Doug Roland is a native New Yorker with a passion for stories about characters in society who are often forgotten or overlooked. His new life in Los Angeles led him to the Venice Boardwalk where he noticed one of the most tragic stories affecting the most fragile part of society: children.
Inspiration behind ‘Jada’
Roland recently made a short about a little homeless girl who stumbles through life on the streets after the death of her parents. He says he was inspired to tell the story after news broke of the Lost Angeles Department of Children and Family Services fell under investigation for an incident some years earlier. The story of an 8-year-old who was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend even after there were several reports of domestic abuse in the home.
“Well known for its eclectic boardwalk and beautiful beach, Venice also happens to be a magnet for outsiders who live on the fringes of society,” Roland said about his interest in the setting.
The DCFS responded saying that they were underfunded which lead to a public outcry about the need for fixing the system. This response influenced part of the documentary where a child care worker tries to help out the little girl, but she runs away.
Roland called the film “Jada.”
The story as it unfolds
At the tender age of seven, a little girl named Jada, played by actress Kaycie Bowens, lost her parents. The Department of Children and Family Services originally took her in, but Jada did not have much options for family placement, causing her to run away.
Living on the Venice boardwalk, Jada washes herself by going to the outside shower meant for bathers at the beach. To compensate for her loneliness, she has two stick dolls that she pretends are her parents and that she kisses and talks to. Jada raises money for herself by letting people take pictures of the wooden dolls she makes, but she also at times receives food from sympathetic adults.
One day she meets a stranger who wants to help her, but Jada runs away. It is soon revealed that he is a case-worker. His supervisor reminds him that while his heart is in the right place, this type of case-work is a “marathon” and not a “sprint,” and helping someone like Jada is easier said than done.
Towards the end of the film, Jada meets another girl with her parents, who wave to her, pointing out the fact that Jada and the other girl really are not that different from each other. As much as we want to write off homelessness as some nightmare that couldn’t really happen to us, the reality is that anyone, including children, could find themselves the victims of circumstance. And while Jada is only a character in a story, we shouldn’t forget that there are real children in her position who go unnoticed every day.