Oprah Winfrey Network to Air Groundbreaking Foster Care Show July 3rd

Credit: The Oprah Winfrey Network From Left to Right: Judge Michael Nash, Jeanne Pritzker, Lauren Terp, Lisa Ling, Dominique Robinson, Neil Zanville, Aramand Montiel and Daniel Heimpel
Credit: The Oprah Winfrey Network
From Left to Right: Judge Michael Nash, Jeanne Pritzker, Lauren Terp, Lisa Ling, Dominique Robinson, Neil Zanville, Armand Montiel and Daniel Heimpel

On June 5th, I experienced the highest point yet in my professional and personal life.

Fostering Media Connection’s mission is to elevate the public discourse about the toughest moments children face. Through hard work, I found myself exactly where I always wanted to be: part of a team that has created the most meaningful television production on the child welfare system to date.

Along the way, I fell in love.

And it all converged on a Thursday night in Beverly Hills.

The setting was the home of Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker, who, through their non-profit organization Foster Care Counts, have become some of FMC’s greatest allies.

At the bow of their stunning ship-shaped estate, they hosted a private screening of an upcoming episode of “Our America with Lisa Ling”, an acclaimed docu-series that airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). OWN and Winnie Wechsler, executive director of the Anthony and Jean Pritzker Family Foundation, had been kind enough to ask me, as a co-producer of the 42-minute television documentary on Los Angeles County’s child welfare system, for help in assembling the guest list.

This meant sharing the warm evening air overlooking Century City and across the bay to Palos Verdes with people like Jill Stewart, the managing editor of LA Weekly. Stewart edited my first story on foster care in 2007 and taught me how to write all the way through the cover story that formed the platform of what would become Fostering Media Connections. There were also a host of journalists I deeply respect: Robert Greene, of The Los Angeles Times; KPCC’s Karen Foshay, who won a DuPont Award for a television documentary on LA’s County’s juvenile dependency court; The Los Angeles Daily News’ Christina Villacorte, whose recent coverage of LA’s foster care system has been some of the best in the county; and Brian Carter of The Los Angeles Sentinel.

There were so many others on the patio that evening, including one who is uniquely important: my co-producer on this particular episode of Our America, Ms. Lauren Terp.

Lauren, having heard of FMC’s work from Re-Envisioning Foster Care powerhouse Judy Cockerton, had called me in May of 2013 asking questions about Los Angeles’ foster care system. Within a month’s time Part 2 Pictures, which produces Our America, had brought me on to help with what would be the “Children of the System” episode.

This meant Lauren and I were working together.

I remember that first night we met, June 23, 2013, to start scouting for the show. She was staying at the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. We agreed to meet on the roof. When I got there, the towering buildings of LA’s financial district all around me, I saw a familiar face. That of Sixto Cancel, a former foster youth who had joined me during a town hall FMC had organized at Harvard Law School in 2011, and who has since grown into a rising leader in the world of child welfare reform. Lauren had spent the day with him, and had invited him to hang out.

As Sixto and I sat there talking, Lauren walked up. I lost my words, felt the pounding in my head, and knew then and forever, she was the one for me.

Credit: Billy Pena Lauren Terp, Lisa Ling and Danny Greenwald review footage with subjects during filming of "Children of the System"
Credit: Billy Pena
Lauren Terp, Lisa Ling and Danny Greenwald review footage with subjects during filming of “Children of the System”.

Fast forward through production spent in all corners of LA County alongside the incredible Lisa Ling and Part 2’s hard-working crew to June 5, 2014 on a pleasant evening spent with old colleagues, new friends, my mother, Lauren’s parents and Lauren herself, who had said yes to marrying me.

From the patio, 80 guests were conveyed to the in-home theater. Lisa graciously thanked the hosts and OWN, and spoke about the compassionate journalism that she has been able to explore on her show. She then mentioned “Children of the System” producer, writer and director Lauren Terp, and her co-producer, Daniel Heimpel.

Credit: The Oprah Winfrey Network From left to right: Daniel Heimpel, Lisa Ling and Lauren Terp field questions after the screening.
Credit: The Oprah Winfrey Network
From left to right: Daniel Heimpel, Lauren Terp and Lisa Ling field questions after the screening.

The lights came down and the room fell into the world I have explored for the past seven years, the world I share with Lauren and the world I want to share with you. It’s the hard edge of our society; where children face things they should never have to, and a dedicated subculture of adults struggles to make it all better.

This all comes as Los Angeles, home to the largest child welfare system in the country, begins the work of establishing its Office of Child Protection, a commitment – as yet unfulfilled – to do better by its most vulnerable children.

When the show airs next month, I hope it reminds us of the people who we are trying to help, the pain we are trying to alleviate and the hard-won moments of hope that happen all the time. These are all things Lisa explained very well when she visited Katie Couric on her show last month.

Please set your dials to the Oprah Winfrey Network on July 3rd at 10:00 PM ET/PT; and set your minds to helping the Children of the System.

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Daniel Heimpel
About Daniel Heimpel 192 Articles
Daniel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.

7 Comments

  1. I know the CPS system and how the has became a black market for profit and more about power and money. This has became the biggest organized money making ring around the world and getting worst. Most children or and family’s liberty rights civil rights and constitutional rights are violated in every way from false reports by enemy’s violations of removal of children lying reports by home supervisors to drugging our children and the doctors police and court appointed attorneys who stand with CPS and do nothing to help the parents. Judges who know and see what is happening and let it all continue until years laps are enough reports or made in order for them to terminate and find a parent unfit. A big secret method use is the drugging of children if they can report a child doesn’t listen anymore to the parent or the child slept through a visits it makes it look as if the child and parents bond has been broken the parent can be found unfit and terminated on the spot. There are child dieing in the hands of CPS and foster care homes and systems everyday in Iowa there was a investigation and 28,000 names are wrongly place on the child abuse registry the names of two improper supervision and denial of critical care. Changing a child’s doctors appointment is not child abuse and not grabbing your child in time before they fall down is not improper supervision. When this was brought to CPS they started yelling about how child predators are on the same list and parents whom have physically abuse Thur child and were found guilty in court and jail. Why must we good parents be punished and place on this same list and be terminated or found unfit also. They CPS cop attorneys and judges foster parents and doctors all know what is happening and only a few whom no longer work for or stepped up for the truth come forward. YouTube have videos and Facebook has became a support for family’s who have been wronged and torn apart by these CPS workers and this organized ring children have became a number to this people in today’s money hungry world and they feed on the power. If anyone should have mental Heath evaluations it should be all of these people of this organized ring.

  2. Illinois DCFS is excited about this program and hopes it will inspire people to become a foster parent. True, there are challenges but the rewards are immeasurable.

  3. Huge congratulations, Daniel, on both the personal and professional fronts. Since my class with you, I have made a connection to Judy C. and Beth F. and they have stolen my heart and the focus of my philanthropic team. Judy put me onto the OWN airing, and I am gathering a group to watch it. Talk about serendipity! I’m grateful for your commitment to foster
    children. Let’s keep on keeping on.

  4. We will be watching. We are fostered family and adopted 5 in all ages. We are adopting two more from foster care. We have to protected your kids. Being a foster parent is the hardest thing we ever done but it is very rewarding too. All they need is a safe and loving home. God bless are future.

  5. Nice to see that people will be made aware of what is happening to innocent children. My husband was a foster child, his mom had suffered a stroke, it was a wonderful loving home that helped shape him into the loving husband and father that he is today. I started praying abiut becoming foster parents, as our youngest of three boys was 20. Two weeks later the call we received was to accept our own great nieces that had been removed from their home. We have been fostering for eight months now and my hat is off to all the foster oarents out there! I know the system is not always perfect, but hang in there and remember why you decided to give of yourself in the first place. We are truly blessed to be experiencing it first hand!

  6. Thank you so much! We will be watching. We’ve fostered 63 children and have adopted 6. God bless Y’all!

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