Maia Mitchell

On Monday's The Fosters' (9/8c, ABC Family), Callie Jacobs is right back where she began when the series premiered, in juvie. But this time around she has a loving family by her side -- if only she could see finally accept them into her life.

"It's complicated for Callie because her goal is to live independently and take control of her life and not be bound by the system or family or expectations of her that have been restricting," Maia Mitchell tellsTVGuide.com. "She gradually realizes that may not be the best thing for her, but it's hard when you've never been loved or nurtured to accept it because it's terrifying to have the thought of it being taken away."

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When the groundbreaking ABC Family series returned for the second half of its freshman season, Callie had run away from her soon-to-be-adoptive parents Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo). But it wasn't because Callie didn't want them as a family. After she and her foster brother Brandon (David Lambert) fell for each other, a major no-no in foster families, Callie left so that it wouldn't risk the adoption of her little brother Jude (Hayden Byerly). Of course, life on her own didn't work out as planned and she quickly realized getting arrested was safer than being out on the streets. On Monday's episode, Callie — at the urging of Stef and Lena — is sent to a girls' group home lead by guest star Rosie O'Donnell.

"There are these amazing girls who are really tough on her," Mitchell says. "She has dealt with the system and knows to survive in those places you have to have a brave face and you can't show vulnerability -- yet she's feeling her most vulnerable because on one level she wants to be independent but on another she's missing Brandon and Jude and trying to fight for that because it's the only beam of hope she can see. She also has to face things she hasn't dealt with yet because she hasn't had the opportunity to. Her parents give her the chance to go and sort through them."

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Eventually, Callie will be drawn back to her family, both new and old, forcing her to reconcile whether blood or a nurtured bond makes up a true family.

"A family tragedy occurs which draws Callie back to the family and she's faced with dealing with the grief of her own mother's loss," Mitchell says. "She has to let go of some of the guilt she's holding around her relationship with her mother from when she was just 10 years old. Through that, Stef and Lena connect to her on a really deep parental level, and it's the first time Callie really allows them to take care of her and build that relationship which forces her to feel what's important rather than shelve love away. It's what she spends the season working on."

During the season Callie also comes face-to-face with her father (Jamie McShane) who she thought was in jail, but had actually been released and never reached out to her. "Callie meets with him to be clear about what he means to Jude because she's scared of Jude's feelings and through that she has to come to her own conclusions about these women who have decided to be her parents rather than her dad who's never been a parent. That's important for her to grasp."

With parental abandonment, "fostcest," immigration, gay marriage, rape and more heavy issues addressed in just the first 11 episodes, will the show begin to lighten up a bit? Not so much. "[This half of the season] is equally if not more heavy," Mitchell says. "The tone and vibe has increased and the intensity and the drama is turned up a notch."

The Fosters airs Mondays at 9/8c on ABC Family.