Produced and directed by Sam Emmery, the first of four films following the work of Dorset County Council’s fostering service looked at the case of 14-year-old Amy, whose placement with Steph and Chris and their three teenage children went swimmingly for the first few months. Amy slotted happily into the family, her clearly fragile sense of trust shored up by Steph’s cheerily maternal encouragement, and she was looking forward to staying long term.
Then the fostering service asked if Amy’s sister Natalie could stay with the family briefly “between placements”. This is despite being advised that the sisters were better apart.
It all fell to pieces so quickly. As the council failed to find a placement for Natalie, Amy’s trust in her new life disintegrated, the walls went up and she began to rebel. Meanwhile, the fostering service seemed incapable of recognising the cause of the chaos, despite endless reviews. In the end both girls had to be moved on, their self-worth further diminished, and Steph and Chris unable to consider another placement.
Not knowing the whole story it is impossible to say whether this was a case of bureaucratic bungling, as it appeared. There was a sense that, perhaps, sensitive details were being held back. But regardless of where the fault lay, the vulnerability of youngsters, and of well-meaning foster carers, was captured palpably. The consequences were etched on their faces.
One thing that can be said with certainty, though, is that this was documentary film-making at its most disturbing and acutely observed.