Funded! This project was successfully funded on June 8, 2013.


TOUGH LOVE is a documentary film that explores the lives, homes and cases of families caught in the child welfare system.


Thank you to EVERYONE who backed us and helped us reach our goal! We couldn't have done it without you! 

If you are just hearing about our film, you can learn more at our web site.

If you would like to support the project, you can still make a contribution for some of our rewards, or make a tax-deductible donation by visiting our website to learn more! We look forward to sharing the film with you in 2014!

TOUGH LOVE chronicles the lives of two parents, Hannah from New York City and Patrick from Seattle, who have been separated from their children by the state. Through vérité-style footage and exclusive access inside the child welfare courts, TOUGH LOVE captures an intimate, firsthand account of these parents' triumphs and struggles as they confront their past mistakes and attempt to prove to the system that they deserve a second chance to be parents. Throughout the film we will also hear from the foster parents who take care of these children, the judges who oversee these cases and the child welfare experts who have a clear understanding of how this complex system works.


Hi, my name is Stephanie Wang-Breal. Thank you for visiting my Kickstarter page for my new film, TOUGH LOVE. You may know me from my last film WO AI NI MOMMY a story about International Chinese adoption. Working on that film was an amazing experience. Along the way we won multiple awards, were nominated for an Emmy and met an amazing community of people. This community urged me to look more closely into our nation's child welfare system. After doing some research, I became inspired me to make this new documentary, TOUGH LOVE.  

When I first began working on this film 2.5 years ago, I was surprised to learn that over 90% of parents lose custody of their children to the foster care system for neglectful incidents relating to treatable issues: insufficient housing, lack of childcare or family support, and drug addiction. Many of these parents deeply love their children and want them home. Sadly, poverty-related stresses and cultural stigma often make it difficult for them to get their kids home and out of foster care. This is a story and perspective that's rarely told in today's media.

As most child welfare stakeholders will tell you, the general public has a lot of empathy for kids who are in foster care, but very little empathy for the parents. TOUGH LOVE addresses the complexity of the child welfare system and shows that many of these parents are not bad people, but are lacking in the support systems they need to raise their children. By starting at the beginning, inside the parents' homes, TOUGH LOVE will provide audiences with a better understanding of what services vulnerable parents need to keep their children  out of foster care.


TOUGH LOVE is the first documentary that has been granted year-long access to film inside Seattle’s Family Treatment Court. Never before has the public been privy to the roundtable discussions and accountability levels of social workers and lawyers in court. Nor has the public been able to witness the multiple bureaucracies parents must manage or the services that they and their children desperately need to improve their chances of reunification.

$30,000 in 30 Days

After 2.5 years of filming Patrick and Hannah's cases, we’re ready to begin editing! This is a complex story and we want to make sure we do it justice, so we'd like to bring in an amazing, Oscar-nominated editor to help tell this story. We've raised money from various organizations, grants and donors but we now need, at least another $30,000 in the next 30 days to begin editing.

You can help in a number of ways. First and foremost — by donating to this Kickstarter campaign. Your contribution will make the film's completion possible and will go directly toward:

  • Paying our Editor
  • Paying our Music Composer
  • Paying our Graphic Designer
  • 2 days of filming in Seattle

ANYTHING you can contribute, even if it's just a few dollars, will help us get this untold story out there. As a thanks for your generosity, we're offering you some lovely rewards. From downloads of the completed film, to dumpling making parties and even a film credit, you can check them out in the column on the right.

We won't receive any of your contributions unless the project is 100% funded. That means we need to raise $30,000 in the next 30 days or we wont receive anything! 

So help us spread the word by sharing this project with you family and friends across social media! The more awareness and support we can bring to this project the better chance we have of reaching our goal!

Here's a link to the project for you to easily share with your friends on your social networks:

We've also put together a few sample facebook and twitter posts that you could also use to spread word:

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month (May):

This AAPI Heritage Month, join me in supporting Chinese-American Filmmaker, Stephanie Wang-Breal on Kickstarter

In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month (May):

Our child welfare system is broken. Support @ToughLoveDoc on Kickstarter to see how we can fix it!

Over 380,000 kids are in #fostercare. Support @ToughLoveDoc to see how we can keep them out of the system

In honor of Mothers Day (May 12th):

Spread some love this #MothersDay and support @ToughLoveDoc on Kickstarter!

Patrick and Hanna have been so amazing to let us film them and their families during this very difficult time in their lives. With the Kickstarter community’s help we can make sure their stories are heard! 

-Stephanie and the Tough Love Team 


For press inquires or any questions related to the film feel free to send us an email at

Learn more about the film on our website:

And don't forget to follow us on social media...





Stephanie Wang-Breal has been producing and directing commercials, television shows and documentaries for the past 10 years. Most recently, Stephanie directed the award-winning feature length documentary, Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy). The film was nominated for an Emmy®, and was the recipient of three Grand Jury Best Documentary Awards at the AFI/ Discovery Silverdocs Film Festival, the Asian American International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, as well as a 2011 CINE Special Jury Award. The film had its national television broadcast in 2010 on the award-winning PBS series P.O.V. Stephanie has also recently directed pieces for Apple, Goldman Sachs, as well as a television episode for Nickelodeon's NickMom. Stephanie currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and four-year old son.  Learn more about Stephanie and her work @ 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

As most filmmakers will tell you, editing is one of the key components to telling a great story. Our goal is to release this film by the beginning of 2014, but if we need more time to carve and shape this story in the edit suite, then this may delay our release.
We know with your support, though, that we can get this complicated, untold story out there.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    15 backers

    ONE LOVE: Thank you! Every little bit counts and we appreciate your support!

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    17 backers

    PUPPY LOVE: Thank you for the love! Your support will not go unnoticed. We're sending you two virtual high-fives and a very enthusiastic SHOUT OUT on Facebook & Twitter (@toughlovedoc). You'll also receive updates and information on the film and it's progress.

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    75 backers

    DIGITAL LOVE: You'll receive an HD DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the film upon it's release, access to exclusive bonus footage, and we'll send you lots of love across social media and regular updates on the progress of the film.

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    MOTHERLY LOVE: In honor of Mother's Day we're unlocking a special "motherly love" reward for $20. If you contribute on Friday May 10th or Saturday May 11th, you'll receive a digital download of the film once it's released AND we'll send your mom a beautiful TOUGH LOVE "Thank You Mom" e-card on Mothers Day! We'll connect with you once you've contributed to get the details!

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    10 backers

    WO AI Ni MOMMY TUMMY LOVE: Perfect for the Wo Ai Ni Mommy Fans. This reward gets you the EXCLUSIVE digital download of Stephanie's award winning documentary, Wo Ai Ni Mommy PLUS a digital recipe from one of Stephanie's favorite Chinese dishes. Enjoy a great film & a great meal!

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    59 backers

    TUMMY LOVE: Why not treat yourself to dinner and a movie? You'll receive an HD DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the film upon it's release PLUS a digital recipe from one of Stephanie's favorite Chinese dishes. Stephanie's an incredible cook, so we promise it'll be yummy!

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    56 backers

    DOUBLE THE LOVE: The HD DIGITAL DOWNLOAD and bonus footage PLUS a digital download of Stephanie's award winning documentary WO AI NI MOMMY (I Love You Mommy). We'll also send you a beautiful "Thank You!" post card featuring a still from the film.

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    ADVOCATE LOVE: A Perfect reward for the child welfare advocate. Signed DVD copies of both TOUGH LOVE and WO AI NI MOMMY...PLUS a signed copy of Martin Guggenheim's book "What's Wrong with Children's Rights."

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    39 backers

    CARE BEAR LOVE: We'll send you a TOUGH LOVE care package which will include... Signed DVDs of TOUGH LOVE and WO AI NI MOMMY, a beautiful TOUGH LOVE Thank You card featuring a still from the film, some very cool TOUGH LOVE temporary tattoos, a TOUGH LOVE t-shirt, a WO AI NI MOMMY tote bag and few other awesome surprises!

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    9 backers

    VISION OF LOVE: All of the above PLUS two tickets to a TOUGH LOVE screening of your choice! We also want everyone to know how supportive you've been so we're giving you a "SPECIAL THANKS" credit in the film!

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    8 backers Limited (2 left of 10)

    CHEESY LOVE: Once TOUGH LOVE is complete, you'll get your very own private screening of the film for you and your friends at your home, community center, business or school. At the end of the screening Stephanie will do a a q&a session via Skype (or in person depending on the location). To make the event extra special, we'll throw in an assortment of delicious farmstead cheeses from Saxelby Cheese Mongers! PLUS we'll also include DVDs of both of the films and a "SPECIAL THANKS" credit in the film! (Location for screening not provided)

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    1 backer Limited (1 left of 2)

    DUMPLING LOVE: Remember when we said Stephanie was an amazing cook? Well now you can learn directly from the master with this limited edition reward. You and 4 friends are invited over to her home where you'll have a dumpling making party! Afterwards you'll watch and discuss the film and eat your delicious creations! We'll also throw in a "Special Thanks" credit for your support. (Travel and accommodations are not included. If you're based in the NY area Stephanie is also available to come to your home.)

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    3 backers Limited (2 left of 5)

    MOONLIGHT LOVE: Get ready for a night out on the town because you and a friend are invited to the NYC premiere of TOUGH LOVE. After the premiere, you'll head to the after party where you'll hang out with Stephanie, the crew and a bunch of other film professionals, and you can discuss the film over food and drink. We'll also include an extra special care package with a bunch of TOUGH LOVE goodies as well as a "SPECIAL THANKS" credit in the film. (travel and accommodations not included)

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    1 backer Limited (2 left of 3)

    TRUE LOVE: Update your linkedin profile and imdb account because you're officially an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER! In addition to all of the above you're invited to a PRIVATE SCREENING of a rough cut of the film before it's complete. Afterwards Stephanie will take you to one of her favorite restaurants (our treat!) where you can talk about the film and give her your notes. (travel and accommodations not included)

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    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    EVERLASTING LOVE: Well hello there PRODUCER! In addition to the new title and all of the above rewards, you'll have the chance to be our guest at a film festival of your choosing. You and a guest will get personalized laminates, tickets to the film and after party. (travel and accommodations not included. Fulfillment of the reward is dependent upon the film's festival release)

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    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: You're officially an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER for Tough Love. Your support is overwhelming and we can't thank you enough. In addition to all of the above, your name will appear in both the front and back of the film. On top of all the other events, you'll also be invited to attend an edit of the film while we're in post production. (travel and accommodations not included)

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Funding period

- (30 days)