Every year there are countless children entering the foster care system who need homes. The story of the journey they go on to make their way there, of how houses become those homes, strangers become families, and anxious sleepless nights give way to trust, peace, and safety is one full of challenges but also extraordinary love and hope. Unfortunately, the stream of people joining to become foster parents is outpaced by an ever-growing need and many children find themselves in limbo- flitting between one temporary placement after the other or caught up in a systemic eddy where they find themselves adrift. Older children and teens are especially vulnerable to becoming overlooked during a time in their lives they need stability more than ever to make sure they can be successful in life and to enter each chapter of it with a lasting sense of feeling supported and cared about.
Kidsave is an organization that has made it their mission to make sure these children don’t fall through the cracks and is dedicated to matching foster children between the ages of 9-17 with permanent adoptive placements. One of the best ways to help create strong lasting matches is by offering a place where kids can choose parents and organically build bonds that start by getting to meet and be themselves through interactive fun events like the ones Kidsave hosts monthly.
Sean Anders drew from his real-life experience as a foster parent and his journey adopting his daughter as inspiration for the movie Instant Family which he Directed and Co-Wrote with John Morris. Anders commented on his experience by saying:
“Right now, there are too many people who think of this as charity, ‘What a wonderful thing you are doing for these poor kids!’ but that’s not it all, these kids bring so much into your life, they bring you so much more than you bring them. My kids are the best things that ever happened to my wife and I.”
When asked about his choice to make the movie a comedy he said:
“That’s what I do for a living, I make comedy. But also, movies about adoption and foster care usually either sugar coat everything and they aren’t realistic in any way, or they just focus on the trauma and tragedy and hard times of all of it. But when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel like endless trauma and hard times, it feels like difficult times that you have to work through, you have to acknowledge that and look through that, but there also is so much joy and laughter and awkward funny things that happen.”
The film stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne who play a couple that go from zero to full house when they agree to foster a bright out-spoken teenage girl and her two adorable but rambunctious younger siblings and have to learn how to become parents overnight without any training wheels. Their familial growth spurt isn’t without its growing-pains as they soon find out, but after a few tumbles it ultimately turns out to be a perfect fit for what they didn’t realize they were missing in their lives.
Instant Family is a funny and refreshingly realistic peek into the rollercoaster ride ups and downs of foster parenting, it doesn’t shy away from bringing up tough truths but is all the more endearing for it. The movie was quite well received in theaters and is releasing on Blu-ray which will contain lots of bonus content including deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, music video, and a segment about the movie’s inspiration and stories from real foster families.
Over the past weekend Paramount teamed up with Kidsave to host a foster care advocacy event and invited lucky kids and potential parents to visit the studio lot. Kids and adults got to go on a very special scavenger hunt that took them all across the historic famed studio grounds and let them participate in interactive video challenges. Among the attendees at the event were Sean Anders who was also a guest speaker, the CEO of Kidsave Randi Thompson, and actors from the film including comedian Tig Notaro and Julie Hagerty of Airplane!fame.
Randi Thompson started the Kidsave organization after seeing older kids become forgotten and left to fend for themselves in systems that are supposed to find them homes and make them feel safe. She spoke a bit about what sets Kidsave different than other organizations and resources available to foster children.
“It’s a very different approach because the typical child welfare approach has someone who is interested in adoption of foster care and they go through the application into the system and they put it in and they say what ages they’re looking for and they get a referral and it comes back they decide on paper if they are going to move forward to the next step.
But the kids that we’re advocating for typically aren’t the ones that people put on their application that they would like to adopt because they are older, mostly teenagers, and not the kids people are thinking about- they think that it’s too late.
But what we do, is focus very specifically on individual kids and bring them in to a community. These events are really community. And bring in interested adults that either just want to help a child or are interested in fostering or adoption. And we bring them together without the pressure. And the kids get to say who they like, and who they are interested in. And it’s really empowering for them. These kids find it hard at first to trust adults, all their lives they have just been helped by people who they see as doing it just to get paid or an obligation. Our families are all volunteers.”
Julie Hagerty plays a sweet grandmother who is part of the less than always perfect and understanding birth relatives that come part and parcel with foster parents. The bond to the new additions to their family grows through many funny moments, including one where she receives a less than glamorous sharpie-marker makeover from them.
“That design they draw on my face is actually from Mark Wahlberg’s son! He had a picture where he had that on his face and the make-up artist copied that. That exact one. So that was really fun! I forgot that I had it on all day and I went to lunch and people were kinda looking.”
Tig Notaro is known for tackling difficult and personal subjects with humor in her comedy. In the movie she plays a foster care social worker. For Tig Notaro adoption is a subject she relates to on a personal level, having brought a set of twins into her life recently, and says working on the film rekindled interest in the possibility of growing that family by adopting more children. She commented on taking on a comedic role where she plays someone who has a job that can typically be filled with seeing a lot of hard things and going about making it a funny character and viewing experience.
“The role seemed really well written for me, they did a great job on the script. Comedy and sadness and drama it’s all mixed in the pot of day to day life so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to weave it all in there.”
Getting to work on a movie that has a positive purpose that resonates on a personal level as well made for a great experience for Tig who commented:
“When I was on set it hit me one day how lucky I am to be involved with a movie like this and being involved in this project. I emailed Sean about how great this movie is and how many lives it’s going to change and thanked him for including me in it. It feels good to do things that make people feel good. I had a blast, it was one of the most positive experiences I’ve had on TV shows or film!”
To learn more about Kidsave and other events visit kidsave.org
Instant Family is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy!