Family Friendly Movies Featuring Adoption, Foster Care

We often talk about how meaningful it is for a child to see themselves reflected in characters they see in media like movies, TV and books. But, it is equally important for kids to see characters different from themselves. It helps them learn about others and develop empathy.

With this in mind, here are some GREAT family friendly movies with characters who are in foster, adopted or kinship homes, and how you can discuss them as a family to learn more.

Land Before Time (Ages 1+)

This is a great fun movie to introduce your child to the concept of adoption. It’s a fun dinosaur movie about friendship. But at the end of the movie Ducky, a large mouth dinosaur, introduces his siblings to Spike, a spike tailed dinosaur and says, he’s your new brother! And they all cheer.

How to talk about it: Use the opportunity to ask your child if they noticed that Ducky made Spike his brother. Ask them why might Spike come and live with Ducky’s family? Talk about how spike didn’t have parents to take care of him and how families don’t always look alike.

Tarzan (Ages 1+)

Tarzan is the classic story of the boy who was raised by apes. This story shows a baby with his parents and when his parents die he is found by a gorilla mommy who is missing a child of her own.

How to talk about it: Ask your child what they think about Tarzan being raised in the jungle. Do they think it was hard for him to live with a family when they looked so different and acted so different? Discuss the moment when he covers himself in mud because he wants to look more like his mom. Explain how people have different color skin, but we all have hearts that beat and it’s what is inside that counts. If you have older kids, you might ask them if they think it was natural for Tarzan to want to learn about the humans that looked like him. Then discuss how adoption can be a wonderful way for a family to be made, but many children want to know more about their family of origin. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their adoptive parents. It’s natural to want to connect to your families of origin.

Shazam (13+)

A 14-year-old foster child is transported to another realm while riding the subway. There he is given an ability to become superhuman anytime he says “Shazam.” Before getting his powers, Billy had been running away from all of his foster homes. His new foster family has lots of foster kids and the parents are former foster youth, and they are patient with him, understanding that they need to show him they’ll still be there even when he runs away.

How to talk about it: Ask your kids how they felt when they saw Billy running away. Ask them if they think Billy was a bad kid because he ran away. Then have a conversation about why he might not feel safe and why running helps him feel empowered. This is a great movie that shows some of the difficult realities of foster care. But, it also shows that with love and consistency a child can feel at home.

Hunt for the Wilder People (13+)

Ricky Baker is a teenager who can’t seem to stay in one foster home. He gets moved from home to home after breaking rules and running away. Eventually, he is taken to live with a kind woman and her grumpy husband out in the bush in New Zealand. He can’t run away because there is nowhere to go. Uncle Hector and Rick, a father figure and foster son, accidentally become the targets of a manhunt after fleeing into the New Zealand bush.

How to talk about it: Discuss how Ricky had trouble staying in homes and ask why your kids think he would always break the rules. Talk about how kids who feel unloved or unwanted often act out to get attention. Then, discuss how his aunt made him feel like he belonged. Ask questions about how his uncle and him were able to bond and work together during a very difficult time.

It’s a misconception that foster kids are bad kids. In reality, they are just kids who have been dealt a very tough hand. If they have difficult behaviors, it is because they are trying to cope with the immense loss and trauma. So when you see a character in a movie who is living with their grandparents, in a foster home or have been adopted, take the opportunity to help your children gain perspective.

Additional Movie Options

Spider-Man (kinship)

Big Hero 6 (kinship)

Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 (adoption)

Despicable Me (adoption)

Instant Family (foster care/adoption)

Lilo and Stitch (foster care/kinship)

Bethany Duber is a foster parent to two incredible toddler boys. Born and raised in Raytown, Bethany graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2012 with the dream of becoming a copywriter for an ad agency. After 7 years of the ad word, she decided to change careers and is now working as the Special Events Coordinator at FosterAdopt Connect. This new career brings an exciting new challenge and allows her continue her dedication to helping kids in foster care. Bethany knows first-hand some of the unique challenges foster parents face. She also knows how incredibly rewarding it is to be given the title mommy and is thankful for every moment she has with her precious kiddos. Bethany’s passions include her family, improving the lives of kids in foster care, and fighting for social justice. Her hobbies include writing poetry and children’s books, podcasting with her husband about movies and supporting local KC businesses.