Tough Love chronicles the separate journeys of Patrick Brown, a single, white father in Seattle, and Hasna “Hannah” Siddique, a newly married Bangladeshi-born mother of two in New York City, as they fight to make their families whole again after their children were taken from them due to neglect. Through intimate, vérité footage, we witness firsthand the complex bureaucracy of America’s child welfare system and the powerful role that poverty and other challenges play in keeping parents and children apart.
It is conservatively estimated that more than 2 million children are in state-sponsored care worldwide. In the United States, more than 400,000 children were living without permanent families in 2013. In 2012, 78 percent of cases reported to child protective services agencies involved findings of neglect, not abuse. 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?