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‘Hard Copy’ Criticized for Segment on Runaways : Television: Social workers say producers didn’t get permission to film teens and pushed reunions in families that ‘shouldn’t be reunited.’

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The tabloid television show “Hard Copy” has come under criticism from social workers at a Los Angeles program for runaway teen-agers, who say that producers for the syndicated series improperly enticed two runaway girls into participating in an upcoming segment.

Elizabeth Gomez, program director for the Los Angeles Youth Network, said that “Hard Copy” convinced the girls to leave the organization’s shelter, putting them up first in a motel room and later in the homes of two segment producers.

The producers did not ask permission to interview or photograph the girls, Gomez claimed, and urged them not to tell officials in the program about the segment.

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Gomez also criticized the nature of the segment, which was planned as a way to orchestrate and film a reunion between runaways and their parents.

“They’re reuniting kids who shouldn’t be reunited,” said Gomez, explaining that many runaways come from homes in which they were abused. “Their family settings are not appropriate for them to go back to. And the fact is, they pulled (the teen-agers) out of a program that was trying to find appropriate places for them.”

“Hard Copy” executive producer Peter Brennan defended the aims of the segment, saying that the program, which airs weeknights at 7:30 on KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles, was just trying to do a good deed.

“I’m sure the concerns (of the Los Angeles Youth Network) are genuine, and that they have these kids and their best interests at heart,” Brennan said. “All I can say is that we do too.”

The two producers assigned to the segment did not obtain permission from the youngsters’ social workers, “because we did not know we were supposed to do that,” said a spokeswoman at Paramount Pictures, which produces “Hard Copy.”

But now, according to the spokeswoman and Brennan, the program has “an open door” for Gomez. They have even asked for--and been refused--an interview with her.

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Jessica, a 14-year-old who has been living on the streets and recently entered the program at L.A. Youth Network, is one of the teen-agers to be featured in the “Hard Copy” segment, which as yet has not been scheduled for broadcast. She said that she had been well treated, and that she considered “Hard Copy” producer Lisa Lew, with whom she had been staying, to be a friend.

Jessica said that she had been paid for appearing on the program, although she would not say how much.

“We’re just basically showing them the streets of Hollywood,” Jessica said in an interview with The Times. “They gave us food and paid us a little bit, and they put us up in a motel. I was staying with Lisa, and she was really sweet to me. She gave me some of her old clothes to wear.”

Jessica--a runaway from Fontana who came to Los Angeles with her best friend, Chrissy, who is also featured in the segment--will not be reunited with her parents on the show.

“My mother is in jail,” she said. “And I don’t get along with my dad.”

But Chrissy, who could not be reached for an interview, has already been reunited with her mother.

“That is not an appropriate place for her,” Gomez insisted.

Jessica’s social worker, Natasha Goodwin, said she that counseled the teen-ager against participating in the “Hard Copy” segment, and also disapproved of her decision to stay with Lew.

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“From our point of view, when adults take in runaways, or let kids stay in their houses, it’s not OK,” Goodwin said. “Obviously, they have a purpose here--they want to keep the kids around so they can film them. . . . Once the story’s finished and they don’t need her any more, I suppose she’s not going to be invited to stay in their apartments. Then it becomes another letdown for her.”

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