Santa Barbara couple Christina and Nathanael Matanick are the founders of ReMoved, a nonprofit that focuses on helping people better understand the needs of foster children and the system that controls their lives. The project, which began in 2014 with a short film that has more than 20 million views on You Tube, has produced three more shorts and a recently published book, Listen: Stories We Carry with Us from House to House.
Neither Christina nor Nathanael was a foster child, but after seeing some friends go through the foster-to-adopt process, the couple decided they could handle the challenges. Soon after they had their first child together, they attended an adoption conference at Santa Barbara Community Church where they learned of the need for people to open their homes for kids locally. “There are kids in our county who need homes?” Christina realized. “We can do that.”
They entered a foster-parent training class. “Our trainer taught us to think of things from the kids’ point of view,” said Christina. “Everyone is self-centered, so you think about decisions like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be hard. How am I gonna be able to do this?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, but think about what it’s like for the kid!’”
Inspired by their trainer and learning to view the foster system from the eyes of a child, the Matanicks decided to create their dramatic film, ReMoved, which follows a young girl as she moves through the system and tells her story.
Countless people of all ages who had once been in the foster system reached out to the Matanicks, but the messages from kids who were still in the system were particularly moving. “So many kids wrote saying, ‘Nobody’s ever understood me,’ or, ‘I’ve never seen my story told; it gave me words to explain my experience,’” Christina said. “Then they started sharing their personal stories with us, and we were amazed that these youths have overcome so much adversity.”
After pondering what their next move should be, Nathanael came up with the idea of creating a book that featured the stories of those who wanted to be heard. Listen, published in May, came together from hundreds of stories, crowdfunding, and lots of help from local creatives. “It’s not that rare of an experience, but it’s just not talked about, so it feels very isolating for youth (and adults) who have had that experience in childhood and feel ashamed of it — like it was their fault,” said Christina. “People need to understand it more so the language can change and these kids can feel more understood. All of our work is just to say your story matters, you are important, and you are not alone.
Listen is available for purchase online at removedfilm.com or at Chaucer’s Books. The Matanicks’ goal is for a copy to make it into the hands of every child in the country who is in the foster system.