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Aging Out
About the Film
About the Filmmakers
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Risa's Death
Directors Statement
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Written, produced and directed by Roger Weisberg, Co-producer/co-director Vanessa Roth
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Director's Statement, Roger Weisberg
Roger Weisberg
I'm struck by how much support my two college-aged children continue to receive long after "aging out" of our home. They know that they can count on our continued financial and emotional support, and most importantly, they know that they're always welcome home. In contrast, most young people who age out of the foster care system at about the same age have no stable home or parents to whom they can turn. The very system that removed these abused and neglected children from their homes discharges them, usually at age 18, to fend for themselves with little or no support whatsoever.

It is not surprising that two to four years after being discharged from foster care, 25 percent of these veterans of foster care had been homeless, 40 percent were on public assistance, and 50 percent were unemployed. Twenty-five percent of the boys had been incarcerated and 60 percent of the girls had given birth to a child. Despite these grim statistics, I met some remarkable young people in the course of producing AGING OUT who developed enough resiliency during their troubled childhoods to beat the odds. It was genuinely inspiring to watch these extraordinary young people overcome the tremendous adversity in their lives.

I know that my kids will invariably face some tough times as they navigate the thorny transition from adolescence to independent living. AGING OUT helped me grasp how much tougher this transition is for young people who've been abused and neglected, shuttled between numerous foster care placements, and suddenly find themselves on their own. In making AGING OUT, I wanted take viewers inside the embattled world of teenagers in foster care to reveal the tremendous obstacles they face as they try to become self-sufficient adults.

I still don't fully understand how some young people can find the inner strength to cope with early childhood trauma, while others can't. But, AGING OUT made me realize something I should have known from the start. In order to make a successful transition to independence, teens aging out of foster care need many of the same things my own kids need -- some continued financial support until they can stand on their own two feet, a safe place they can call home, and most of all, adults who truly care about them.

Director's Statement, Vanessa Roth
Vanessa Roth
The day that most defined the direction my life has taken as a social worker and documentary filmmaker was the day my sister joined my family. She was eight months old and was flown along with fifty other Korean babies from foster homes and orphanages in Seoul to adoptive families in Los Angeles. I was eight years old at the time. When I held my sister that day at the airport, and she smiled at me, I wondered even then what led her biological mother to abandon her. I tried to imagine what this little person's short life had been like for the eight months she lived with temporary caregivers. As we left the airport with my new sister in my mom's arms, she was suddenly and forever part of my family.

My sister was in foster care for a brief, though developmentally, emotionally and psychologically profound time in her life. Those initial life experiences have had a profound impact on who she is today. This mix of early independence with a longing for lasting support is just what I have found in the children I worked with as a social worker in the foster care arena in my first film, TAKEN IN: THE LIVES OF AMERICA'S FOSTER CHILDREN, and more recently in the courageous young adults I got to know while making AGING OUT.

I met both Risa and David on the eve of their transition from living in foster to living "independently." What I found from the moment I first talked to them both was that these teens did not need to be introduced to independent living; independence had been forced on them from the time they were born. David had lived in over 20 foster homes before he turned 18, and Risa had gotten herself admitted to the University of California at Santa Barbara despite frequent moves and relentless family struggles. For their whole lives, these young people were forced to rely on their own instincts with no consistent source of support or stability to guide them. What they lacked most growing up and needed even more during their transition into adulthood were not programs to teach them how to be on their own, but relationships with people who passionately believed in them and could make them feel part of something. Long after production ended on AGING OUT, I am left grappling with complicated questions surrounding what young people like David need most to help them become successful adults. Obviously, there are no easy answers -- and no one target to blame for the tragedy that befell Risa. In the end, I hope that AGING OUT can challenge viewers and inspire new program ideas by putting a human face on the thousands of kids growing up and aging out of foster care.