Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal’s TOUGH LOVE airs on PBS on July 6; Intimate View of America’s Child Welfare System

POV’s ‘Tough Love’ Offers a Rare, Intimate View of America’s Child Welfare System Through the Eyes of Two Parents Desperate to Get Their Children out of Foster Care, Monday, July 6, 2015 on PBS

Charged With Neglect, Not Abuse, Do Patrick in Seattle and Hannah in New York City Deserve Second Chances?

“Down-to-earth . . . ground-level views of struggling, everyday . . . people.” —Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Patrick graduates from Family Treatment Court in Seattle. Credit: eyeWANG Pictures

Patrick graduates from Family Treatment Court in Seattle. Credit: eyeWANG Pictures

What makes a good parent? How do you prove you are responsible after you’ve been deemed unfit? Having lost custody of their children to Child Protective Services, two parents—one in New York City and one in Seattle—fight to win back the trust of the courts and reunite their families in Stephanie Wang-Breal’s moving film. Acknowledging their past parenting mistakes due to poverty, poor choices and addiction, both Hannah and Patrick contend with a complex bureaucracy to prove they deserve a second chance.

Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Tough Love has its national broadcast premiere on Monday, July 6, 2015 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) during the 28th season of PBS’s POV (Point of View). POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series and the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.It is conservatively estimated that more than 2 million children are in state sponsored care worldwide. In the U.S., more than 400,000 children were living without permanent families in 2013. In 2012, 78% of cases reported to child protective services agencies involved findings of neglect, not abuse. Although each state defines neglect differently, allegations often involve poverty, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence and/or children with significant developmental challenges.

In Tough Love, we meet 40-something single dad Patrick Brown in Seattle’s Family Treatment Court, which offers programs to help parents with histories of substance abuse reunite with their children. Patrick’s 4-year-old daughter, Natalya, has been living with a loving Italian foster family since Patrick, fearing for his child’s life, called Child Protective Services about her meth-addicted mother. After 15 months in the court program, Patrick, a journeyman landscaper, handyman and recovering meth addict himself, is now sober, holding down a steady job and inching closer to being reunited with Natalya. But he slips—gambling away his rent money and drinking a glass of wine. The judge considers terminating his parental rights.

In New York City, seven-months pregnant Hannah Siddique and her husband, Philly, are preparing for the birth of their first child. Two years earlier, Hannah’s two children from a relationship with an abusive ex-boyfriend were taken from her after the New York City Administration for Children’s Services learned that she had left her son and daughter with her mother for nights at a time. Was it poor judgment or neglect? Hannah admits that at the time her children were taken from her, “I was clueless as to what it was to be a mother.” But now she is determined to prove that she can create a safe and loving home for her children.

Tough Love, a compassionate inside look at the child welfare system, shows the remarkable discretion and power that judges have in defining what makes a parent a parent—and a family a family. Put under the microscope of child protective services, which parents would pass the test? The film illustrates the disparity between various state systems and bears witness to the often-overlooked and unappreciated role that social workers, lawyers and parent advocates play as cases drag on for years.

“I hope Tough Love gives audiences a glimpse of the lives inside the child-welfare system, the lives of the families and workers who spend countless hours navigating this complex bureaucracy,” says filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal. “At the end of the day, it is a system made of people. People who are faced with complex issues like housing, welfare, domestic violence and substance abuse.

“Too often, adoption is seen as the only option for children in foster care. Through Hannah, Philly and Patrick’s stories, I hope to show audiences that these children have parents who love them and are willing to do whatever it takes to get them home.”

Tough Love, an Official Selection of the 2014 editions of both the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, is produced by eyeWANG Pictures. It is a co-production of ITVS and a co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media.

About Stephanie Wang-Breal:

Stephanie Wang-Breal

Stephanie Wang-Breal

Director and Producer Stephanie Wang-Breal has been producing and directing films and commercials for the past 11 years. She directed the award-winning documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy, which had its national broadcast premiere on POV in 2010. The film was nominated for an Emmy and won the best U.S. feature award at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival and best documentary feature at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, as well as a 2011 CINE award. Wang-Breal received the Emerging Director Award at the Asian American International Film Festival for the film.

Tough Love, Wang-Breal’s second feature-length documentary, premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2014. Wang-Breal has also directed pieces for Tiffany & Co., Apple, Goldman Sachs, UNICEF, CNN, MTV and most recently an episodic series for Nickelodeon. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with her husband, 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

About POV
Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. The series airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on PBS from June to September, with primetime specials during the year. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.

POV films have won 32 Emmy® Awards, 18 George Foster Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award and the Prix Italia. The POV series has been honored with a Special News & Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series and the NALIP Award for Corporate Commitment to Diversity. More information is available at

Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding comes from Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, The Fledgling Fund, Marguerite Casey Foundation, Ettinger Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.

cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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