Why Shaquille O’Neal is working to change the foster system

The NBA star partnered with nonprofit First Star Academy to produce the fictional film “Foster Boy.” He says stories about foster kids “hurt my heart,” and that he was moved to make a change.
5:42 | 11/24/20

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Transcript for Why Shaquille O’Neal is working to change the foster system
Reporter: It's February 2020. Just weeks before the world would shut down from covid. And we are with shaquille O'Neal at the pan African film festival in L.A. They are here for the movie "Foster boy," a movie about the failings of the American foster care system. Produced by a real life super hero. Shaq, and known by fans as Superman. While no one anticipated how a pandemic would bring the country to a standstill, Shaq has not stopped doing a lot of good. We were able to reconnect this fall to discuss the film and how 2020 has taken a toll on so many, especially the foster suspect. I had a couple of relatives pass away from covid. Itough year from everybody. Reporter: While shaquille has championed the causes of he said that producing this film opened his eyes. It's a guy that came to me and was, like you want to know something about the foster care system? I thought I knew everything about it and I didn't. When I got the information it was not really good. Didn't that I se I was like, people sho be aware of this. Because I'm not a foster kid. I've always had my mom and dad, what if I didn't? How does that feel? So, if we can bring awareness to the situation try to help them make change, that's what I'm always about. I see you -- Reporter: The film tells the story of Jamaal, imprisoned after years of abuse in the system. What made you want to take the stories that you heard of neglect and the plight of so many foster youth in the country and get it on a screen and make a movie out of it? Because that shouldn't go on. Shouldn't go on. All the stories H my heart. By age 8 a cruel fate. Found a meaning in loss. Ripped fromhe comfort of a family and taken by cops. It shouldn't happen. And that can mess with you mentally. Reporter:er for the rest of your life. Forever, forever. And that doesn't need to happen. Like, when a person's down, what is below bottom? A lot of people don't come backat. You have to show, I love you. You have to show them the way. Reporter: Peter samuelsson produced foster boy with Shaq. It was important for him to provide more awareness about what he calls a broken system. 9% of American foster kids go to college. 3% earn a degree. Our kids, 89% go to college. It's transformative, in the, thnothing matter with the kids and a lot the matter with the grown ups and the system. Reporter: Of the to approximately 400,000 kids in the foster care system, 23,000 age out without ever finding a permanent family of their own on. And face teen pregnancy, suicide and incarceration. This is the last great civil rights struggle that never had day one. They don't be vote. They arechildren. I'm sure a lot of pressure has been put on the kids. Research shows that smiling releases chemicals in your face and your brain, helps you feel a little bit better. So when I meet a person, I just try to make them laugh. But, a lot of the kids, when reality kicks back in, the laugh was cool for a second, when reality kicks back in, they go back to the space. Reporter: In a year of pandemic proportions, even a giant can be shaken. You know, there's a saying that there's certain things you will never forget. Reporter: The hall of famer has had his own share of heartbreak. His sister passed a year ago from cancer and they are family sharing tri Certain things that you will never think could happen. Never will think my little sister would go before me. My perfect little sister. And then, the be. In spite of grief, he believes that projects like foster boy andthe advocacy around it can be a game change er. I met a lot of the kids that just hold stuff inside. They just hold it. Nobody understands, nobody cares. I think once they know that there are people that understand and care, they are going to start open up. And I hope this story teaches the world about compassion. We need compassion more than ever these days. Reporter: Where did you get this heart, this humilitynd desire to out love? It's from listening to my mother and father, I just want to make people smile. It's not going to happen right away. We are working on it. To all the foster kids, I love you have ins a gram, Twitter, call on me, I will do whatever I have to do to make you smile. What is your legacy? I had the answer for the world, I would give it and I would give it for free. What would I like my legacy to

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