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"They think we’re criminals."

Imagine growing up with the realization that people think you will become a criminal. They may not say it to your face or even realize they believe it but it feels just beneath the surface in every interaction. When you watch TV shows and movies, read the newspaper, or view social media – how are stories of people with foster care experiences portrayed? Are they criminals or superheroes?

The reality is that characters with a foster care history are portrayed as both in the media. They are the drug addict, the transient, the sex worker, and the criminal. They are also Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and X-men – all of whom were provided with fictional stories of origin in which they were raised by people who were not their biological parents. They struggled and made mistakes but, ultimately, their foster care origins served as the foundation for WHY they became superheroes. They utilized their strengths to beat the odds and protect others.

A group of teens in foster care shared that they believed the public perceives them negatively. If the public has generally low expectations for your future and this implicit bias steadfastly colors your everyday experiences with the world, it can become the lens through which you see yourself. Together, we launched a formal research project called Changing the Narrative to find the truth.

Hope Education Research Solutions and Peace4Kids invite you to read the results of our research that confirmed the negative perceptions held by the public about the media portrayal of youth in foster care. This data will guide our next steps to increase awareness of this implicit bias and create safe spaces for ALL kids to live in a world that has high expectations for their success.

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