Short Film Spotlights Stories of Young Adults From Foster Care
A new documentary entitled Absence/Presence sheds light on young people in foster care and their need for support while in the child welfare system or transitioning out of it. Directed and produced by Yasmin Mistry of Foster Care Film, the documentary combines two short films — Feeling Wanted (2015) and Family Rewritten (2017) — that tell the stories of Charell Star Charleston and Camilla Tecsy, respectively, who were in foster care. An Annie E. Casey Foundation-backed tour of the short films was used to educate university students and spark community conversations about foster care.
Mistry was inspired to create the films after volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. In this role, she worked with children, families and the court system to help find young people permanent homes, educational opportunities and medical and social services.
“It’s a really lonely way of growing up because it’s not something you talk about. It’s one of those walls up with your community or family where you don’t say it,” Charleston says in the film. “When you are a foster kid, it’s something you don’t want to admit to. You don’t want to admit that you don’t have a permanent home, that you don’t have a permanent place to be.”
In 2021, 203,770 children under age 18 entered the U.S. foster care system for reasons such as neglect and abuse. System involvement can disrupt healthy development and result in lasting consequences, according to research. Many sources of strength and support — including the pursuit of education and the encouragement of a caring adult — can affect how these youth perceive themselves and their ability to navigate their lives.
“I didn’t have to feel ashamed of my story,” explains Tecsy. “It doesn’t change who I am, and it doesn’t define who I am.”
In honor of National Adoption Month (November), the film is streaming online — for free — and airing on select local PBS stations throughout the fall. It will then be available to subscribers of PBS Thirteen Passport through October 2026.