Staff Recommendations – December 2021

This month’s picks include a TV series that echoes back to one of our August recommendations, a gripping documentary used recently in one of our CASA continuing education sessions, and a New York Times article. While this month’s picks focus on harsh realities and subject matter, they all contain stories of the human experience overcoming tragedy to show us that hope is always present.

TV Series Pick – Dopesick on Hulu

Based on the book of the same name that we recommended in August 2021, Dopesick is a drama that explores America’s opioid addiction crisis. The development of the opioid crisis is documented from the boardrooms of Purdue Pharma and elaborate private museums controlled by the Sackler family, which contrast OxyContin’s impact on a poverty-stricken mining town in Virginia. Veteran actor Michael Keaton stars as a small-town doctor in an intense performance that forces viewers to take an empathetic approach to viewing opioid addiction by humanizing the impact the crisis has on his small town. The series truly looks at the opioid epidemic through all lenses and every character is forced to confront their willing or unwilling participation in generating one of the worst public health crisis our country has faced.

Documentary Pick – LOVE & DIANE on Vimeo

LOVE & DIANE tells the story of Diane Hazzard over the course of five years as Diane and her family collectively struggle with homelessness, drug addiction, and navigating social systems that in part determine the course of their lives. The documentary is an authentic exploration into the intersection of poverty, welfare, and drug rehabilitation and how those systems impact families. The Hazzards’ story demonstrates how generational trauma and poverty can make it so hard for those who are already struggling to ”make it.” The filmmakers take care to ensure that their storytelling is fair and non-judgmental while showing a forgotten, but very real side of the American experience. Diane and her family show the power of love, resiliency, and redemption in this incredibly moving documentary.

Article Pick – How “Shadow” Foster Care Is Tearing Families Apart by Lizzie Presser of The New York Times

Labeled a “thought provoking read” by our staff, this article looks deep into the realities of “hidden” foster care. “Hidden” foster care placements occur when child welfare agencies place children with relatives, fictive kin, or even community members with no familial ties to the children they house without court sanction or involvement. Through the narrative of two sisters from North Carolina who grew up in this shadowy system, Presser’s reporting highlights the tragedies that can occur when the best interests of the state trump the best interest of a child, and one attorney ‘s fight to seek justice for children and families negatively impacted by the unofficial system of foster care.