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Informative Movies and Documentaries

Visual storytelling can be an impactful way to understand the complexities of the child welfare system and the experiences of children in foster care. Our curated list of movies, shows, and documentaries offers deep insights into the challenges and triumphs within our field. Watching these recommended resources will not only fulfill your continuing education hours but also inspire and motivate you in your advocacy work.



Gimme Shelter

"After running away from her abusive mother, a streetwise teen seeks refuge with her father, but he rejects her when he learns that she's pregnant."


The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

"Coming of age story about two inner city youths, who are left to fend for themselves over the summer after their mothers are taken away by the authorities."


Party of Five

"The five Acosta children navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported back to Mexico."

Addiction & Recovery



Anne With An E

"A plucky orphan whose passions run deep finds an unlikely home with a spinster and her soft-spoken bachelor brother. Based on Anne of Green Gables." 



"A five-year-old boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family."


Instant Family

"When Pete and Ellie decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of adoption. When they meet three siblings, they find themselves from zero to three kids overnight."


October Baby

"A coming of age story of a college freshman who discovers that her entire life is a lie and sets out on a road trip with a host of misfits to discover herself and the answers she craves."

Brain Development


Good Will Hunting

"Will Hunting has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a janitor at MIT. When he solves a difficult graduate-level math problem, his talents are discovered."

Cultural Awareness


Abortion: Stories Women Tell

"A look at the subject of abortion, told through the stories of women struggling with unplanned pregnancies, abortion providers and clinic staff and activists"


I Am Not Your Negro

"It is a journey into black history that connects the Civil Rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter. It questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond.”


Which Way Home

"Which Way Home" is a feature documentary film that follows unaccompanied child migrants, on their journey through Mexico, as they try to reach the United States."



How to Dance in Ohio

"How to Dance in Ohio shows the daily courage of people facing their fears and opening themselves to the pain, worry, and joy of the social world."


Life According to Sam

"Progeria is an extremely rare and fatal disease, exemplified by accelerated aging in the children who are afflicted by it. There is no treatment. There is no cure."



"A portrait of Zion Clark, a young wrestler who was born without legs and grew up in foster care."


Journey into Dyslexia

"Addresses misunderstandings of learning differences and demonstrates potential in dyslexic persons."



"The story of August Pullman – a boy with facial differences – who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time."

Domestic Violence


The Invisible Man

"When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax."



"Jack is a young boy of 5 years old who has lived all his life in one room. But what will happen when his Ma suddenly tells him that there are other things outside of Room?"



"An overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction." 

Family Dynamics


Ben is Back

"19-year-old Ben Burns unexpectedly returns home to his family's suburban home on Christmas Eve morning."


Glass Castle

"A young girl is raised in a dysfunctional family constantly on the run from the FBI. Living in poverty, she comes of age guided by her parents who has no intention of raising a family."



"Jackie is a divorced mother of two. Isabel is the career minded girlfriend of Jackie’s ex-husband Luke, forced into the role of unwelcome stepmother to their children.



"A desperate marine biker’s life is turned upside-down when he is united with the sassy 9-year-old daughter he never knew existed."


Marriage Story

"A stage director and an actress struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal extremes."


This Is Us

"As their paths cross and their life stories intertwine in curious ways, we find that several of them share the same birthday - and so much more than anyone would expect."

Foster Care



"Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they'd be back for her someday, it's been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan."


Broken Places

"An exploration into why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive."


Cider House Rules

"Homer is an orphan who was never adopted, becoming the favorite of orphanage director Dr. Larch. Dr. Larch imparts his full medical knowledge on Homer."


Foster Boy

"A lawyer finds himself at the center of a trial in which a for-profit foster care agency puts a known sex offender into the same foster home as his young client Jamal."


The Ride

After a violent, racially charged incident lands John in juvenile detention, he is finally placed with an unlikely set of foster parents, Eldridge and Marianna, an interracial couple."


The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

"A boy’s brutal murder and the public trials of his guardians and social workers prompt questions about the system’s protection of vulnerable children."


The Unloved

"The Unloved is film that gives a child's eye view of the U.K.'s government-run care system for orphans and children in danger."


The Broken Rose

"Rose is a young girl who has grown up in foster care. Desperate to escape an abusive situation, she is saved by an older man named Shaka, but at what price?"



"With one in eight American children suffering a confirmed case of neglect or abuse by age 18, there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S."


Great Gilly Hopkins

"Gilly is well known in the foster system. Totally unmanageable, she has stayed with more families than she can remember and has outwitted them all."


The Fosters

"A families lives are disrupted in unexpected ways when they meet Callie, a hardened teen with an abusive past who has spent her life in and out of foster homes."


Short Term 12

"A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend."



"A teenager is charged with lying about her rape allegation, but two determined investigative female detectives discover a far more sinister truth."


White Oleander

"A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion."



All Together Now

"An optimistic, talented teen clings to a huge secret: she's homeless and living on a school bus. When tragedy strikes, can she learn to accept a helping hand?"


Leave No Trace

"A father and daughter live a perfect but mysterious existence in Forest Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world."


Home Less

"After the death of his grandmother, an 18 year-old boy lives in a homeless shelter."


The Motel Kids of Orange County

"A documentary that explores the world of children who reside in discounted motels, living in limbo, struggling to survive in one of the wealthiest regions of America."

Mental Health

Neglect & Trauma


The Florida Project

​“Set on a stretch of highway in a budget motel just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, The Florida Project follows 6-year-old Moonee and her mother over the course of a single summer.”



"An astonishing record of the hereditary nature of trauma, Jacinta follows the lives of three generations of women struggling to find stability amid years of dependency."



All We Had

"A mother struggles to make a better life for her daughter."



"Struggling to provide her daughters with a safe, happy home, Sandra decides to build one - from scratch."


Out of Omaha

"It takes concepts like inequality, racial disparity, and economic opportunity out of the abstract, showing what these large-scale phenomena look like by individuals."


Daughters of Destiny

"Five girls from India's most impoverished families attend a boarding school designed to create opportunities as they strive for a brighter future."



"After fleeing an abusive relationship, a young mother finds a job cleaning houses and fights to provide a better future for her child."


The Pursuit of Happyness

"A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he's poised to begin a life-changing professional career."

Troubled Teens


Eighth Grade

"Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year — before she begins high school."


Continuing Education

Thank you for engaging with our Read resources. To further enhance your advocacy skills and fulfill your continuing education requirements, be sure to explore our other educational materials. Visit our Resources page for more podcasts, movies, shows, and documentaries tailored to support your role as a CASA volunteer.

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