Photo Credit: TedX Baltimore
Molly McGrath Tierney - The Protagonist
Given the sheer scope of child welfare and the necessity for focus, we searched far and wide for a compelling human subject on which to anchor the film.
Molly McGrath Tierney was the director of Baltimore Department of Social Services for six years. She was extremely successful, leading an expansive reform effort that dramatically improved the timeliness and impact of services to vulnerable citizens of Baltimore—including an 89% reduction in the number of children living in group homes, a 59% increase in adoptions, and a 60% reduction in the number of children in foster care. She left the organization in January 2014 to join consultancy firm Bennett Midland, to pursue her goals of bringing radical reform to child welfare across the nation.
Before she quit, Molly gave a stirring TED talk calling out foster care as a fundamentally flawed idea. She’s a charismatic, eloquent speaker and a truly dynamic personality who has both an insider’s understanding of child welfare and the critical stance of outsider. The talk was controversial, inspiring child welfare directors across the US and in Europe to contact her about her ideas. It also invited criticism from some working in the system she wants to dismantle. She has vision and ambition, and a concrete goal that we can use to craft a compelling narrative. The obstacles she faces are numerous and the stakes are very high.
Molly’s struggle will form the spine of our story. As we follow the ups and downs of her journey, we’ll use her as a jumping off point from which we can explore some of the manifold issues of child welfare. By no means will Molly be the only voice in the film. We intend to represent many different points of view, some in support of and others contradicting Molly’s vision. A full list of subjects that have granted us access is available on request.
Most importantly, we want to draw attention to the often unheard voices of the children. So far we have secured access to a number of kids who spent years in foster care and have been adopted. Their testimony is both chilling and heartwarming by turn. While consent issues complicate access to kids currently in foster care, we have been working with DCFS and the Family Court Judge in Los Angeles County to find child subjects currently navigating the system.