Fact vs. Fiction: Foster Care, Adoption and the Instant Family

There are currently hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. foster care system. To help shed light on foster care and adoption, director Sean Anders tapped into his own experiences to co-write and direct the new film, Instant Family.

There’s a lot you can to take away from the film if you’re considering adopting a child from foster care because most of what happens is grounded in some amount of truth. However, there are still a few things you should know that were left on the cutting room floor for creative reasons.

Parenting Classes

In the film, before Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are even allowed to consider adopting, they must first go through a series of parenting classes. These classes, also known as “pre-service training”, are a requirement in order for prospective parents to learn how to deal with the effects of trauma, integrate children into their family, and form supportive relationships with other parents.

What isn’t discussed is licensing. Anyone wishing to foster or adopt must be licensed, and it’s encouraged (or required) by most states that you get duel-licensed in order to foster a child prior to adopting them. The licensing process, which includes an interview, forms and several background checks, can be a bit tedious, which is probably why it was left out of the film.

Foster Child Fairs

After Pete and Ellie finish their classes, they attend a foster child fair, in which they’re able to meet several children and pick which ones of interest. This may seem to be fictionalized for expediency, but fairs like this do happen, and include games and events that pair adults with children to help them bond.

What’s harder to pin down is a requirement to keep siblings together. If Pete and Ellie want to adopt a specific teen, they’re required to take her younger siblings as well. Though social services does recommend that siblings stay together for the health and stability of the children, it’s not clear whether a child can request this as part of their acceptance into a new home.

Parent Support Groups

Throughout the film, Pete and Ellie are seen in a support group that includes all of the different parents from their classes. Though parents are highly encouraged to attend support groups to discuss their fears and anxieties without judgement, the possibility that it will be with the same couples you were with in pre-service training is highly unlikely, due to scheduling conflicts or other personal matters.

Biological Parent Reunification

One element of the film that takes some liberties is in the children’s biological mother returning. Pete and Ellie are taken by surprise, but in real life, if there was even a possibility of reunification, this would have been disclosed to them early on, and may have even been part of the deal when taking them.

To learn more about foster care and adoption in California, visit the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search.

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