Jennie Pollock
“Things that matter are hard”

Every 15 minutes in the UK, a child will come into care, according to the Christian fostering and adoption charity Home for Good. Fostering services need to recruit 8,100 new carers this year to meet the need. There are also almost 3,000 children waiting for adoption, a quarter of whom have been waiting more than 18 months.

That’s a lot of hurt, scared, traumatised children longing for love, stability and a place to call home.

A major new feature film released last month takes a humorous, but fairly realistic, look at this issue – albeit from an American perspective, where the system is slightly different.

Instant Family

Instant Family stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as Pete and Ellie, a couple who, after a throw-away comment, decide to look into fostering and adoption. The film’s trailer didn’t look promising – playing up all the slapstick humour and disaster elements of the story – but it’s actually a well-crafted (if slightly predictable) plotline, with some really fun, likable characters.

The story is based on the real life experience of writer and director Sean Anders, who with his wife adopted three children after the same throw-away line. It was refreshing to see a depiction of fostering that didn’t come about due to a couple’s infertility and desperation to have children. Those stories are true and heartwarming, too, but people adopt for a whole range of reasons (some less positive than others, as was portrayed in the film).

The film is strongest when it is exploring the real issues people weigh up before fostering, and then face during the process. For instance, Pete expresses a common fear when he says, “The kind of people who take in foster kids are really special – the kind of people who volunteer when it’s not even a holiday [in the American sense of Christmas or Thanksgiving]. We don’t even volunteer when it is a holiday.”

In the end, though, Pete and Ellie’s compassion for these needy children overrules their fear that they’re not special enough. And that, if nothing else, is a wonderful message to take away from the film.

Yes, fostering and adoption are hard. The support group meetings featured throughout the film are clever opportunities to explore the kinds of challenges the different individuals and couples face, and these are handled with warmth and humour, as well as a lot of wisdom.

And in the end, as one more experienced couple points out, Pete and Ellie got into this because they knew it mattered, “And things that matter are hard.”

What next?

If you are a foster or adoptive parent, thank you. Well done. What you do matters, so very much.

If you’re not, why not consider seeing this film and asking God what your response should be: should you look into becoming a foster carer? Do you have more insight into what foster carers, adoptive parents and their kids in your life are facing, and a renewed desire to pray for and support them? Could you support the work of Home for Good in their desire to inspire, equip and resource people to play their part in caring for vulnerable children?

Why not pray now for the child who was taken into care in the last 15 minutes? Try to imagine their situation, their thoughts, their fears. Imagine the parents they have been taken away from – fallen people, yes, but no further from God’s grace than us. Imagine the foster carers waiting to receive them, perhaps at very short notice. Pray for God’s provision, his comfort and his grace to be deeply felt across that situation.


Home for Good have produced a very helpful list of FAQs around the film, and a blog post written by an adoptive parent in response to the film, that you may want to read before deciding whether to see it or not, particularly if you have experience in the care system.

Please note that there is a significant amount of swearing in the film, and a number of sexual references. You may feel the 12A certificate is too low for this content.