- Human Interest, Social Issues, Personal Doc, and Lifestyle
HAYDEN & HER FAMILY gives an intimate and nuanced look into the adoption journey of the Curry family which is raising twelve children, five of whom are adopted and have special needs. It explores themes of alternative parenting, challenges of special needs adoption, power of family love and why some ambitious “do-gooders” are compelled to do more than random acts of kindness.
- Show treatment
Jud Curry, a professor at a small Midwest college and the sole provider for his family is a smart, warm and eloquent man. He tells us he relies on his wife’s instincts in all matters on adoption. Elizabeth, his wife is intense, intelligent and a renaissance type who makes clothes and home-schools her children to shield them from outsiders’ judgment. Her daily blogs provide tips and advice for other adoption families and help her work through personal struggles.
Together, they have seven healthy blonde hair, blue-eyed biological children, and adopted five special needs children from Vietnam and China that will require medical and therapeutic help in years to come.
Hayden, their third adoptee, is a Chinese orphan with Linear Nevus Sebaceous Syndrome that severely distorted one side of her face. A deeply wounded child, it took a few years for Hayden to trust and love the Currys. She hopes that someday, after reconstructive surgery, she will “look” like the rest of her family. She becomes the thread of this story as she and her family go through transformations through the years.
HAYDEN & HER FAMILY opens inside a moving train in China to give the backstory of Hayden’s abandonment in a crowd of strangers when she was five. The viewers are then invited into the Currys’ rambling home they affectionately called “the Big Ugly House” which needs TLC on the outside and tidying up in the inside — just like the people who live there.
In cinema vérité style, we use Jud and Elizabeth’s sound bytes to narrate over vignettes of their daily domestic life and to articulate their parenting philosophy and joy of a big family. As the film unfolds, we learn that each adopted child comes with needs all their own — they not only have physical developmental delays, but cognitive and emotional ones as well. In fact, the Currys do not follow a conventional script in raising their family because traditional methods sometimes do not work with some of their adoptees despite their good intentions and experiences. An animation sequence shows how Hayden transforms from being a withdrawn child to becoming a real child after Jud and Elizabeth finally win her trust and love.
On a wintry day 2016, the Curry’s adoption saga takes on a new turn. Jud and Elizabeth brought home two more adopted daughters from China, bringing the number of children in the family to twelve. One of the girls has the same medical syndrome as Hayden. The other has cerebral palsy. The siblings welcome the newcomers but the tension in the house is palpable as we witness the shifting family dynamics and struggles with situations sometimes beyond their control.
Parenting the new adoptees comes with new challenges. One of the new adoptees proves to be difficult and uncooperative. The untimely death of Elizabeth’s father plus the pressure of caring for the family to assuming “normal” family life is anything but. Elizabeth’s feeling of failure and guilt makes her fall into a period of withdrawal and anger as she struggles with her own grief and disappointment. As the family falls into disarray with Elizabeth’s depression, Jud holds up the fort by providing comfort and assurance to the children and stays an active parent.
As the viewers follow the Curry’s adoption journey, they are provoked to wonder about their altruistic intentions? Can the desire to adopt be compulsive and addictive? Do they short-change attention for their biological children? Is love a limited commodity exhaustible by the numbers in a family? We also hear from the siblings voicing their feelings of their ever-expanding family and evolving family dynamics.
Through Jud and Elizabeth, this film gives voice to the underrepresented adoptive parents, lending an honest look and practical insights to the nuances of special needs adoption. The truth is adoption can be difficult, complicated and messy — not the pretty picture of the smiling parents holding the little hand of an adorable child walking into sunset.
The film ends with a “Halloween parade” when difficult child Ting Ting finally accepts a “crown” that Jud has painstakingly constructed with duct tape to complete her costume for the occasion after strong protests. The powerful last scene brings home Elizabeth’s bitter-sweet acceptance that her adoptive children may never reciprocate the love she has for them because a “Forever Family” is built on grace and commitment to making a difference in these abandoned children’s lives.
The arc of HAYDEN & HER FAMILY rests not solely on the characters’ struggles and transformations but with layers of complexity and subtlety that begins with the Curry’s choice to adopt. The Curry’s “ordinary life” opens our eyes to the ethics and motivations of ambitious do-gooders without simple conclusions and skeptical judgment.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s attachment as executive producer to this project gives credence to our cause.
- Running time
- 72 minutes
- May M Tchao ... Director & Producer
- Prod. Co.
- Tchao Films, LLC
- United States
- Years of Production
- Midwest Chicago area
- Nothing is happening due to Corona virus lockdown
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