Last week, The F-Word, a comedic documentary series following the journey of a queer couple looking to adopt from foster care, premiered online on PBS’s Indie Lens Storycast.
The series’ producers and featured couple, Kristan Cassady and Nicole Opper, open up their lives to give others insight into the mystifying process of becoming a foster parent and eventually adopting. Their tale comes at a time when California and the rest of the country are grappling with finding caregivers for an increasing foster care population.
As reported in an article in The Chronicle of Social Change, the number of foster care youth has risen for a third consecutive year, according to federal data from last year.
“The opportunity that queer people interested in adoption have right now is both to have the life-changing experience of being a parent – but also to reform the broken system that is foster care in the U.S.,” Opper, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, said in an email.
After deciding to have a child and start a family, Opper and Cassady came to the conclusion that adoption through the foster care system would be the answer. Throughout the series, the couple shares their nervousness and anxiety in baby-proofing a home to waiting to hear from their foster care agency and social workers.
For example, when describing her frustrations, Opper portrays the system as “a very complicated, bureaucratic process that moves at a snail’s pace. It can try your patience … It made us feel vulnerable, like what’s wrong with us? Why aren’t we being picked?”
Not only having to deal with the lengthy process and intricacies of adoption, the series also sheds light on ways in which the system could improve.
There are hardly any easily accessible resources that could give better guidance on having to undergo foster-to-adopt procedures, Opper said. For instance, though many of these youth experience trauma and come from disadvantaged backgrounds, foster agencies seem to try to shroud rather than be transparent about the realities of system-involved children and families.
With the documentary series, Opper aims to help budding families as well as encourage those with interest in adoption to begin the process.
“If every third or fourth person out there actually did adopt from foster care, we wouldn’t have over 20,000 young people aging out of the system every year with no support system,” Opper said in an email.
Also, Opper and Cassady have already begun filming a second season, which will focus on sharing the stories of others involved with foster care. In the next season, she plans to speak with consultants, advocates and birth parents, while diving into fraught and thorny issues like the role of race and racism in the system.
“There’s no question that there is deeply ingrained racism in the U.S. foster care system. You rarely hear the voices of parents who lost children to the system … we’re actively trying to find people who want to share their story,” Opper said.
The first season premiered September 14, and an episode will be released every Thursday until October 19. Co-presented by Independent Television Service and PBS Digital Studios, the series will be released weekly on Indie Lens Storycast.
The documentary series will also be available here.