COLUMBUS, Ohio - A popular box-office movie about an unlikely superhero is opening the curtain on the plight of children in need of foster care.
"Shazam!" is about a 14-year-old boy in foster care who discovers he has superhero powers, which he must learn to master to fight evil forces.
While following the filming of the movie, Amanda Ennis of Kent says she became inspired by the optimism and heart of the story. Ennis says she created "BeAHERO4Kids" to connect children's services organizations and theaters screening the film to help recruit new foster-care parents.
"I am a comic-book movie fan, of all things," says Ennis. "It was all sort of a rather chance thing. I didn't know a whole lot about our foster-care and adoption system before, but along the way I learned quite a bit and it seems to me like the only reason that people aren't up in arms about it is they don't know how bad the problem really is."
In 2018, more than 26,000 Ohio children removed from their parents were placed in out-of-home care, about 2,800 were in need of adoption, and more than 900 aged out of care without ever finding a permanent home.
The weekend "Shazam!" opened, recruitment events were held at nearly 20 theaters in Ohio, and four other states. Bryan Stanton, foster and recruitment supervisor with the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services says their event in Strongsville was quite successful.
"Very rarely did we have a unique partnership like this one was that really brought people just to learn about foster and adoption," says Stanton. "We're actually excited; the movie did really well too in the theaters, which is good. We have hopes of continuing to go out on some weekends and set up our informational booths."
Stanton says the opioid epidemic has greatly increased the need for foster parents who can provide kids with a safe place to live until they can be reunited with their biological families or adopted into a permanent home. He notes those who do step up are given as much support as possible.
"It's going to be some challenging times," says Stanton. "You're not going to be alone, and you're going to be completely provided with appropriate survives to make sure it works for everyone, it works for the child, it works with the foster family."
Ennis adds that even second-run theaters are getting involved, including the Hayesville Opera House in Ashland County, which is hosting an information event April 26th.
"There's going to be a special showing of the film for 200 foster kids and their guardians and families that weekend as well. So that's kind of exciting," says Ennis. "When I heard the news about that, I thought, 'Yep, this was all worth it.' "
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.