Must-Read Books, Movies, + T.V. shows to Understand Foster Care


Foster care is often misunderstood. Many people wrongly believe that young people in foster care are "bad kids," when in reality, they're just kids facing a really tough time.

Broaden your understanding of what it means to experience foster care. One easy way to learn is through books and movies that tell the stories of young people impacted by child welfare.

In this post, we'll share awesome books and films that show what foster care is really like. By checking these out, you'll be better equipped to put yourself in the shoes of a young person who experienced foster care. You’ll become a better ally by amplifying your understanding of the lifelong impacts of child welfare and the potential of young people who experience it.

From National Foster Care Month Influencers:

Bianca Bennett-Scott | She/Her/Hers

Age 26, 8 years in New York’s foster care system

This Is Us (2016 - 2022)

This show chronicles the lives of the "Big Three,” Kate, Kevin, and Randall, through various stages of their lives. What captivates me most about this series are the tear-jerking monologues and heartfelt conversations about unconditional love, race, and adoption, particularly within Randall's personal story. Have a box of tissues handy because, with six seasons, this show will tug at your heartstrings and might even inspire you to consider adoption.

Mayda Berrios | She/Her/Hers

Age 24, 4 years in Delaware’s foster care system

Foster (2011)

I'd highly recommend the movie "Foster" because it truly is a heartfelt and thought-provoking film that sheds light on the complexities of the foster care system. The movie does a commendable job of depicting the challenges faced by both the children in the system and the dedicated individuals working to support them. The raw and emotional performances from the cast help to bring authenticity to the narrative, making it a compelling and eye-opening watch. While the film may not capture every aspect of the foster care system, it effectively conveys the importance of providing love, stability, and support to children in need. Overall, "Foster" offers a poignant and insightful look into a vital social issue.

Taniyah Williams | She/Her/Hers

Age 19, 3 years in Indiana’s foster care system

Three Little Words (2007)

I like the book “Three Little Words” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter because I can relate to Ashley's emotions throughout her moves in foster care. I love how her feelings of fear and doubt gradually change to security and happiness in the story as she grows to love her adoptive family!

Gabe Foley | He/Him/His

Age 23, 18 years in Illinois’ foster care system

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

“Meet the Robinsons” presents the complicated and intimidating feelings of finding your identity as a teen in foster care in a way that’s easy to watch. It's lighthearted and welcoming, while still capturing a deep and relatable feeling of loneliness caused by not having connections in foster care. Peer connections were a pivotal part of making me feel supported and loved in foster care, and it's this relaxing watch hammers home that message!

Natalie Nicole Clark | She/Her/Hers

Age 25, 6 years in Utah’s foster care system

Earth Mama (2023)

The film “Earth Mama” is one of my all-time favorites as it does a beautiful job of portraying the importance of keeping siblings together. It really exemplifies the foster care experience in a way many films don't. 

It touches on the disruption in parental bonds that follows removal from our families. It pays homage to complicated and frustrating time constraints put on reunification and the hoops parents have to jump through to comply with court and child services. This accurately shows the heart-shattering reality everywhere of pressuring mothers into adoptions or being pressured into adoption because of socioeconomic barriers, especially single mothers and those experiencing poverty. I appreciate this film’s real and raw honesty about the pressure heavily placed on BIPOC mothers and the nuance surrounding closed adoptions and placement with different cultures. This results in the disconnection of children from their own cultures.

From FosterClub Staff:

Angel Petite | She/Her/Hers

Senior Policy Manager, System Change

Torn Apart

“Torn Apart,” by Dorothy Roberts, provides a detailed view of the deeply embedded racism within foster care.

The author advocates for abolition, which is a solution that I, from my partnerships and relationships with Lived Experience Leaders, do not agree with. I believe this book provides both critical historical and current context and advocates for centering the experiences of those who go through foster care.

Binley Taylor | He/Him/His

Director, System Change

Adopting the Older Child

I read the book “Adopting the Older Child” in grad school and again when I became a child welfare case worker. Although written in the 70s, the book provides real life examples and actionable steps and strategies for adults engaging with older youth in foster care. Particularly, how to prepare for and integrate youth into their lives. For me as a social worker working with older youth, the same strategies were necessary. Young people DO NOT TRUST adults.

Celeste Bodner | She/Her/Hers

Executive Director

A Place Called Home

I recommend this book by award-winning child welfare advocate David Ambroz. David writes about growing up homeless in New York for 11 years and his subsequent years in foster care, offering a window into what lived experience of homelessness and foster care is really like. This book is a must-read for advocates and those who care about vulnerable children. David skillfully draws connections between poverty, mental health, and other issues that impact children and families living on the margins.

Nayeli Sanchez | She/Her/Hers

Project Coordinator, Youth Services

Reshuffled: Real Stories of Hope and Resilience from Foster Care

This book, by Tracy Gharbo and Linda Palmer, is compiled of real stories of diverse people with foster care experience. It was moving and inspiring, and it provided a direct look into the back stories and outcomes of their journeys. At each story’s end, authors offer advice to other young people going through foster care.

Laura Goble | She/Her/Hers

Director, Youth Services

No Sugar Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting

Every kid deserves a family. But not every family is right for a kid who needs one! This book is like having a frank discussion with a good friend who keeps it real. For anyone considering the foster parent role, this is a good place to start. The best family situations start with foster parents who are honest about how they can or cannot provide safety and inclusion for a kid going through one of the most disruptive experiences they could have.

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