Documentary Inspires Empathy for Families in Recovery

Posted November 30, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Moms sit on couch with infants

In the new doc­u­men­tary film Being Gina,” par­ent advo­cate Gina Wassemiller shares her sto­ry of heal­ing from sub­stance abuse and fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion. Fol­low her through a typ­i­cal day as she reflects on her past and rebuilds relationships.

At work, Wassemiller inspires and encour­ages moth­ers on sim­i­lar jour­neys, cradling their infants as she coun­sels them. Wassemiller is a par­ent ally at F.I.R.S.T. Legal Clin­ic (Fam­i­ly Inter­ven­tion Response to Stop Trau­ma) in Wash­ing­ton state, which pro­vides ser­vices for new moth­ers expe­ri­enc­ing sub­stance abuse chal­lenges. Its staff works to pre­vent removal of their chil­dren by child pro­tec­tive services.

Being Gina” is the first in a series of Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly doc­u­men­taries focused on the impor­tant role of com­mu­ni­ties of sup­port in unlock­ing fam­i­ly poten­tial. A grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the insti­tute is hope­ful that net­works of child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als and advo­cates will view the film and con­sid­er ways they can sup­port moth­ers and fam­i­lies in their own com­mu­ni­ties. Avail­able with the short video are prompts and ques­tions to help view­ers dis­cuss themes from Gina’s story.

A longer, com­ple­men­tary ver­sion of the doc­u­men­tary pre­miered at the 2021 Hot Springs Film Fes­ti­val under the title Par­ent Ally.” Dis­tri­b­u­tion plans are not yet firm. The film was direct­ed by Rad­ha Mehta and pro­duced by Mehta, the Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly and Paige Williams.

One goal of the series is to tell sto­ries that cul­ti­vate empa­thy and com­pas­sion for fam­i­lies in the child wel­fare sys­tem. The direc­tor show­cas­es Wassemiller’s per­son­al strength and her deter­mi­na­tion to keep infants and moth­ers togeth­er. By chang­ing the public’s views of fam­i­lies who need sup­port, the Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly seeks to build pub­lic and polit­i­cal will to design poli­cies and prac­tices that result in bet­ter con­di­tions for chil­dren and families.

At the Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly, we’re inten­tion­al­ly putting sto­ries out there that replace tox­ic nar­ra­tives with the view that the cir­cum­stances fam­i­lies become involved in are more about soci­etal con­di­tions than bad choic­es,’” said Matt Ander­son, direc­tor of Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly and vice pres­i­dent for pro­grams and busi­ness devel­op­ment with the Children’s Home Soci­ety of North Car­oli­na. I think the vast major­i­ty of fam­i­lies love and want the best for their chil­dren. We just need to cre­ate the envi­ron­ments where fam­i­lies have what they need to unlock their potential.”

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