By Aaron Valdez
In commemoration of National Adoption Awareness Month, PBS SoCal will screen “Finding Home: A Foster Youth Story,” a documentary following the trials and tribulations of Los Angeles’ foster care youth, including former Pasadena track star Jaloni West.
As part of PBS SoCal’s three-year social impact initiative “To Foster Change,” executive producer Karen Hunte enlisted Los Angeles-based filmmaker Pam Tom to help chronicle the lives of young adults in the foster care system and their critical transition into adulthood.
Tom said she did plenty of research and outreach on the foster care community and made it a point to present a different situation with each foster care youth she covered. She even went on to foster Summer, one of the young adults featured whose foster parent died during the filming of the documentary.
The documentary – which was in the works for a year – focuses on four young adults, including 19-year-old West, his twin brother Kalonji West, Summer, a 17-year-old transgender girl, and Glorianna, a 20-year-old graphic novelist, writer and YouTuber.
“My biggest goal with this documentary was to humanize and to put a face on foster youth,” Tom said. “What most people know about foster youth is mostly statistics or what they hear in the press … So I wanted to just humanize them and say, ‘These aren’t just statistics. These are real people who have real feelings, who have goals, who have fears, who have successes and get to know them because they are really no different than the rest of us.’”
Jaloni, in particular, had a rough childhood as his parents had trouble supporting him and his six brothers and sisters. There were many instances when the family was left without any food, water, electricity and many other basic needs.
At age 12, Jaloni and Kalonji were placed in foster care and after bouncing around several group homes, the two finally found a foster family in Pasadena that provided them the support and structure they’d longed for their entire lives.
Under the guidance of their new foster parents, Jaloni and brother Kalonji excelled academically and athletically. Earlier this year, Jaloni was recruited to Cal State Northridge on a track and field scholarship while Kalonji chose to continue his education at Cal State Los Angeles as he looks to major in criminal justice.
“(Jaloni and Kalonji) were very fortunate to have found foster parents that were really loving and who gave them a lot of guidance and structure, and I feel strongly that their success is a testament to the strength of their foster parents,” Tom said.
Tom’s “Finding Home: A Foster Youth Story” documentary will premiere on PBS SoCal on Thursday Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.