A naive Depression-era widower who applies for welfare is robbed of his family by state child protection bureaucrats. Story inspired by actual events. [Dir: David Greene/ Mark Harmon, Diana Scarwid, Rosemary Dunsmore/ 93 min/ Drama/ Abuse of Power, Incompetent Government]
“We are here to help. Our only concern is with the children’s well-being.” So says a social worker as she sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately ends in every father’s worst nightmare: the forcible removal of his children. Of course, once children are in the grip of the state, their well-being may fall through the cracks now and then, and that is just what happens here.
As this story begins, the mother of this Depression-era family has recently died, leaving behind her husband and four boys. The father, a low-paid construction worker, can’t afford a baby-sitter so he applies for government assistance to hire one. Unfortunately, the social worker he is assigned decides instead that his kids would be better off in a foster home, and off they go.
What an effective tear-jerker! Every separation and every reunion of the kids from their father and from each other is played for all it’s worth. And it is made all the more touching by the fact the story was inspired by actual events.
Mark Harmon gives a sympathetic performance as the widowed father who must fight a sea of red tape to retrieve his children, one by one, from forced institutionalization, and some of the kids’ performances are also commendable. In most artistic respects it’s a typical made-for-TV movie, but the story overwhelms all flaws.