Brie Time, Baby! Looking Back on Larson’s Foster Care Classic

There were a few surprises at last night’s Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture going to the spectacular “Spotlight.” It was no surprise, however, that heavy favorite Brie Larson took Best Actress for “The Room.”

Youth Services Insider thought it was an appropriate time to remind folks today that Larson’s ascendance to last night included a beautiful turn in Short Term 12, a 2013 film from Destin Cretton about life at a group home for youths in foster care.

Larson plays Grace, a veteran youth worker tasked with keeping life stable for a home where the ages range from pre-K to aging out. Meanwhile, she is forced to make decisions about her own future that are colored by her own childhood.

You can click here to read our review of Short Term 12, which is currently available on Netflix, but here is the gist of it:

In Cretton’s world, authenticity becomes the currency of competence for adults at Short Term 12. Grace and Mason, the two veterans of the place, earn the respect of the youths at least in part because they both had personal experiences with abuse and abandonment. A new staffer, clowned by the kids upon arrival for his insincere words and actions, gains credibility as he lets his guard down and takes an interest.

Cretton’s is not a film meant to push the discussion one way or another on group care, though I think it makes a subtle and artistic statement on the potential price of staff turnover in this field. It is a reminder that the innate humanity of the child welfare system is its greatest asset and challenge, a fact that should be remembered in every discussion of federal law, state policy and program evaluation.

It really is worth a watch, for scenes like this one:

Meanwhile, Short Term 12 Director Cretton is working on a new television project on the juvenile justice system. Variety reported last week that Cretton and Fruitvale Station/Creed Director Ryan Coogler are developing “Minors,” a series that will explore the impact of institutionalization through the prism of “juvenile facilities and the kids that grow up in the system.”

Cretton, presumably watching from home, kept his reaction to Larson’s win succinct:


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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at