You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Jan 7, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

"Change of Plans" - Time for family movie night!

By Heidi Hess Saxton

Whether you are interested in the subject of foster care and adoption or are just looking for a feel-good movie to share with your family, you'll want to tune in to FOX on Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. EST (7 Central). The movie will be available on DVD on March 22 at Walmart.

"Change of Plans" is fourth in the "Family Movie Night" series co-hosted by Walmart and Procter & Gamble. The cast includes “American Idol” seventh season finalist Brooke White, Joe Flanigan and Phylicia Rashad along with a dynamic group of child actors including Jayme Lynn Evans ("All My Children"), Bobby Soto ("Brothers & Sisters"), Jakobe Dempsey ("Barney & Friends") and newcomer Clarissa Suwoko.

When Sally Danville (Brooke White) finds out that her college friend died in a tragic accident while serving in the Peace Corps, Sally is shocked to discover that she has been named the legal guardian of her friend’s four children — three of whom were adopted from third-world countries.

Sally and her husband Jason (Joe Flanigan) become overnight parents to this instant family, helping them deal with culture clashes and adjust to life in America. The story is both humorous and heartwarming, revealing how fulfilling life can be when you look beyond your own plans and invest in the lives of others.

When I previewed this film, it was hard not to draw comparisons between this couple's initial, tentative efforts to parent the four orphans and what my husband and I experienced when we first received our children, now 8 and 10, when they were nine months and three years old.

I actually recall very little about the first week of (foster) parenthood.  It was an endless, sleepless food fight, punctuated with moments of incoherence and self-doubt.  I don’t think I showered the entire time, except when I got caught in the crossfire while bathing the three squirming rug rats:  To put it mildly, I had been pushed into the deep end of the parenting pool. 

We had asked the agency for a maximum of two children, and they sent us three.  “Just take them for a week, and see . . .” At the end of the week, the phone rang. Would we take the kids on a permanent basis?  We knew the kids needed a place - but the whole experience had left me feeling like such an abject failure as a mother, I wasn’t entirely sure it was in anyone’s best interest to even consider it. 

The night after we returned the children to their temporary foster home, Craig walked in the door after work and shoved a CVS photo lab envelope into my hands, interrupting a long litany of reasons why we shouldn’t consider taking them. “Hey, look at these.”  As I gazed at each image, the details of our week together struck me full-force:  Christopher and his sister decorating cookies, their faces encrusted with sugar.  Sarah reaching a tentative finger toward a grumpy camel at Domino’s petting zoo.  The three kids huddled up with a supersized bowl of Cheetos.

The last photograph arrested my attention:  It was of me sitting on the edge of the tub holding the baby in my lap, the older two splashing in the water.  I had gallon-sized bags under my eyes, and looked as though I hadn’t brushed my hair all week.  But with Sarah nestled in the curve of my arm, I looked . . . happy.  Delirious, but happy.  Some time during that week, I had become a mother.  “Call the social worker,” I told my husband.  “Let’s go get the kids.”

This unexpected transition from "caregiver" to "mother" can be an aspect of adoptive family life that comes as something of a surprise.  While pregnant women have nine months to form a bond with their child and “feel” like a mom before the child arrives, adoptive mothers bond after “delivery.”  (This may be especially true of women who don't already have children prior to adopting. Never having been pregnant, I couldn’t say for sure.)

"Change of Plans" also captured many of the same emotional milestones in the children that I saw in my kids:  The mothering instincts of the oldest girl, and her reluctance to abdicate that responsibility to a stranger. The tentative, sometimes sneaky impulses of the boys to maintain connections to the familiar - holding tightly to any small reminder of home.  The unbearable cuteness of the very small girl, who wanted to hear again and again of the parents she was sure would return.

It was heartbreaking. And yet somehow, uplifting at the same time.  A welcome reminder of the resilience of children who are willing to open their hearts to love.  And with any luck, watching this movie will inspire other families to consider whether they might be willing to experience this kind of happiness by opening  their homes to children in need of a family.

If after seeing this movie you would like more information about foster care or adoption, contact the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption, 525 Metro Place North, Suite 220, Dublin, Ohio 43017. 1-800-ASK-DTFA (1-800-275-3832) |

Heidi Hess Saxton is a contributing writer on "Parenting" channel. She blogs at "Extraordinary Moms Network" for parents of adopted, foster and special-needs children. You can reach her at




Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

It's on FOX.