LOS ANGELES, Calif. (August 24, 2007) - As the controversy grows over CBS’ reality show “Kid Nation,” where 40 children between the ages of 8 and 15 try to establish an adult free society in a New Mexico ghost town, a parent is speaking out about her frustrations with the show’s negative portrayal.
Access Hollywood spoke to a New Jersey lawyer identified only as Lori, whose last name is being withheld by CBS to protect her child. Lori’s 14-year-old daughter, Sophia, took part in the show. “I know I speak for most of the parents when I say we are just mystified by this uproar and I guess it’s because people like to read sensational headlines,” Lori said.
Lori told Access that she and the other parents are angry that media outlets, to whom they have granted interviews, continue to focus on the negative. “Every time they show them, they cut out anything that might put the show in a good light, and it was such an amazing experience for these kids,” she said. “We really are so mystified by it. My daughter has nothing but great things to say about it. They had the time of their lives. I’m perplexed.”
Lori claims she had multiple meetings with CBS before agreeing that her daughter would participate in the show and was 100 percent confident in their ability to care for the children. “My child was better supervised there for six weeks than she could have had (she) been living with her family for six weeks. We don’t have her surrounded by doctors, and safety experts, and therapists, and producers and counselors.”
Lori said she is also perplexed by complaints that the show violated child labor laws. “It wasn’t putting the kids in a situation where they had to work,” Lori said. “My daughter told me that there were so many kids that would just lay around the entire time and never did anything at all. So, my understanding from talking to my daughter was that kids could do as little or as much as they wanted to do. Nothing was forced at all.”
She confirmed what CBS told Access, that parents were given status update phone calls every three days. “In fact, I asked them not to call me, you know, unless there is a problem. She has been to summer camp so many times, and I had no contact with her and I had total faith — CBS really allayed any concerns I might have had.”
One parent did complain, however. Janis Miles of Fayetteville, Ga., stated in a letter that her 12-year-old daughter, Divad, was spattered in the face with grease while cooking potatoes. Four other children required medical attention after they accidentally drank bleach. CBS confirmed the incidents but downplayed them as minor. CBS assured Access Hollywood that adults stepped in immediately.
Lori said she heard about the incidents from her own daughter but was confident they were handled properly. “When the child was burned or another drank bleach, my daughter said they had an ambulance right there. No matter how minor any incident was, they went over and beyond,” Lori said. “They had ambulances there. They would take them to the hospital. They would monitor them for days even if they just had a tiny stomach ache.”
Even Sophia did not escape tiny bumps and bruises, Lori said. “Accidents happen. My daughter had a tiny little scrape. She had scrapes on her arm. She hurt one of her fingernails. These things happen in life. Everyday we have accidents.”
Lori said that not even CBS could prevent against people getting paper cuts. “My daughter told me there was (a) safety expert in the kitchen almost all the time giving them advice about how to cook with grease-- they were frying stuff in oil. I think its great that the kids were getting these real life experiences.”
Lori said she was distressed about claims of possible abuse on the show. “I’ve been reading stuff that’s been coming down the pipe, and it’s really been distressing to me and most of the parents that have been involved with this production,” she said. “I’m a former prosecutor of child abuse and to label this show child abuse and child neglect is insulting and denigrating to children who have been victims of child abuse.”
Lori said that to her, child abuse involves children who are battered or murdered. “The stories are just horrendous. They are placed in situations by adults who have no concern for their well-being or safety. This couldn’t be further from the truth on kid nation.”
Lori said she considers the show an educational summer program.