“40 Kids have 40 days to build a brave new world without adults to help or hinder their efforts,” says CBS in describing its new controversial show, Kid Nation.
The program, set to debut on September 19th, is being described as a hybrid of CBS’s Survivor and Rudyard Kipling’s Lord of the Flies. During the 40 days, the children, aged 8 to 15, cooked, cleaned, formed a government, and ran a business without the supervision of any adults in a deserted New Mexico location (which is reported to be a town created with old movie sets). The filming took place during the middle of the school year.
Janis Miles, the parent of on child on the program wrote a letter to New Mexico state officials after the completion of production. Miles is the mother of Divad, an eleven year old girl who burned her face while cooking due to hot splattered grease. There are allegations of neglect, endangerment, and abuse. CBS has acknowledged that a few of the children needed medical attention after drinking bleach that was inside of a soda bottle.
Taylor, a ten year old from Sylvester, Georgia was made available for questioning about set conditions by CBS. Taylor stated that the children pulled wagons that were filled with supplies through the New Mexico desert for over one mile. Child labor laws are also at issue as Taylor reported that the children worked from the crack of dawn until about 9:30 P.M.
The parents of the children on the program all signed a 22-page release waiving the right to sue if their children died, were injured, received medical care that was inadequate, or if their children were living in unsafe housing therefore causing injury. The agreement even went as far as stating that the parents and their children would be the only people accountable for emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, H.I.V. and pregnancy.
The contract stated that although the children would be paid for participation in the show, the payment did not create an employer/employee relationship and therefore the program was not subject to child labor laws.
New Mexico state authorities have criticized Kid Nation. An official at the department overseeing licensing of congregant child-care settings stated that the program violated New Mexico state laws that require facilities that house minors to be reviewed before being licensed.
The contract also contained a confidentiality agreement requiring that the children and their parents to gain approval from CBS before participating in an interview. This agreement extends to at least three years after the end of the program. If a parent or child violates the confidentiality agreement, he/she will face a $5 million penalty. CBS has responded to the accusations by releasing a statement which said that the series was filmed responsibly and within all applicable laws in the state of New Mexico at the time of the production.