The NY Times reports CBS’s "Kid Nation," the new reality show coming to CBS next month, extol the incredible experience of a group of 40 children, ages 8 to 15, who built a sort of idealistic society in a New Mexico ghost town, free of adults. For 40 days the children cooked their own meals, cleaned their own outhouses, formed a government and ran their own businesses, all without adult intervention or participation.
To at least one parent of a participant, who wrote a letter of complaint to New Mexico state officials after the show had completed production, the experience bordered on abuse and neglect, The Times said. Several children required medical attention after drinking bleach that had been left in an unmarked soda bottle, according to both the parent and CBS. One 11-year-old girl burned her face with splattered grease while cooking.
The children were made to haul wagons loaded with supplies for more than a mile through the New Mexico countryside, and they worked long hours – "from the crack of dawn when the rooster started crowing" until at least 9:30 p.m., according to Taylor, a 10-year-old from Sylvester, GA.
Divad, an 11-year-old girl from Fayetteville, GA., whose mother wrote the letter of complaint and who was burned with hot grease while cooking, said she would not repeat the experience. She said there was no adult supervision of the cooking operation when she was hurt, although there often was an adult "chef" present in the kitchen.
A New Mexico official whose department oversees licensing of congregant child-care settings said in an interview with the Times that the project almost assuredly violated state laws requiring facilities that house children be reviewed and licensed.
Jonathan Anschell, who oversees CBS’s West Coast legal office, told the paper a state labor department inspector visited the set of the show unannounced during the production. But Carlos Castaneda, a spokesman for the state labor department, now known as the Department of Workforce Solutions, said that the inspector was not allowed on the site and left without inspecting anything. The show debuts 9/19.