Backstage Article: Together For The Kids
Parents, producers, unions voice opposition to proposed new N.Y. child performer rules.
By Daniel Holloway
JANUARY 12, 2011
Kelly Crisp was on set with her son Toliver when she got a call from his manager. Toliver was shooting a Spike Lee-directed anti-smoking public service announcement. The boy’s manager called to tell Crisp about an email he had just received from Anne Henry, co-founder of the activist group BizParentz.org, regarding a new set of regulations for child performers proposed by the New York State Department of Labor. Crisp, a former public prosecutor and professional mediator, returned home and found the same email waiting in her inbox. After reading the new regulations, she was appalled. A month later she founded her own advocacy organization, Child Performers Coalition, with the intent to persuade the Department of Labor to table its proposal. Click for Full Article
CPC Department of Labor Hearing Comments
January 10, 2011
Good morning. My name is Kelly Crisp and I founded Child Performers Coalition in December. Since that time, I have tried, using my background and experience, to make sense of the proposed rule changes and the sweeping, game changing affect they will have on the lives of child performers and New York’s production economy.
My background is an attorney, registered mediator, felony prosecutor specializing in sex crimes.
I have also served as a state registered lobbyist ~ I have drafted legislation, testified in Judiciary committee hearings specifically working on child endangerment legislation and anti-female genital mutilation legislation. Currently, I work with a large, well-known private equity group as a strategic communications consultant.
I attended a high school for performing arts. My 11 year old son is a working actor here in NYC. My 13 year old daughter is in music theatre.
I have read all the Department of Labor documents, the old law and proposed changes, I have drafted six position statements and five spreadsheets comparing the old and new law, and I have reviewed video tape of the Child Performer Advisory Board meetings. I have come to one conclusion ~ if you understood the industry you wouldn’t have drafted the rules the way you did. The rules endanger children and are certain to drive productions away from the State.
What you have done in your rules is to take the leap of faith that all productions are the same ~ that film, television and theatre even reality tv ~ can all fit within the same box. They cannot. It’s like this ~ a bicycle, a car, and train will all get you to where you want to go but they are all every different animals. In fact, reality tv is so far distinct and other has protections through social services, that they shouldn’t be included at all ~ they are like a hot air balloon ~ it will get you where you want to go but doesn’t have any wheels. Defining reality tv kids ~ as child performers will have huge ramifications on the entertainment industry.
Each industry has specialized needs and restrictions and must be treated differently. To say otherwise is to not understand production and if you don’t understand the industry you are regulating, then don’t regulate the industry. You could have spoken with the Mayor’s Office on Film, Theatre & Broadcasting and they could have explained this to you but you didn’t. That is shameful. I was the person who call the Mayor’s Office.
The single most dangerous provision of your rule ~ that will make NY the most dangerous place in the country for children to work ~ deals with an employer’s discretion to deny a child six years of age or older “sight and sound” monitoring by her parent. The best way I can describe it is this: Your asking a parent to walk to Times Square and hand her six your old child off to a stranger for the day.
I prosecuted child sex offenders. The consequences will be devastating and I cannot stress this enough. Pedophiles need access to children to satisfy a basic instinct, the need to have sex. Pedophiles love child performers and now an unvetted, employer selected, “responsible person” will have unlimited, unsupervised access to kids.
Can you imagine the conversation with little Sally ~ Mommy is going to have to go away now and this is Dave. Dave is going to take care of you for the day while you perform total strangers. Do what says for Mommy OK?
Did it ever dawn on you to include children during your conversations with industry representatives? I wonder if you were drafting rules that changed the working conditions of steelworkers, dock workers, police officers, sanitation workers that you would do so without speaking with them. But kids are different because they can’t vote, can’t organize and don’t have any money to contribute to a political campaign. In fact, you scheduled all three hearings when most were in school.
[You have our mailing address, our emails, our phone numbers, our kids social security numbers, and yet not one time did you give us a heads up. There are 6,000 permitted kids and not one was notified. In fact, not one group involved gave kids a heads up.] [Deleted due to time constraints]
I am certain you have every intention of sending us a letter once the changes are adopted.
So, what did I learn as I watched the two Child Performer Advisory Board meetings ~ As a member of the far, I was disgusted. As a parent, I was outraged. I encourage everyone to view the videos.
I learned that no one in the room, not the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform, two department of labor attorney’s, the clinicians, or the few industry groups thought kids were important enough to read the rule that was currently in place.
How do I know that ~ Everyone in the room believed they were amending a certificate that was already mandated. Health certificates are not part of the current permitting process. The Board was created to somehow prevent eating disorders. Adopting a mental and physical physician’s certificate was not a mandate. So whether a certificate should be required in the first place was never debated.
I learned that everyone in the room believed that privacy issues like HIPPA were resolved as a result of this failure. The Governor’s Office said ~ of course this doesn’t violate HIPPA because the kids are already submitting a health certificate and we are just amending it ~ the process is already in place.
I learned that everyone in the room believed that performers operated under a one year permit. Kids are permitted every six months. So the Board recommended one certificate per year but Labor changed it because kids submit new applications every six months.
I learned there was lots of shouting and arm waiving when the board members, most of whom were interested in regulating the child modeling and dance industry, realized the department of education regulated models not labor. If the DOL cared about protecting models it would have amended the law so that the Labor regulates models as well as child performers. But they didn’t do that either. Why, as the DOL attorney explained, because no one asked us to.
I learned who proposed that female performers menstrual cycles be monitored.
I learned that Labor realized that they were making pediatricians the gate keepers to a child’s ability to perform and to work. The Labor Attorney said that all a physician who suspects a eating disorder has to do is call her office and they will yank the kids permit.
On my own, I learned that The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a study on kids and eating disorders in their December Journal. It never mentions actors. Not once. In fact, what it does conclude is that eating disorders have a genetic foundation.
I learned that not one board member was a pediatrician. Labor never included The American Academy of Pediatrics in any discussions. They have my briefs now.
I learned that there was no study about the cost of these evaluations. The committee considered the cost of multiple evaluations per year as in the case of a suspected eating disorder ~ it was briefly discussed by a few and then just dropped.
[I learned many dancers aren’t considered child performers because they receive a stipend which for some reason the DOL or the DOE doesn’t consider money. Money from a stipend will still buy a pack of gum. It’s no different.] [deleted due to time constraints]
So now the same attorneys that didn’t know a health certificate wasn’t required, and the same attorneys that didn’t know that permits were every six months and not once a year, who haven’t been on a set, who haven’t talked to a single child performer, set out to draft language that goes beyond the child performer advisory board mandate which was the prevention of eating disorders.
So how did the provisions that we are oppose to today get magically attach to what you consider some innocuous mental and physical health certificate language. Answer they talked to folks.
And although I don’t have time in my remarks to explain ~ the folks they talked to changed the game to benefit them. That’s what happened on the education mandates that jacks up the cost of production. That’s what happened on the allowance for group permit. That’s what happened on the “responsible person” provision. Labor didn’t talk with anyone about fixing Trust Accounts because they made that provision worse, not better.
Child performers work incredibly hard yet make very little money and most never “break even.” So why do child performers do it? It’s their “thing” like football is another kid’s thing. Why do their parents do it? Because it’s their kids’ “thing.” The distinction being that child performers are subjected to an amazing amount of public scrutiny and, if the Department of Labor has their way, treated like a pariah.
To all that I have read, heard and witnessed over the course of these few weeks I say ~ are you kidding me? Is this how the State of New York does business? A deceptive, disingenuous process racked with covert communications, restrictive access and tactics bent on bullying and misleading child performers and an industry that New York and New York City has fought hard to keep. Is this how it all goes down ~ are you kidding me?
This process highlights the need for more inclusion and dialogue between affected groups and rulemakers. It also highlights the need for greater oversight by the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform to stop an incompetent process from proceeding forward. Child Performers Coalition will continue to work towards a healthy rule ~ one that promotes New York productions and protects child performers. I ask that the rule be tabled immediately. I will submit the remainder of my comments in a timely fashion. Thank you.