Unadopted is a documentary centered around Noel, a youth who entered the California foster care system at the age of one. Separated from his siblings most of his life and lacking a complete understanding of what happened to his family, Noel begins the journey of uncovering his own case files and history after emancipating himself. The heart of the documentary highlights the need for teen foster homes and families willing to adopt them. We follow the stories of two other foster teens as they navigate court hearings, relationships with birth parents, and aging out of foster care. They bravely open up about their questions, fears, and struggles, which by far outweigh those of their peers.
This documentary also serves to demonstrate why foster care should never be intended as a long-term solution. In 2015, California’s governor signed the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) into legislation, which ensures permanency for all foster children, whenever possible. The reform of the foster care system has taken years to implement, and by 2016, Noel had already emancipated himself. Under CCR, family reunification is always the first goal, followed by permanency through adoption or guardianship. Consequently, less children under the age of five are being placed into foster care.
Even with the new goal of permanency in place, it is still rare for foster teens to be adopted. In California, over 40% of youth needing placements are eleven years and older. Unfortunately, finding placement for this age group is increasingly more difficult due to behaviors of the youth and fears from resource parents (especially with COVID). Through this documentary, we can see fostering or adopting a teen has its own unique set of challenges, but the hope given by a supportive family is life-altering. Unadopted encapsulates the concept that “every kid is one caring adult away from a success story.” The positive impact resource parents can have on a teen in their home is undeniable.
Ultimately, Noel’s goal for the documentary is to expose the hardships of teens who lack permanency in their life and the need for teens to find forever families in the California foster care system. After watching Unadopted, Noel hopes it will inspire people who have a heart for youth and move them to action. We cannot help but cheer on his efforts wholeheartedly. At Koinonia, we receive a high volume of inquiries about fostering and adopting babies; this is understandable, as most people interested in family building think about it in a more traditional way. While raising a child from infancy is certainly more traditional, welcoming a teen into your home is an idea worth exploring (we unpack more information about fostering teens here). If you have more questions, talk with your local Koinonia office about the practicalities and implications of bringing a teen into your home.
We recognize fostering/adopting youth of this age group is not for everyone, but we also encourage you to consider how you can bring hope and healing to a teen in your area. Not everyone can do everything but everyone can do something. May this documentary encourage you to be the change you want to see in future generations.