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Series / The Fosters

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The Fosters is a drama on ABC Family. Produced by Nuyorican Productions, a company owned by Jennifer Lopez, it first aired in 2013. The series revolves around an interracial lesbian couple who have both biological and adoptive children together. They decide to take in Callie (Maia Mitchell), a troubled teen, as their new foster child.

Not to be confused with the Cartoon Network animated series about imaginary creatures that reside in a foster home. Also not related to the 1970s UK television series The Fosters, a BBC adaptation of the US series Good Times. This may explain why the BBC acquired the spinoff but not the parent show.

The series concluded in summer 2018. A spinoff titled Good Trouble, starring Maia Mitchell and Cierra Ramirez as Callie and Mariana Adams Foster respectively premiered in January 2019.


  • Actor Allusion: Stephen Collins, who plays Lena's dad, becomes ordained via the internet in order to perform Lena and Stef's wedding. Characters even refer to him as "The Reverend" multiple times throughout the episode. This is not the first time Collins has played a reverend.
  • Abusive Parent: Obvious with the main plot of the show.
    • Callie mentions in the pilot that she had been hit by plenty of her foster parents, and before moving in with the Fosters, she attacked her foster father's car with a bat when he started beating Jude.
    • Jesus and Mariana's mom was a drug addict (though her treatment can border more on neglect)
    • Also implied with almost all of the foster youth that are shown on the show, especially the characters at Girls United, AJ and Ty, and the manager of the drop- in center.
    • Jack, Jude's new friend in season 3B is also being abused by the older boys at his group home, and Jude's boyfriend, Connor moved in with his mom in order to get away from his dad, who physically punished him.
    • This is taken to a new height in episode 3x19 when Jack is murdered by his foster father.
  • Action Mom: Stef, by virtue of being a cop.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Stef and Lena already had Brandon when they adopted Mariana and Jesus. They care for children so much that they agree to foster and later plan to adopt Callie and Jude. Lena also desperately wants to have a biological child. By the end of Season 1, she is pregnant and the whole family is thrilled.
    • after the timeskip near the end of the show, Stef and Lena foster one more kid, Corey
  • Amicably Divorced: Mike and Stef. They are partners on the police force for a time, they make an effort to parent Brandon together, Mike is civil to friendly with Lena, as well as acting as a family friend/father figure to Stef and Lena's shared kids. Any tense moments the do have are because they disagree about family issues.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Callie gets the crap beat out of her in the first episode and her face is still bruised into the second episode. A male version occurs as well when Brandon gets his hand crushed in a car door. The injury sticks and, as it is an extremely serious injury, permanently affects the nerves in his hand to the point that it affects his music playing ability.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For all their teasing and Becca's attitude towards Cole, when Cole gets called a freak for trying to use the men's bathroom on a field trip, all of the Girls United group (sans Callie) stand up for him.
    • Stef, when one of the kids in her class calls her breasts a positive asset following her mastectomy.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Callie when she goes down into a burning basement to help rescue Becca
  • Bittersweet Ending: "I Do". On one hand, Lena finally gets the wedding she's always wanted and Stef is able to overcome the lingering doubt about being gay that was instilled by her father. Also, they decide to adopt Jude and Callie. On the other hand, Liam gets off scott free, Lexi and her family is temporarily leaving the country but since they're undocumented the logistics are unclear, and Mike takes much of the flak for the shooting since he feels that Stef has a family to think of and revealing the truth at this point would kill her career. Also, Callie decides that running away is the solution to the problem of the attraction she and Brandon have.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: They're not biologically related, but the romantic tension between Brandon and Callie causes a lot of drama. They eventually decide to not pursue it, as both realize Callie needs a family more than she needs a boyfriend.
  • But Not Too Bi: Callie shares a mutual attraction and a kiss with Ximena after having had relationships or attractions to nothing but guys throughout the series. Unfortunately, this isn't expanded upon once Ximena's story arc is resolved.
  • Chick Magnet: Brandon
  • Closet Key: Jude, for Connor.
  • Conflict Ball: Callie in season 3 episode 2, when Jude wants to invite Donald, his biological father and the man who raised Callie for years, to a Father's Day dinner at their house, and Callie shows instant hatred for both the idea and for Donald, saying that he never cared about them, only signed his parental rights away to get them out of his life, and that he killed their mother. This goes against a previous episode, where Donald tells Callie he cares about them and wants to eventually regain custody, but she begged him to sign the papers to relinquish his rights, and Callie had specifically stated that he didn't kill her mother.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted. When Stef is shot and we finally see her post-surgery in the emergency room, the room is littered with blood, tools are in disarray, various waste (bags and containers) litter the floor, and it looks pretty much like what it is: the aftermath of a lot of people worried and working to save a life rather than keep things neat.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Callie, fresh out of juvie, though in truth, she doesn't really have any sort of rebel streak. Her birth parents and the people she's lived with before the Fosters, on the other hand, may have been less than stellar. As a result, she's learned to mostly just shut up since people rarely listen and trust her. This in turn means she'll silently take the blame for whatever people assign to her.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Monte comes close to this trope, interfering with Lena and Stef's relationship. She tells Lena that she set her preference on a dating site to men and women, because why not try women after she ended things with her husband?
  • Disappeared Dad: Naturally in a show revolving around Foster Kids. Almost all the fathers of the Adams Foster kids have been absent for various reasons.
    • Callie and Jude's father Donald Jacob was sent to prison for manslaughter after he drove drunk, causing their mother's death in an accident, so they were put into the system. In the back-ten premiere, Callie learns their dad had been out of jail for a year and hadn't contacted her. Eventually when they do make contact, Donald signs away his parental rights so they can be adopted by Stef and Lena. But later ...
    • It turns out Callie's biological father is someone else from her mother's past named Robert Quinn, who had no idea Callie was his child.
    • Jesus and Mariana meet their birth father, Gabe in the second half of season 3, who the twins have never even met, because he's on the sex offender registry for his relationship with their birth mother Ana because he was 18 and she was only 15.
  • The Dreaded: Liam.
  • Drunk Driver: Callie's Back Story. Dad drove drunk and crashed, killing her mother and at least two other people and going to prison for manslaughter leaving her and Jude in foster care where she was raped. Call a cab, people!
  • Elaborate University High: On the oceanfront, no less. Perhaps made more unusual in that it's a charter school (which recieves less public funding per student than a non-charter school in exchange for greater flexibility).
  • Ephebophile: Mike's girlfriend in season 1, Dani, sleeps with a drunk Brandon moping over his heartbreak over Callie and bad decisions, then has the nerve to point fingers saying Brandon had been drinking, the whole time she was cognizant of what was happening and was the adult in the situation.
  • Financial Abuse: Mariana's been stealing Jesus's ADHD medication to give money to their biological mother.
  • First-Episode Twist: Callie has a younger brother and he joins the family at the end of the episode
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Between Brandon and Callie, which goes as far as them having sex when Callie mistakenly believes she won't be able to get adopted. This naturally causes a lot of problems.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted. Their house is realistically nice for a mid-career professional couple, but it's old and small and a bit crowded with five kids.
  • Frozen in Time: The events of "I Do" happen shortly after the Supreme Court overturned California's Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. Given the production lead times, they must've made "go" and "no-go" versions.
  • Good Stepmother: Lena fully intends to and does play a positive parental role in Brandon, her stepson's life.
  • Half-Sibling Angst: Callie was raised all her life believing herself to be the older sister of her brother, Jude. However, she eventually finds out that she and Jude only share a mother, and she has another half-sibling, Sophia, on her father's side. While she insisted that Jude is her brother and Sophia is just her half-sister, both were understandably shaken up by the news.
  • Happily Adopted: The twins.
  • Has Two Mommies:
    • Let's just say this show's probably not Pat Robertson's favorite lead-in...
    • Callie, as technically speaking she has three mommies and two daddies, if you look at it a certain way.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Stef was clearly worried about the way Lena was waving that kitchen knife in the second episode, and was actively trying to avert this.
  • Informed Judaism: Emma casually mentions she's Jewish when bringing over kugel for Stef's father's memorial. To the show's credit, it actually is a Jewish custom to bring food to those sitting shivah and kugel is an Ashkenazi dish that's not particularly well known to the general public
  • Insistent Terminology: Callie is fairly insistent that Jude is her brother while Sophia is her half-sister, despite the fact that they have the same blood relation to her.
  • Instant Death Bullet / Only a Flesh Wound : Averted; when Stef is shot, it's presented firmly in the middle. The person isn't incapacitated immediately, but they're also not running around willy nilly. And even though the shot itself is perhaps a 5 on the regularly 10 point getting hit by a bullet movie list, it's treated as extremely life threatening. Even the aftermath is so since it's specifically mentioned that while said person survives the shooting, bullet fragments risk causing paralysis.
    • When Connor gets shot in the foot, he's hospitalized and told he's going to not be able to play baseball for awhile, but he's otherwise fine.
  • Jerkass: Liam.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Stef's dad, who apologizes to her for scaring her away from church.
  • The Lad-ette: Emma. Part of her conflict with joining Mariana's dance team is that it makes it harder for guys to take her seriously in her other pursuits.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Stef seems to live in her uniform. She also only seems to own one pair of pajamas to sleep in.
  • Meaningful Name: The Fosters is about a family with the surname Foster who have foster children; this series has a Double-Meaning Title.
  • Mistaken for Evidence: mistaken for evidence of the wrong thing, at least. In the webisodes, one of the girls finds what she thinks is a pregnancy test in the trash, and speculates that it might be why Gabby ran away from Girls United. It's actually not a pregnancy test, but a HIV test—Gabby is HIV positive
  • Mistaken for Racist: The Riveras, being fervent Catholics, are suspected by Stef and Lena to be homophobic, causing the Fosters to be leery about the church camp they're encouraging Jesus to attend with Lexie. Turns out they're totally OK with gay relationships, because "what's more Christian than family?"
  • Missing Mom: For Jesus and Mariana, we come to find that their birth mother is a drug addict and was pretty much incapable of raising them. For Callie and Jude, their family was driving and their father happened to be drunk at the time, resulting in him running a red light and T-boning another car. Their mother was killed, their father sent to jail for manslaughter, and the two of them going into the foster system since there were no other relatives.
  • My Beloved Smother: Lena's mom manages to be this despite the fact that her daughter is fully grown.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In the Series Finale, Stef and Lena have a naked frolic in the ocean at night - only to have their robes picked up by an oblivious resort worker leaving them stranded. In their next scene, they are scurrying across the property using palm fronds as Hand-or-Object Underwear before taking some Modesty Towels from a hamper. Then to get a new key, they have to walk up to the front desk receptionist, clad in their towels, where they're relieved there's nobody else up and about - only to run into Brandon's soon-to-be parents-in-law. Hilarity Ensues when they awkwardly try to explain their predicament without admitting anything, but give up bashfully.
  • N-Word Privileges: The show has openly used certain words have have been used to hate on homosexuality but when it comes to what Lena's half-brother said to their mother, it isn't said what exactly he said.
  • Orphanage of Fear:
    • Not Stef and Lena themselves but since a shockingly high percent of foster kids in Real Life are subject to sexual abuse, there's a strict rule about no relationships between foster/adopted siblings; Stef mentions this when it's suggested that Brandon might be attracted to Callie and vice versa.
    • The foster father Callie and Jude had before Stef and Lena (the one who got Callie sent to juvie) was extremely abusive, terrible enough that Callie was willing to be sent back to juvie in order to get Jude out of his house.
  • Parental Abandonment: Jesus and Mariana were abandoned by their drug- addicted birth mom, and later "returned" by their foster parents, which is how they met the Fosters.
  • Pet the Dog: The audience already knew that Rita cared for the girls at Girls United, but the scene where she brings Cole home from the hospital shows her tough veneer cracking just a tiny bit
  • Playing the Heart Strings / Lonely Piano Piece: At the same time when Callie and Brandon play a duet. The impromptu song becomes the closing background music for the episode.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Veers slightly towards more realistic dictation as people tend to interrupt each other/talk over each other, there are occasional pauses in dialogue, and people drop 'ums' and 'ahs' regularly. Similarly, conversations are often presented in natural arrangements; when Callie and Mariana talk during bedtime, Callie spends the first part of the conversation talking into her pillow away from Mariana.
  • Shout-Out: One piece of graffiti in Wyatt's house reads "Bad Wolf".
  • Skinny Dipping: In "Under Water", dreading her upcoming mastectomy for inevitable breast cancer, Stef imagines herself swimming peacefully in a pool naked. After Stef asks Lena to take her swimming during a heartfelt conversation, Lena indulges her by sneaking into an absent neighbor's backyard at night and having a Two-Person Pool Party in their pool.
  • Spot the Thread: Liam has a pretty good thing going with a scam where he has Sarah (his former foster sister who Callie, suspecting he was sexually abusing Sarah like he had abused her, had managed to get out of his house) steal Callie's identity to buy a whole lot of expensive handbags online and then resell them on Craigslist. Even when they get busted, they both maintain that Liam didn't know that Sarah had stolen Callie's identity, ruining her credit. Then Callie is able to figure out what Liam had overlooked: She has Stef check Sarah's credit too, showing that it had been ruined as well by Liam pulling the scam with some other girl Sarah immediately turns on Liam, admitting to having sexual relations with him (which, since she's a minor, meant Liam is going to jail for a looooong time).
  • The Topic of Cancer: Brandon's girlfriend Grace has leukemia.
  • Token Minority: Mariana overhears the captain of the dance team tell her friend (who Mariana beat out for a spot) that this was the reason, something which gnaws at Mariana for a long time. Her friend finally tells her the real reason she was picked: Lena had been cutting a lot of programs in order to save costs, and the team figured she wouldn't cut the dance team if her daughter was on it
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Callie and Mariana are a somewhat subdued example (Callie is a bit more of a tomboy than Mariana, but is still fairly girly herself). Emma and Lexi are a bit more pronounced example.
  • Wacky Cravings: Lena eats spaghetti and potato chips for breakfast because "the baby wants it".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Girls at Girls United collectively call Callie out for wanting to live on her own as opposed to working towards getting back into the Fosters' house; they all come from broken or unsupportive homes, and think Callie is throwing away her life to not be trying to get back with a loving and supportive family
  • You're Not My Father:
    • Inverted. Jesus considers (and calls) Lena and Stef his moms while he refers to his birth mother by her first name (Ana). His sister is a little more forgiving with their birth mother though it's suggested she really shouldn't be.
    • Likewise, when Callie finds out that she and Jude have different biological fathers, she flat-out tells her birth father Robert Quinn that she still considers Jude's biological father to be her father, not him.