If you saw the film or read the book, “The Blind Side,” you know about Leigh Anne Tuohy, who was portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the movie. Tuohy and her family are famous for having adopted Michael Oher, who is now a professional football player.
Today, Tuohy is embarking on a new reality TV series called “Family Addition,” in which she helps foster and adoptive families navigate through the system to, hopefully, make a child a permanent part of their lives. The series for the Uplifting Entertainment network (formerly GMC-TV) will premiere Friday, June 7, 2013 at 9 p.m. EDT.
“Miss Sue” Mitchell, who was played by Kathy Bates in “The Blind Side,” is also part of the show, as is Tuohy’s daughter, Collins Tuohy, who was portrayed by Lily Collins in “The Blind Side.”
Tuohy is a force of nature who is very passionate about helping kids. I talked with her on the phone about her new project.
How did this show come about? Was it your idea, or did someone bring it to you?
We had been presented, as you can well imagine, with every kind of show you can think of. It was “Undercover Boss,” “Strictest Parent,” “Amazing Race” – we’ve had all of these shows offered to us, and none of them moved the needle or would make a difference…. This one finally appealed to the entire family.
Our foster care and adoption system in this country is in major need of a rehaul, and if this is a way to get it started, then that’s what my family said we need to do – step out of our comfort zone and try to get in there and make a difference…. If someone as immensely valuable as a Michael [Oher] can almost fall through the cracks, can you just imagine who gets left behind?
So, you’re hoping to push some foster care and adoption reform?
Oh, absolutely! We’re counting on it…. We have kids that go to bed hungry every night. We have families that are living in cars. We have kids that all they want is a forever family, but because a federal law says that a family that is deserving and loving and that can take care of them and cuddle and nurture them has to come up with, let’s say, $6,800 … well, you might as well have said $6 million. This family can’t do that because they don’t have the appropriate funds to check the right box. Those laws need to be changed….
I’m depending on “Family Addition” bringing awareness, attention, people warming up to the idea that providing a forever family to a deserving kid is life-changing. If you’ve got to look at my family act a little goofy sometimes to make you tune back in, then hey, we can put ourselves out there because we know what happens when you invest in a kid’s life.
How are the families found? Do you have researchers? Did you go to adoption agencies?
All of the above. We went to every outlet you can think of.
Are all of the families in the episodes dealing with different kinds of challenges?
Each one of these stories is completely different.
Were you doing any work with adoptive families prior to this show?
Our Making It Happen Foundation does a lot of it. We call ourselves the last line of defense. We had a couple that was trying to adopt a child. It had all been worked out, and all of a sudden, the mother went into early delivery. She was on the west coast. We got a call at 11:00 at night, and they said, “She’s going to give this baby to someone else. This couple’s gotta have $1,900 to pay the hospital bill because someone else has got it.” And the Foundation wrote the check…. We facilitate a lot of adoptions. That’s not all we do, but it’s a lot of what we do.
How did “Miss Sue” Mitchell get involved in the project?
I said, “You’ve got to come help me.” And bless her heart, she packed her bags, and out she came. And it was just great camaraderie. You want this show to be a little funny and interesting.
Do you find yourself getting really attached to the families?
Every one. I got very attached to one particular child, and during one of my conversations with Michael one night, I said, “Oh, my gosh, this child…” He said, “Mom, now, you’re 52 years old…” I said, “Excuse me, you’re confused. I wasn’t asking your opinion, young man, on bringing another child into the family.”
It’s tough; that’s the downside of it…. I backtrack on a lot of them and check on them just to make sure that everything’s okay. It scares me to death that the least little thing could pull out the support that we’ve put in place and go back to square one. You just don’t want to see that happen.
What do you want to communicate to people with this show?
I want people to know that there are amazing kids, and we fully believe that there are no unwanted kids, that there are just unfound families. And that’s what “Family Addition” is trying to do. We’re trying to hook up the two, and we want people to be cognizant of what’s going on. Put this in the forefront of your mind that when you provide kids with hope and you provide them with opportunity and you provide them with love that it changes their lives and they become contributing members of society.