In July 2015, POV asked Tough Love filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.
In POV's Behind the Lens interview, you said that making Tough Love affected your own understanding of your privilege, specifically when it came to your own children. What have you learned since the film has been released and now has a national broadcast?
I can safely say that all of my friends and family have never had any encounters with the child welfare system before. And, if they have had any relation to the system, it's always through a friend or relative who has been a foster parent. And that's the side or perspective they can draw a personal connection or narrative from. So, it's been interesting to hear people's reactions before the film was made and after the film has had its broadcast. Since the broadcast, people are less scared of the film and the subject matter. I think they thought the film was going to present a very one-sided or overly sympathetic perspective of parents. And they realize while watching scene after scene, that these are just two of many parents who really love their children but have struggled with a lot of issues and continue to struggle with a lot of issues that life just keeps throwing at them. I think folks are much more sympathetic to these struggles and really have more insight into the adage that not all families are created equally.
Have there been any notable changes in the child welfare system since the film ended?
Well, it's interesting that the day after the broadcast a federal class-action law suit was filed against the child welfare agencies of New York City and New York State. The lawsuit alleges that the city's Administration for Children's Services fails to provide the services, planning and caseworker training to help children find permanent families before they suffer irreparable harm — all part of a lack of urgency, child welfare advocates say, that permeates the system. I think footage in the film definitely supports this notion!
Also, we are part of on-going talks on Capitol Hill lead by two important Senators who are putting together a legislative bill that calls for major federal financing reform for child welfare and foster care in the United States. The parents featured in Tough Love may be called upon to testify before Congress to help push this bill forward.
What do you hope a public media audience will take away from the film? OR Who do you hope will see the film? (Parents, policy makers, child welfare workers?)
I know this film will reach child welfare workers. So far, they have openly embraced this film. They are very excited to see real parents, real social workers and real problems and solutions portrayed on the screen in such a different light. I hope that the general public will see this film so that they, too, can have a more nuanced perspective of the parents and child welfare workers around them who live in this challenging and complex bureaucracy.
What are you working on next?
Our new film is about the nation's first human trafficking intervention court in the United States. It is located in the Queens Criminal Court building and it is lead by a Japanese-American female Judge. The film will be a triptych that breaks down the many parts and players that make-up this court, the services and the women it has been created to serve.