Earlier this year, I wrote about what I considered the best film of 2019, Crazy Rich Asians. At the end of that article, I alluded to another film that I would consider the most important of this year. Let me set it up. 2010 was a life changing year for me for two reasons- or what I will call ‘accidents’. First, it was the start of Crazy 4 Comic Con! Through this blog/social media I have met so amazing people and it has created more opportunities than I would ever possibly imagine. But the funny thing is that it was all by accident. Way back at the beginning of the decade, I decided to respond to an online casting call for Morgan Spurlock’s 2011 Comic-Con Documentary. Moving through the interview process, I wanted to prove to the producers how ‘crazy’ I was for Comic-Con so I started this website. While I was followed and filmed, sadly I ended up on the cutting room floor by the end. All that remained from the experience was this blog, which I discovered that curious fans seemed to love. At that time, Comic-Con was hitting global notoriety and surprisingly, there were not a lot of websites dedicated to the culture and phenomenon of the San Diego Comic-Con. So while the documentary led to nowhere for me, something even more meaningful began. However, C4CC was not the only accident to occur in 2010 and I would have no idea laid ahead.
At the exact same time as the audition process for the documentary and launch of C4CC, my wife (Erin) and I were placed with a foster child. We have had two ‘organically’ grown young children at this point but always felt an indescribable desire to adopt. We had explored going through a private agency and expanding our family through an international adoption but something didn’t feel right with us. After learning about the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care across the nation and the thousands in Orange County alone, we knew we needed to open our home to a child in need locally. We were excited to grow our family through adoption but we had no idea what was in store for us. In a sense, it was a big ‘accident’ for us. We came into this with the singular motivation to adopt one child and it turned into something completely different.
Caveat. I know many of you personally and you know our story. Most of you, I do not. In the foster care system, children have been removed from their parents for some sort of abuse, neglect or criminal activity. Because of this, I felt privacy was required to protect and respect our children and the birth families involved. That is why since the launch and growth of C4CC, I have not shared much about this side of my life on C4CC. Even in this post, I will avoid certain details out of respect for our children’s story and the families involved.
Within our first couple of years, we discovered that adoption through foster care was so much bigger than just our family. The trauma that the kids endure, loss to the birth families and stigma that exists in culture were all extremely eye opening for my wife and I. What was natural and normal for most of us as children- safety, consistency, security, health, love, etc, is an unimaginable dream for some. As a result, the effects of trauma are deep and oftentimes long lasting. No loving and ‘perfect’ home can erase or replace what these kids have lost. Just as bad, the misconception and resistance from family and friends about the ‘bad blood’ of foster kids doesn’t make it any easier on foster families. The more layers we unpeeled, the more complicated life got.
In the past 9 years, we have fostered many children and ended up adopting two. It has been the most joyful and rewarding experience for our family. It has also been THE HARDEST thing our family has ever been through. I am ashamed of some of the things I have thought to myself and some of the conversations that I have had with my wife. I have risen to be a hero of the story and unfortunately, I have been the villain. We’ve done the best we can to adapt to the variety of kids that have been in our home. Not perfect or pretty by any stretch. Some want to praise our family and sometimes I just want to shake my head and think “you don’t even know”. We have experienced the greatest heights of love and the depths of despair- like soul crushing stuff. But after almost a decade, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We’ve learned so much about ourselves, deepened our faith and our family has been galvanized as a result.
You all know that I am crazy about superheroes and it’s the reason why I love comic cons. But in this crazy journey, what I accidentally discovered is that there are real heroes among us- the birth moms. Typically stigmatized, these women have experienced so much and many are fighting for their lives to get their children back. Whether being a product of the system, abuse, addiction or just a series of bad life choices, these women love their children and deserve every chance they can get. It’s not always easy to be a part of this process, but nothing is more fulfilling than seeing a child go back to their mommy. It’s a sacred moment that I almost can’t even put into words. All I know is that this is why God put my wife and I on this planet. While C4CC and Comic-Con has changed me professionally, the world of foster care has radically impacted my personal life. Bringing me to what I want you to consider.
On November 16, a movie is coming out called Instant Family. It’s stars Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne and is Directed by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home). Based off the Directors own personal experience, the story is about a couple that dives into the world of foster care and accidentally discovers so much more. It’s hilarious, emotional and has a great message. Perfect for the holidays!
Similar to Crazy Rich Asians, this is the FIRST TIME I have seen my story reflected accurately onscreen. It perfectly captures the imperfect process of foster care and adoption. The highs, lows, the beauty and ugliness of what these kids and parents go through is all in this film. I cried tears of joy and pain throughout but most importantly, I was proud that this Hollywood film got it right. Like really got it right. They worked closely with social services to ensure a realistic portrayal and in fact, my wife is credited at the end for serving as a small consultant on the film. As I am Crazy 4 Comic Con, Erin is the Crazy 4 Foster Care counter part in this world. Her current job is to train foster families, advocate for birth families and provide support of social services in Orange County. I could not be prouder of her.
If you live in Orange County, I would like to invite you to a free screening of Instant Family in Newport Beach (Nov 13, 7pm). I know it’s short notice but it will be worth the effort (plus I am playing a little host role to the event). I also want you to consider opening your home for foster care. There is a staggering amount of children waiting for homes and older teens that will age out of the system without a family. Maybe you can change that. Even if fostering or adoption is not right for you, we all know someone that has adopted or has been adopted. This film will serve to gain better understanding of that experience and could help you be a sympathetic support.
I know adoption and foster care is not exactly in the wheelhouse of C4CC but this is something extremely important to me and I wanted to share it with a community that I love. With November being Adoption Awareness Month and with the release of Instant Family, this was the best time to finally share my story. If you have foster or adopted or if you’ve been adopted, please share more in a comment below. By sharing our stories, you have the power to change the lives of future generations.