Paul Peterson was one of my first celebrity crushes when he appeared on The Donna Reed Show. He was briefly a Mousketeer at age 8 and played Cary Grant’s son (with Sophia Loren as his babysitter) in the affecting romantic comedy Houseboat. But his greatest success in show business was in the classic suburban sitcom with Donna Reed, Shelly Fabares, and Carl Betz.
He had trouble finding work as an actor after the show ended and his difficulties led him to become the leading advocate for child performers, founding the non-profit group A Minor Consideration. He has been an outspoken critic of Hollywood’s exploitive treatment of young actors and has been at the forefront of providing support and guidance for them and their families. Peterson’s decision to file suit on behalf of Nadya Suleman’s children has, along with recent concerns about the Gosselin children, underscored the importance of closing a to a troubling loophole — the very strict rules protecting child actors do not apply to children who appear in “reality” shows. I applaud Peterson for stepping in when child protective services have failed to make sure that Suleman’s eight infants and her older children get the care — and privacy — they need and deserve.