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Independent Study Resources

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Children of Poverty Street


(Poverty, homelessness, child welfare, immigration)At 15, Inocente refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be caged by her life as an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years.
Know How

(Foster care, stories written and performed by foster youth)
Know How captures the reality of life in foster care from the point of view of those living in it. It’s not a documentary nor is it fiction. It’s a hybrid approach for using film to create social change. Instead of professional screenwriters and actors, these true stories are written and performed by a cast of ordinary foster care youth, and their performances are powerful, moving, and eye-opening.
Lost Sparrow
(Interracial adoption, abuse, Native children, sibling group, family secrets, domestic violence, substance abuse)
On June 27, 1978, a 44-car freight train struck and killed two Crow Indian brothers near the quaint town of Little Falls, NY. The day before, Bobby, 13, and Tyler, 11, had disappeared. They had run away from the white, Baptist family that seven years earlier had adopted them out of a troubled home on the Crow reservation in Montana. In the documentary Lost Sparrow, filmmaker Chris Billing has embarked on a quest to find out what happened to his adoptive brothers, and to confront a painful family history.
Off and Running
(Interracial adoption, blended families, race, identity, teenagers)
Off and Running tells the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white Jewish lesbians. Her older brother is black and Puerto Rican and her younger brother is Korean. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis.
Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives
(Sexual abuse, drug abuse, mentors, immigration)
TRUST is about creativity and the unexpected resources inside people you might discount because they are poor, young or of color. APTP is a neighborhood theater project dedicated to helping young people reimagine their experiences on stage. Marlin’s is one of incredible struggle and pain, from enduring rape as young girl, to the difficult journey of immigrating to the U.S., to further abuse at the hands of her own brother, and finally to emancipation and overcoming substance addiction.
Very Young Girls
(Sexual abuse, human trafficking)
The film takes us into the work of a former sexually exploited youth-turned-activist named Rachel Lloyd, who started the New York City organization GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) to help victimized young women escape their pimps and find another way of life.



Antwone Fisher
(Based on a real person, foster care, abuse, sexual abuse)
Antwone Fisher, a young navy man, is forced to see a psychiatrist after a violent outburst against a fellow crewman. During the course of treatment a painful past is revealed and a new hope begins.
A Beautiful Mind
(Mental illness)
After a brilliant but asocial mathematician accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish.
The Blind Side
(Foster care, drug abuse, success story, based on real person)
The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
(Foster care, abuse)
To impress a potential client, financial advisor Ken Matthews signs up to be a counselor at a camp for kids in the foster system.
(Race and class issues)
Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.
Dolores Clairborne
(Physical abuse, sexual abuse, mother-daughter relationship)
A big-city reporter travels to the small town where her mother has been arrested for the murder of an elderly woman that she works for as a maid.
Freedom Writers
(Education, race, ‘at-risk’ teens, based on real person)
A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school.
Gimme Shelter (2013)
(Based on true story, teen pregnancy, foster care)
A pregnant teenager flees her abusive mother in search of her father, only to be rejected by her dad and forced to survive on the streets until a compassionate stranger offers a hopeful alternative.
Gracie’s Choice
(Teen taking care of siblings, drugs, incarceration)
A teenage girl tries to raise her three half-brothers and 1 half-sister on her own after their drug-addicted mother is sent to jail
I Am Sam
(Parenting, mental disability, custody battle)
A mentally retarded man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, and in the process teaches his cold-hearted lawyer the value of love and family.
(Poverty, abuse, sexual abuse, teen parent, custody issues, education)
In New York City’s Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
The Pursuit of Happyness
(Poverty, homelessness, parenting, based on real person)
A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor.
Short Term 12
(Foster care, group home life)
A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.
White Oleander
(Neglect, foster care, group home, substance abuse)
A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion.



The Fosters
(Foster care, adoption, interracial adoption, LGBT families)
A multi-ethnic family mix of foster, adopted, and biological kids are being raised by two moms.
Our America with Lisa Ling
Documentary series on marginal groups, including nontraditional families of many types. In 2014, aired a special on foster care.



Anne of Green Gables
An orphan girl, sent to an elderly brother and sister by mistake, charms her new home and community with her firey spirit and imagination.

Broadway musical based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. A young orphan girl’s adventures in finding a family that will take her.
Despicable Me
When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better.
Hotel for Dogs
(Foster care, poor foster parenting, siblings, adoption)
Animals are strictly forbidden at Andi and her little brother Bruce’s foster home. But for Friday, the adorable dog they secretly care for, they’re ready to risk everything.
Kung-Fu Panda Series
(Adoption, cross-species parenting)
In the Valley of Peace, Po the Panda finds himself chosen as the Dragon Warrior despite the fact that he is obese and a complete novice at martial arts.