“The Fosters,” a television drama about a same-sex couple raising foster youths will return to screens tonight, Jan. 13, at 9pm EST. The show first aired on June 3 of last year, and has been picked up by ABC Family for a second full season.
Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly discussed the show’s past and present with co-creator and writer Peter Paige.
The Chronicle of Social Change: What sort of homework did you do on child welfare to educate yourself for that aspect of the show?
Peter Paige: I’m on the board of directors for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. As we were developing the show, the center was just getting a big grant from the Obama Administration to do work on LGBT kids in foster care. So I was exposed to a lot of information through that.
As we got further into the process, we connected with social workers and kids. I have a friend who runs a group home.
Chronicle: Did you look to other art – books, film, other shows, whatever – to help you in the conception of The Fosters?
Paige: No, we didn’t. Much of what’s done around foster care is really horror, you know. To be honest, unless something is part of the zeitgest at the moment, I don’t care what’s been done before.
Chronicle: We get pretty strong feedback consistently on articles that pertain to foster care and adoption, so you must get a ton as a major TV show. What have you heard from current or former foster youths that most affected you and the show?
Paige: NPR [National Public Radio] did a story where they watched the pilot with foster youths. If you haven’t heard that, you really should. What those kids say in that piece and what we hear a lot is: ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m seeing this.’
The only thing they reject is that it’s a pretty happy ending. Congresswoman [Karen] Bass brought a group of former foster youths to watch who all saw pieces they really specifically related to. The recurring theme though was, “I wish I had a family like that.”
Chronicle: There was some controversy with foster care and adoption providers in recent years as more states brought civil unions or marriage into effect. In Illinois, the state ended contracts of some of their Catholic providers because they wouldn’t recruit and train same-sex couples. What are your thoughts on that?
Paige: My personal belief is that if the government is going to fund you, then you need to provide services to all people who qualify. I’m all for freedom of religion, I’m not at all for tax dollars going to service a portion of the population based on discrimination.
Chronicle: The first season comes out of the gate in the first episode with some really great moments, like Mariana’s birth mother coming back, ashamedly asking for money from her daughter.
Paige: Thank you. We’re trying to make them all human beings, not entirely good or bad, just different degrees of broken. Everyone is just doing the best they can given what they have.
Chronicle: What child welfare-related themes are covered in Season Two?
Paige: We’re continuing to explore the integration into a family. And Callie spends time in a group home after violating probation.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change