The comedy movie “Instant Family” about a couple who begins their journey with foster care and adoption was released in theaters in November 2018 and is winning audiences over with its funny and heartwarming moments. An interesting line in the movie trailer jumps out. Discussing whether they should open their home to children in foster care, main character Pete tells his wife, “Ellie, people who take in foster kids are really special. The kind of people who volunteer when it’s not even a holiday. We don’t even volunteer on a holiday!”
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As much as Pete and Ellie try to talk themselves out of foster care and adoption, they’re drawn to it. Within just a few months, these two adults who have never been parents have three children in their home. Viewers get to watch the unfolding drama and comedy that are bound to happen when you form an instant family.
Here are 9 things in the movie “Instant Family” that are totally accurate about foster care and adoption.
1. There’s a huge need for families to foster and adopt teenagers.
In one scene at a foster care/adoption fair, nearly all the prospective parents are drawn to younger children. Meanwhile, a group of teens stand off to the side with very little interest shown in them. It’s true that there’s a huge need for families that want to provide a loving home for teenagers, yet teens often have a lower chance of being adopted.
According to AdoptUSKids, “You never outgrow needing a family. Everyone needs a sense of belonging. Through adoption, older youth are connected to a family that can provide a sense of stability, lasting connections, and guidance with important life tasks—including enrolling in higher education, finding stable housing, securing employment, and establishing healthy relationships.” Learn more here about what teens in foster care want families to know. You can also check out some of our teen adoption success stories like:
- You’re Never Too Old to Be Adopted: Bob’s Story
- Dreams Do Come True: Four Teen Siblings Adopted by Loving Family.
Watch this public service announcement showing how thousands of teen in foster care can’t wait to share their “firsts” with you.
2. There’s a huge need for families to foster and adopt siblings.
As the movie points out, siblings are often the only connections youth still have when they enter the uncertain world of foster care. It’s important they stay with their siblings to maintain their bond and support each other. Yet it can be challenging to find an available foster family that has enough licensed beds to keep a sibling set of two, three, four, five or more kids together. Check out our article: Three Major Ways Siblings Impact One Another. And then contact us if you might have space in your heart and home to care for a sibling set in foster care!
3. Children in foster care sometimes have difficult emotions and challenging behaviors.
It’s true that children in foster care may exhibit strong emotions like anger or depression or harmful behavior like aggression. If it seems these are more prevalent among children in foster care than other children, it may be because of the traumatic stress these youth have endured. Children in foster care have been removed from their homes for their own safety due to child abuse, severe neglect or other serious challenges. Children in foster care are not bad kids; they are good kids who have experienced bad things.
Thankfully, organizations like KVC Health Systems train foster parents on the impact of childhood adversity and how to provide trauma-informed care. This helps to replace the question of “What’s wrong with you?” with “What happened to you?” and gives children a path toward healing from trauma. Read about the results of a recent study we did: First-Ever Study of Trauma-Informed Foster Care Shows Stunning Results.
4. Becoming a foster parent will disrupt your predictable life.
Pete and Ellie are in the home renovation “fixer-upper” business, similar to HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their home is magazine-ready with dark wood floors, chic paint colors, plush furniture, and many comforting details. While they enjoy preparing bedrooms for children in foster care, they also encounter a lot more mess and chaos in their life with children. There’s spilled milk, ketchup everywhere, shattered crystal and more.
Yes, it’s true that becoming a foster parent may disrupt your quiet, calm, predictable life. It’s also true that it will be completely worth it as you provide safety for a child and show them, unconditional love. But don’t take our word for it. Check out this video to hear from real foster and adoptive parents:
5. All kinds of people qualify and are needed to become foster/adoptive parents.
The lead characters in “Instant Family” happen to have no kids of their own. They also are white, married and fairly wealthy. But as you can see from their training class and support group, people from all types of backgrounds can foster or adopt a child. Whether you are single or married, heterosexual or LGBTQ, own or rent your home, have children already or don’t, work full-time or stay home, you may be eligible to become a foster parent. While requirements vary in each state, they usually include completing free training classes, being at least 21 years of age, passing background checks, and being able to provide a stable and loving home for a child or children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
6. The first goal of foster care is safe family reunification.
While many people get interested in foster care because they want to adopt children, the child welfare system is built around the child’s best interests. That’s why a safe reunification of the child with his/her biological family is the goal. Of course, if biological parents are unable to provide a safe and loving home for the child, the goal will then change from reunification to adoption. It’s a complex process that looks a little different in every single case, but it’s important for foster parents to be committed to supporting the children’s reunification with their parents if that is a safe and appropriate option.
Check out this family reunification story to learn more about the important role foster parents play:
7. Foster parenting might fill the void of what feels “missing” in your life.
People look into foster care and adoption for many reasons. One is a nagging feeling that something is missing in life or that they want more out of life. If you feel stuck in a rut of boring “adulting,” children can break up that monotony in a glorious way. Younger children can add cuddles, giggles, silliness, creativity, warmth, and joy to your home, and teens add a sense of friendship, family, connection, and deep meaning as you help a young person learn how to navigate life. The word many of our KVC foster parents use to describe this good feeling is “purpose.” If you aren’t fostering children, they say, you’re missing out on a sense of purpose in life.
8. Support is available. You won’t be alone.
If you pursue foster care and adoption, you’ll become part of a community of people who share your passion. You’ll meet other people in your foster parenting training class. You may also be able to attend in-person support group meetings or join a support group on Facebook. However you do it, know that there is a tribe out there just waiting to support you no matter what behavior challenge, emotional challenge, or logistical challenge comes your way. Contact us so we can explain how we support you every step of the way.
9. Your story can have a happy ending, even if it’s different than you imagined.
“Instant Family” has been called heartwarming and earnest by many critics. One reason may be the final court scene in which the judge plays the upbeat 1980s Starship song, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” while declaring some good news for the family. “Instant Family” has a happy ending. While there is certainly some heartbreak to be had, especially if you have to say goodbye to a child you’ve bonded with, you can know that it’s worth it in the end. That child needed love and you were able to provide it.
If you’ve ever considered becoming a foster or adoptive parent, now is the perfect time to contact us. Thousands of children are waiting for a family to show them love. You, too, can have an instant family!