Skip to Content
Possible Selves cover image

Possible Selves 2022


Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Shaun Kadlec and Sarah Feeley
Directed by Shaun Kadlec
Streaming, 84 mins

High School - General Adult
Child Abuse; Family Relations; Foster Children; Sociology

Date Entered: 04/25/2022

Reviewed by Giovanna Colosi, Librarian for the School of Education, Subject Instruction Lead, Syracuse University

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are approximately 420,000 children in foster care in the United States as of 2021. Of these children only an estimated 3% graduate from college. Possible Selves follows teenagers who are placed in foster care through their high school years to see if they can reach that goal.

The title Possible Selves is taken from a concept in Social Psychology that possible selves represent an individual’s idea of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming, and thus provide a theoretical link between cognition and motivation. In one of the several cutaways in the documentary where an expert talking head is portrayed in an interview setting via a mobile phone, this concept is addressed in the context of those in the foster care system. While they aspire for a better life, they are also held back by the notion that their possible self might not ever achieve their hopes and dreams.

The documentary claims to give foster children a voice as they are usually overlooked. Typically filming the lives of foster children is not allowed but filmmakers were granted permission by a judge to gain access to the foster care children’s temporary homes, Los Angeles Children’s Court and First Star, a nonprofit that helps foster youth prepare for college.

The movie follows several children, but in particular Alex, a trombone player who has a tumultuous past with his biological family and is looking to fit in to his new foster family and has a dream of becoming a musician and going to college.

The movie also provides glimpses of other foster care children. We see conversations between them talking about stints in “juvie,” their abusive biological families and then often what they hope to become someday. The underlying themes are the same though, parents who often abuse drugs, then abuse their children and then these children get placed into “the system.” I found myself invested in the children’s lives and celebrating their success and being saddened by their setbacks. One criticism I have is that I would have liked to have the filmmakers delve deeper into some of the other children featured, especially Mia, a bright young lady who is determined to go to college, who talks about pushing down her pain to the point where it is hard for her to feel.

This film would work well for in-class viewings in courses such as social work, sociology, counseling and human services and teacher prep.

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.