This director made a joke about adoption. What followed became the basis of a new film.
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Paramount Instant Family

Sean Anders never expected that an off-hand joke would change his life.

The writer and director (who's responsible for comedies like "Hot Tub Time Machine" and "She's Out Of My League") and his wife, Beth, had been discussing the possibility of having kids when he joked that he might be too old to be a dad.

"Why don't we just adopt a five year old? It'll be like I got started five years ago," Sean recalls saying. "I was totally kidding, but she took it seriously enough to get us moving down the road."


The couple began doing research and quickly realized something important — while there were many kids looking for their forever families, older children had a much harder time being adopted out of the foster system. Suddenly, Anders' joke about adopting a five-year-old started to become more real.

"Once we decided to move forward, it was scary and overwhelming, but we were very open to whatever came our way," Beth says.

Adopting kids is a huge decision. So they decided that their best option was not to decide, or at least, not right off the bat.

The couple connected with The Seneca Family of Agencies in California to begin the process, but they both agreed that they wouldn't jump into anything hastily.

"We decided that we would just go to the orientation, and we wouldn't decide," Sean says. "When we found out that we had [to take] classes, we just thought, 'Well, let's just take the classes and see what happens.'"

What ended up happening was that the Anderses, who had only been considering adopting one child, adopted three.

In 2012, they became the parents of an 18-month-old, a three-year-old, and a six year-old — a trio of siblings who'd been removed from their mother due to her dependence on drugs.  

The next few months were some of the hardest of The Anderses' lives. They'd been confident that they'd be able to handle the challenge of creating a family overnight, but quickly realized that they might be in a little over their heads.

"We would lie in bed at night and just try to figure out some way that we could get them out of our house," Seam wrote in a piece for Time. "They were completely ruining all of our fun. When you get three at once you don’t have time to get your sea legs. It was kind of like babysitting someone else’s kids, but forever."

However, with a bit (okay, a lot) of adjustment, the family is now a complete unit. Sean and Beth wouldn't trade their kids for the world.

They're also correcting some major misconceptions about adoption while they're at it.

One of those misconceptions is that adoptive parents fall in love with their kids right away, and vice-versa.

"I think most people, they need to build up that trust and that love between them," explains Sean.

But that trust and love does build up through hundreds of tiny gestures every day, and eventually the feeling of belonging overwhelms everything else. For Sean, there was a specific moment when he realized that his family was no longer two adults and their three adoptive kids but one complete unit. It came after months of messes, and arguments and sleepless nights.

"There was this one day that I woke up, I think it was a Sunday, and it was in the morning, and it was very quiet in the house. My wife was still asleep, and the kids were still asleep, miraculously. I had this strange feeling in my gut that I couldn't quite identify. Then I realized that, I thought, oh man, I miss them right now. I'm excited for them to come running in to my room and wake us up. I knew in that moment that I had fallen in love with my kids."

If this story sounds a lot like trailers you've seen for the film "Instant Family," it's because the movie is based on The Anderses' experience. Sean's hope is that it gives people an honest look at what adopting kids can really feel like.

Often adoption stories focus on the difficulty of the process, but that's not all there is to it.

While they were growing into their new family, the Anderses definitely felt some heartbreak, but there was a lot of laughter, too.  That's ultimately why Sean decided to make "Instant Family."

His hope is that audiences leave the film with a clearer, more compassionate understanding of foster youth, and that they recognize how rewarding adoption can be for everyone involved.

"I just want [audiences] to walk away having a better idea of who these kids are," he says.  "And that, when they hear the word foster care, it doesn't automatically conjure feelings of fear, and pity and anxiety; but instead, conjures lots of compassion and love, and even enthusiasm, because...these kids, they're just kids. And they need us. And we need them."

“Hopefully you realize that they’re just family," he says of the characters on screen. "That could even be you. That could be your kids and your family.”

To learn more about The Anderses' journey and "Instant Family," check out the video below.

Movie based on real life love

After deciding to adopt, this couple became parents to three kids overnight — and decided to make a comedy about it.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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