Wednesday, May 2, 2012

National Foster Care Awareness Month & The Blind Side


Image courtesy of Wikipedia


The other night I came home from a date night dinner with the hubs to find my son watching his favorite movie, “The Blind Side”.  Since this is also one of my favorite movies I decided to have a seat and watch it with him.  It was toward the end – the part where Michael returns to the interview with the NCAA agent and explains why he chose Ole Miss (which, even though he didn't choose Florida, is OK.  I'm afraid I have to side with Leigh Anne in that Tennessee would have been completely unacceptable.   But Ole Miss I can stomach).  Sorry, Vols, but this Gator girl makes no exceptions.

Anyhoo….

We were at the end of the movie, watching the VERY BEST PART – the part where the Tuohys bring Michael to college and Leigh Anne tells him, “And Michael, if you get a girl pregnant, I will personally get in that car, drive all the way down here, and cut off your penis.”  That’s some wicked good parenting right there.  Then Leigh Anne leaves the family and returns to her car. By herself.  At which point Michael, of course, follows her and makes her get out of the car to give him a “proper hug”. 

Now, I am telling you, I have seen this movie at least ten times, probably more.  I love this movie for so many reasons (which I am going to name, give me a minute here), but that night, at that moment, it dawned on me that this scene so precisely illustrates how Leigh Anne made the transition from caregiver to parent with Michael.  Only a parent would have so much concern over a child as to worry about his behavior once he leaves the house and transitions into a new life phase.  Only a parent would feel comfortable discussing a child’s future with him in such a succinct manner.  Only a parent would find the moment so emotionally overwhelming that she needed to remove herself.  Leigh Anne had become Michael’s mother in every sense of the word – with the exception of birthing him into the world.  For this, I love her.  I love that she allowed herself to fall so completely in love with this child, and I love the fact that she shared their story with the world.

Yes, I know that Sandra Bullock is a darn good actress and took some artistic liberties (as did the screen writers) but, frankly, I don’t care.  Trust me, I have researched this movie and (stalked) this family enough to know that Sandra worked her butt off to bring the true essence of Leigh Anne’s character to the big screen.  I know that the Tuohys and Michal Orr chose to let their story be known in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of foster parenting and adoption.  And for that I think a lot of us will be forever thankful.

May is national Foster Care Awareness Month.  Michael Orr’s story is, of course, the epitome of what can happen if you take in a child and provide the appropriate care he or she needs.  But, actually, what “The Blind Side” shows us is you never know.  None of us ever knows what kind of potential is lurking behind that troubled child we see, do we?  None of us really knows what greatness lies behind that child who is having difficulty focusing on her class work because she hasn’t eaten since lunch yesterday.  No one knows how brilliant a musician that boy may be if only he didn’t have to stay out so late avoiding his drunken father.  No one knows how beautiful that girl is if only she had a decent place to shower and had more than one outfit to wear.  No one knows.

Currently there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States.  In Missouri alone there are over 10,000 children living in foster homes.  These children are in need of permanent, loving homes.  Unfortunately, each year more than 30,000 kids will “age out” of the system – be forced to leave their foster and group care homes when they turn 18.  Since many of these kids no longer have the resources to afford a place to live, those who are still in high school are forced to drop out in order to work to earn money to pay their living expenses.  Only about 2% of these kids go on to complete a college degree, and a vast majority wind up unemployed and homeless.  Teen pregnancy, prostitution, jail, etc. also add to the grim future these kids face.

That’s a stark contrast to the success Michael Orr has achieved.

Fortunately, things are getting better.  Many states have passed laws allowing for full or partial tuition payments for foster children wishing to pursue a college education.  Many states have also created “transition” programs that provide adult mentors for kids who help counsel and support them as they pursue training and education beyond their high school careers.

And, more and more people in our communities are working to help these kids – and young adults – become better prepared for the Real World.  These kids are not “bad” kids by choice.  Often they are being punished for the sins of their parents.  As a community – as a society – we must endeavor to find ways to help these kids become responsible, productive adults.  When we do, everyone wins.

So, yes, I love “The Blind Side”.  And I love the Tuohy family for their willingness to recognize a young man in need and give him a place to stay.  Forever.

Thank you, Tuohys, for showing the world how easy it is to love a kid, even if he’s not biologically related to you. 

(And, just to let you all know, I am now stalking following Leigh Anne on Twitter.)


Is there a movie that affected you so deeply that you've watched it over and over again?  Have you ever been a foster parent?  What is your state doing to help provide proper care for children in foster care?

3 comments:

  1. thank you for your example of how we can all be better people,,We all loved that movie too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Annmarie! This is truly one of my favorite movies (that doesn't star Will Ferrell!)

      Delete
  2. Love that movie, but really any movie about adoption or foster care has my heart right off the bat. Throw in some football (which I don't like to watch, but for some reason adore football movies!), and I'm hooked!

    Great that you've spotlighted the need for foster homes. We were foster parents for 8 years and though it was hard at times, it was overall, an amazing experience and one that led to us officially adopting three of the kids who came to us as foster children, so of course, our family was forever changed for the better!

    ReplyDelete