fosters.” Photo courtesy of ABC Family.

National Association of Social Workers officials and staff who sat in on a sneak preview of ABC’s upcoming series “The Fosters” last week gave the show a solid “B” grade, saying the pilot episode is dramatic and entertaining.

However the program, which looks at a lesbian couple raising a biological child, adopted twins and a troubled foster child, strayed from real-life social work on several plot points.

And NASW staff hope when the social worker character “Bill” (actor Geoffrey Rivas) makes an appearance in later episodes he will have a key role in helping the family address emotional problems the children may experience.

“There will be a whole lot for a professional social worker to do on this show,” said NASW Chief Executive Officer Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, who was formerly Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

“The Fosters” premieres tonight (Monday June 3) at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central.

The series is produced by actress and singer Jennifer Lopez and created by Brad Bredeweg and Peter Paige. Lopez said the series is in honor of her late aunt who was a lesbian and partially raised her.

It is coming at a time when there is more attention on families headed by gays and lesbians – the U.S. Supreme Court in June is expected to announce decisions that will affect how same sex marriage is treated in California and the rest of the United States.

The National Association of Social Workers wants to hear what you think about the “The Fosters.” Please watch the show and email comments to gwright@naswdc.org.

In the pilot episode school vice principal Lena Adams (actress Sherri Saum) is persuaded by a social worker to take in foster child Callie (Maia Mitchell), who has just been released from a juvenile detention center after a violent confrontation in her former foster home.

Lena makes the decision without first consulting her partner, police officer Stef Foster (Teri Polo), who cannot be immediately reached.

Bringing Callie into their home creates tension between Lena and Stef and sets off a chain of events that leads to Callie and Stef’s biological son Brandon (David Lambert) getting into a potentially deadly situation.

 

Cast of "The Fosters." Photo courtesy of ABC Family.

Cast of “The Fosters.” Photo courtesy of ABC Family.

NASW Senior Practice Associate Kamilah Omari, LMSW-C&M, ACSW,  who has worked with adolescents, enjoyed “The Fosters” pilot but is concerned the show could continue to perpetrate stereotypes that children who come out of the juvenile justice system are damaged and unwanted.

McClain and Mel Wilson, MBA, MSW, LCSW, manager of NASW’s Department of Social Justice and Human Rights, also said it is unlikely some of the actions that take place in the plot would occur in the real world.

For instance, social workers would have been called to help Callie after violence occurred in a foster home, Wilson said. And it is unlikely a professional social worker would introduce Callie to a potential foster parent in a juvenile detention center parking lot, they said.

McClain and Wilson said there is a detailed process before a child is placed, although they understood screenwriters probably wrote the scenes in that way for dramatic effect.

NASW Senior Staff Associate Rita Webb, agreed with some of the concerns about the pilot. However, she thinks the show is a good way to introduce the public and young people to what social workers do in the foster care system. It could teach viewers how to handle family disagreements and build healthier relationships, she said.

The conservative American Family Association and its website OneMillionMoms.com are protesting “The Fosters” for depicting two women in a relationship raising a family.

NASW reviewers said depicting Stef and Lena as a lesbian couple is not a big deal at all, and reflects current diversity in family life. The program has the potential to explore many issues that social workers help families overcome.

“Inaccuracies notwithstanding, I still think ‘The Fosters’ is a tremendous teaching tool,” said NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins, MSW, who gave the program a B-plus grade.

The National Association of Social Workers is a partner with the FosterMore.org website and has information on adoption and foster care at this resources web page. NASW is also committed to equal treatment for all, including members of the LGBT community. To learn more go to NASW’s Diversity and Equity website. 

 

 

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