Short Film Spotlights Stories of Young Adults From Foster Care

Posted November 11, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Image from the film showing two drawn women looking at each other.

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.

Watch Absence/​Presence

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.”

Read about the impor­tance of permanence

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.

Lis­ten to a con­ver­sa­tion about sup­porting stronger social connections

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