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What is family?

The winter premiere of the ABC Family show “The Fosters” is set for tonight (Monday, January 13th) — part two of the first season of a show that has captured people’s attention with its varied representations of underrepresented narratives: lesbian parents, trans-racial adoption, and youth in foster care. At the heart of the show is the (not at all simple) idea of family — as a reminder, the trailer for the winter premiere (airing tonight at 9:00 EST on ABC Family) opens with the question: “how do you define family?” (watch below)

If you are new to the show, you can view the first ten episodes on the ABC Family website. There are complicated family dynamics, and in all fairness there are more than a few “hollywood” elements intended to keep the viewer hooked. But I continue to appreciate the range of delicate issues that the show’s producers seem to be willing to tackle, albeit somewhat imperfectly:

  • the role of biological parents in the lives of children they have placed in foster care
  • range of portrayals of caring adults
  • sibling relationships (biological, forged through foster care, and others)
  • range and variation in what constitutes a “normal” adolescence
  • constraints as well as affordances of a child welfare institution like foster care, where not everyone fits a stereotype (i.e. savior complex, uncaring grunt, abuser of power, etc.)
  • nuanced representations of law enforcement
  • multi-racial families

I’m hoping to do a bit more blogging about the show this spring, and would love to know what others think  as well. In prep for tonight’s winter premiere, here’s a sneak peek of an exchange between two new siblings:

And for another reflection on family, check out the latest blog post by a member of the YMEJ family, Emily Bailin: Love Letter, Part II: Reflections on Mentoring a Court-Involved Young Person

See you on the flipside!


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