It’s no secret that Ally Walker inspired millions in her role as Dr. Samantha Waters on the hit TV series Profiler. With only three seasons under her belt, Dr. Waters had an amazing impact on audiences across the nation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Walker would carry this into what arguably became her most important role of all: an everyday American hero who can create change in her community. So much change, in fact, she helped spark a movement in child welfare in California (and even the nation).
November of 2001 was just warm enough to take her three children for a walk by the beach. While on their stroll, Walker happened to find a mother and her 11-month-old baby on the street, homeless and looking ill. Upon seeing the baby, named Norman, Walker asked if the two of them were doing all right.
Whatever Walker had planned on doing that day was no longer her priority. She spent the rest of the day with the little family, driving the pair to a clinic for immediate care, while calling every shelter in the area to find a bed for them. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, most spaces were filled with others looking for the same relief. After hours of calls and requests, Walker finally secured a spot at a battered women’s shelter that she’d donated to many times before.
Once she had delivered the little family to the shelter, she mentioned to a volunteer that she was concerned for the safety of the baby. The volunteer advised Walker to call the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if she felt the child’s life was in danger. Days later, Walker learned that the Department had sent a social worker to the shelter to take Norman from his mother and place him in foster care. This stuck with Walker; she couldn’t stop wondering what effect this would have on Norman. Walker decided to start a real investigation all on her own.
Her findings inspired her to make the 2005 documentary For Norman, Wherever You Are. As Walker summarizes on her website, “The film focuses on then [foster] system in Los Angeles, but could be anywhere in the United States. [The film] takes you inside the 'business' of fostering children in a way that no other film has dared to do. It points out the flaws of the current system while never losing sight of the fact that a system is needed. It also shows the viewer how strong of a role poverty plays in the raising of children in this country.”
Since the release of the film, the former head of L.A.'s DCFS has resigned and new legislation has been introduced to regulate and improve the foster care system of the county. In a 2003 interview with IGN, Walker stated, “I think there's been this whole movement with the ACLU and private children's groups suing the county of Los Angeles for the treatment of foster care kids… There can be a lot of really important changes for these kids, because they are our children and they have no one, and there's a lot of money pouring in, but there's a lot of change that needs to take place…”
The documentary can be viewed on YouTube.
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