It Is Tough for Kids to Survive the Broken Foster Care System

By Juan Carlos

The headlines surrounding youths in foster care are bleak: Problems with the level of care provided by private agencies, crackdowns on inappropriately prescribed psychiatric drugs, and child abuse at the hands of foster parents are just some of the issues. But not every story has an unhappy ending.

The musical film Know How, which I directed, was written by and stars youths in the foster care system. It tells the story of five teens in care as they confront loss and come of age. Know How is not a documentary, nor is it fiction; it’s a hybrid approach to storytelling that stays true to the vision of those who wrote it. There are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, surviving and thriving in these situations is statistically unlikely.

Consider this: A few years after aging out of foster care, only 50 percent of young people will complete high school or a GED, 60 percent will be convicted of a crime, 75 percent will receive public assistance, and 6 percent will complete a college degree. A system producing these results needs to change.

Courtesy Know How

The video below—for the song “State of Love”—is the first publicly available track from the film’s album. It stems from the character Marie, who is portrayed by Ebonee Simpson. Marie’s grandmother has been in the hospital for months, and the prognosis is grim. Meanwhile, Marie’s boyfriend, Trey, played by Deshawn Brown, is also in foster care and is a source of strength for her in the face of uncertainty. Early in the film they celebrate an anniversary; Trey bares his soul to Marie through this rap track.

Know How covers all aspects of the foster care system, from how the youths become wards of the state to their placement in care, along with the challenges they face. By sharing their heartbreaking journey, the film examines the complexities of the system and shines a light on some of its most relevant problems. Visit the Know How website to learn more about the cast, watch exclusive videos, and find more ways to take action.

The U.S. spends billions on child welfare programs, but the true cost tends to be an unfavorable outcome for kids in the system once they become adults. Here is a story about empowerment, changing negative forces into positive ones, and overcoming the odds.

Hi, I’m
Juan Carlos

Fueled by a passion for storytelling and excitement for life design, I find joy in reframing narratives to illuminate paths toward fulfillment. My experience spans high-growth startups, filmmaking, and social impact. Through mentoring and coaching, I guide teams and individuals to discover purpose and cultivate a meaningful life.

My Story

I started in film, directing award-winning features such as ‘Know How’ and ‘Second Skin.’ These cinematic endeavors earned me recognition and allowed me to serve as a spokesperson for Adobe. I founded the White Roof Project, a grassroots climate activism campaign that mitigated the urban heat island effect and spurred community-led social change.

I carried my storytelling skills and passion for societal transformation as I transitioned into the startup ecosystem. Initially, I contributed to social impact apps, converting complex issues into accessible solutions. This early experience laid a foundation for my later work, where I led the development of groundbreaking products within high-growth startups. My work has underscored the potential of technology to innovate and amplify the quality of human life.