Documentary Highlights the Importance of JBAY’s Work to Protect Older Youth in Foster Care

“Why wasn’t I adopted?” That is the question that Noel Anaya explores in his newly released documentary “Unadopted”, which aired on Monday, November 16th followed by a question and answer session with Noel and John Burton Advocates for Youth Executive Director Amy Lemley.

The film follows Noel’s life, starting with his entrance into foster care at age one, through his separation from his siblings, a near-adoption and then back to his long-term foster parents, with whom he lives for most of his 20 years in foster care.

Noel’s experience, together with those of two young people featured in the documentary, highlights the complexity of adoption and the special challenges that “older” youth in foster care face.

JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley was interviewed in the film and discussed the plight of the over 20,000 youth who “age out” of foster care annually, “While foster care for older youth has improved in the last decade, it is no replacement for a family.”

In the Q&A following the film’s screening, Noel and Amy explored the implications of the pandemic on youth and young adults in foster care. “During the pandemic, most young adults are turning to their families for financial and emotional support. Youth in foster care don’t have that option. California can’t turn its back on these young people when they need us most.”

JBAY has protected foster youth during the pandemic by advocating for a policy to allow them to remain in foster care until June 30, 2021, providing emergency grants for food and housing and providing laptops for distance learning.

While the film doesn’t provide a single, simple answer to why Noel wasn’t adopted, it provides a powerful testament to why organizations like JBAY must keep fighting to support and protect older youth in foster care.

To learn more about Noel’s journey through foster care, watch the full, 30-minute film.