A new anthology aims to spread awareness of the challenges of the U.S. foster care system, told from those who have experienced it firsthand — current and former foster youth.
“The ReMoved Anthology Project,” published May 2019, is a “coffee-table-worthy” collection of poems, stories and art from foster youth. The inspiring and heartbreaking stories give an inside peek into what it’s really like to be in foster care.
Co-creators and married couple Christina and Nathanael Matanick gathered submissions from current and former foster children across the globe and worked with artists worldwide to create the anthology, funded by Kickstarter backers last year. The anthology is an extension of their video series, ReMoved, which they started during their process to become foster parents. The Matanicks found little content to help them understand the world of foster care beforehand and so stepped in to fill the gap.
“A lot of people feel like their story is the only one out there — that no one else has experienced that kind of difficulty — and they feel alone,” Christina says. “Unfortunately, it is a common experience.
“We want, for those to have experienced this, to not feel like there’s something wrong with them because of their childhood experience.”
The ReMoved Film Series — and the Birth of an Anthology
Back in 2013, the Matanicks were in the midst of their own foster care journey — the journey to become foster parents. Along the way, they were inspired to share the voices of the kinds of children they were trying to help. Thus, “ReMoved” was born.
It’s a short film that focuses on a young girl, removed from her family and placed in foster care. The film flashes back and forth between her current placement at a home with a well-meaning foster parent and the trauma she experienced back at her biological mother’s house.
“There were so many people asking us, ‘Why would you be willing to become foster parents?’ The first film was kind of our answer to that,” Christina says. “Sure, it will be hard for us, but imagine what it will be like for that child.”
The Matanicks went on to make two more “ReMoved” films since then. Along the way, they received their first foster placement, who they officially adopted two years later.
Their film series began to draw traction, too. Soon, the Matanicks were receiving constant emails from those who have been affected by foster care, sharing their stories of heartbreak and thanking the filmmakers for expressing their experiences in such a realistic way.
It got the couple thinking: They shouldn’t be the only ones reading these stories. So, they put the ReMoved Anthology in motion.
Creating the Anthology — And Making Waves
The Matanicks put out a call, asking foster care youth for their honest stories. They received hundreds of submissions of art and writing, telling each person’s individual truth and experience.
But, to make the project a reality, they needed the funds. So, they created a Kickstarter to publish the book. More than 600 backers pledged more than $70,000 to help make “The Removed Anthology Project” a reality.
The Matanicks worked with artists worldwide to create the book, which was published in May 2019. Since then, it’s sold more than 3,500 copies, most one-by-one.
Each page contains a compelling story, but one of Christina’s favorite comes from a foster youth named Katie, who recalls the impact her social worker had during the toughest moments of her life:
My last social worker never gave up on me, even though I barely graduated high school. I remember her telling me, “You are more than just your story.” Because I knew I mattered to my social worker, I decided to go to community college… My social worker inspired me to be the caseworker I wanted when I was younger.
Reading Katie’s story, Christina says, “I think that’s profound, to say that you’re not just the sum of what happened to you… Who you are yourself is more than just what you’ve experienced.”
But the couple’s work doesn’t stop with this anthology. They’re continuing to develop more films, including a foster care documentary with Northwestern University about foster youth transitioning out of the system upon adulthood. The Matanicks also encourage foster care professionals, parents, and advocates to use their films for training and awareness. Christina urges individuals to assist their local foster care systems however they can — by becoming a foster parent or resource family, by donating to local organizations, or simply being a supportive figure to any parent or child struggling in your community.
“We’ve just been really inspired and amazed by people that have really gone through awful, awful things, but have overcome and chosen to give back and to make a difference and to try to help other kids… not be alone and know that there’s hope,” Christina says.
You can order “The Removed Anthology Project” online here.