The trials and tribulations of a foster child is something I will never understand completely. Coming from a stable, classically structured family, I’ve never had to experience the trauma of separation or the emotional gaps created by absent parents. I think it’s fair to say that the foster child is typically thought of as a disobedient trouble maker, shifting from family to family due to extreme behavioral issues. Sure, that may be the case for some kids, but generally they’re typical children, forced to deal with circumstances that demand accelerated emotional maturity on an independent level. Some struggle with this while others succeed. Directors Roger Weisberg and Maria Finitzo’s ‘Aging Out’ captures the difficult transition from state supported foster child to independent adult, following three subjects as they are forced to deal with the fact that they’re completely on their own.
The film follows three teens as they face the transition as they phase out of foster care, a process that’s much easier said then done. With no family support, these kids are forced to deal with emotional and financial situations completely on their own, with the occasional guidance from their case workers and ex-foster parents. Daniella and Veasna find themselves in trouble right from the start, expecting their first child together as they search for a steady income that can support both them and their newborn baby. Veasna seems content with the role of ‘stay at home Dad’ as Daniella attempts to pursue a career. The stressful situation finds Veasna realizing ‘This isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.’ We’re also introduced to Risa, a bright girl who seems to be the most promising of the bunch. Her determination to succeed finds her doing double duty, working the night shift at a fast food joint while attending school. Her confidence is admirable, but deceiving as Risa eventually ends up resorting to drug use to make it through her classes, eventually suffering a mental breakdown.
David is probably the most troublesome of the bunch. With blonde hair and a bad teenage moustache, he’s aggressive and self centred, yet seems to care about the people around him. After an attempt to live on his own, he ends up back with his foster parents looking for help. They gladly accept, paying him to do chores around the house and helping him look for a new place to live. Unfortunately David just keeps slipping off track and disappointing the people he calls his only family. At this point, I was completely frustrated watching this guy talk about how much he wanted to change, only to mess up time and time again. He uses guilt to convince his foster parents to give him a second chance, but they’ve simply had enough and at this point, so had I. David is the perfect example of the difficulty of living with multiple families and the toll it takes on the behaviour and self-esteem of a child.
Aging Out is a very engaging film. The structure reminds me of some of the tournament films that we’ve seen in the past few years; movies like Spellbound, Mad Hot Ballroom and Wordplay. The difference is Aging Out’s cautiously optimistic ending, which may not be completely satisfying for those looking for a totally positive resolution. It’s a sort of Polaroid snapshot version of Michael Apted’s Up Series, focusing on one of the most important, and terrifying, moments of these kids lives. Just as with the Up Series, there are inherent personality traits that automatically have you guessing how things will end up in the end for each person. However, there are some surprises that I couldn’t possibly foresee.