How HBO Doc ‘Foster’ Gives ‘Unprecedented’ Look Into Children in Foster Care System
About 25 years ago, producer Deborah Oppenheimer met a 6-year-old boy named Patrick, while she was volunteering at a public school.
“I asked his story and discovered that he had been removed from his parents, he was living in an orphanage in Hollywood,” says Oppenheimer, who recalls “sobbing” after returning home that day. “I had never encountered a foster youth in the system before, and I resolved to continue to work with him.”
That experience became the seed for the film, which was acquired by HBO out of Sundance this year and is set to premiere Tuesday. However, Oppenheimer and director Mark Jonathan Harris intended to make a decade ago, but their schedules didn’t collide until 2014. The filmmakers, best known for the Academy Award-winning doc “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport” (2000), have long been interested in exploring issues facing children. The foster care system exemplified many of these problems, Harris says, and they wanted to unpack the stigmas associated with it.
“There are negative stereotypes of everybody in the system. Social workers are seen as child stealers; the kids are seen as throwaways, damaged beyond repair; the parents are seen as people who have abused and neglected their children,” Harris says.