What NBC’s “This Is Us” Gets Right About Foster Care

Following Deja’s storyline and her accurate portrayal of a child in foster care

By Jordan Upton

1. Trash Bags for Travel

When Deja moves between foster homes, you see her carrying only a trash bag. Many children entering foster care do not have things of their own, especially suitcases. They are often provided with just a trash bag to gather what clothing and possessions they will take with them to foster care. There are many programs nationwide attempting to remedy this problem by providing children with backpacks and basic necessities when they enter foster care: AGAPE of NC’s Backpack Blessings; Things of My Very Own; Together We Rise

2. Parental Substance Abuse Problems

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Viewers are told through a social worker that Deja’s mom must successfully complete a rehab program and maintain sobriety at home before Deja can return. This is the reality for a majority of children entering foster care. The Center for Community Partnerships in Child Welfare of the Center for the Study of Social Policy reports that 45 to 88% of cases referred to child protective services have a parental substance abuse problem.

3. Mistreatment from Foster Parents

Deja is placed in a foster home with another girl, Raven. The foster dad frequently beats them, but when discussing the abuse, Raven says, “At least all he does is hit us.” Mistreatment of children in foster care is an issue nationwide, with studies finding that “in Oregon and Washington state ... nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.”

4. Siblings are Often Separated

Though in the show Deja and Raven are friends, not siblings, they dreaded being separated. Deja reported the abuse in their previous home, and upon being removed, Raven was distraught that now they would be separated and may face worse obstacles alone. The National Center for Youth Law estimates that “over half of children in foster care nationwide have one or more siblings also in care.” Though studies show the benefits of keeping siblings together, it is often not possible, and some reports indicate that up to 75% of siblings in foster care are separated.

5. Reunification with Family Often Fails

Deja is reunited with her mother, only to later be pulled out of school by her social worker because her mother has been arrested. Deja must re-enter foster care, a common occurrence. Many “case plans” created for parents are overwhelming obstacles to getting their children back. Kevin Norell, a caseworker in Utah, writes that often “many plans are designed for failure.”

In addition to the backpack blessings program, AGAPE of NC also strives to combat these and other issues typically seen in foster care. The staff of AGAPE works closely with potential foster parents, ensuring they are trained and adequately equipped to care for children entering their homes and lives. They maintain contact and are always available as a resource to children and parents. AGAPE makes every effort to keep siblings together when placed in foster care homes and ease their transition as much as possible. It is the mission of AGAPE to provide compassionate Christian outreach and strengthen families one child at a time.