Former Jon and Kate Plus Eight child star Collin Gosselin is sharing his story about being institutionalized as a youth, saying his mom’s decision to send him away ended his relationship with her. Around the time of his institutionalization, Kate Gosselin shared that he had been enrolled in a program to learn skills, saying he had “special needs”. But according to Collin, that wasn’t actually the case – and it was difficult for him to not be able to share his own narrative.


"It was definitely hard, like, not being in the media to kind of explain everything. I wanted to take time for myself and I wasn't able to give the truthful answers. There were just things out there, you know, not my words -- other people’s words," he said. "It was tough, but, you know, it's good now to be able to put my own word out there." 

He said he was placed in two different institutions, saying it was “scary”, but that he learned a lot about himself, and that “being in a place like that does more damage than it helps you."

In 2017, he wrote an emotional letter to his dad, Jon Gosselin, pleading with him to get him out. He moved in with his dad and his twin sister, Hannah, and Jon was awarded custody of him when Kate didn’t show up to the hearing. 

"After being there, I didn't have a relationship with her. Even before then, I don't think we had much of a relationship and I think that just kept tearing it even more down,” he said.

He pointed to the family’s involvement with TV as the reason for the estrangement between him and his mother. "I want to believe it was because of TV and what being in the public eye does to a family. I think it tore us apart and it gave us less time to actually be together as a family, but more time to be in the public eye.”


Collin’s story is heartbreaking. But considering both parents have made headlines over their alleged mistreatment of Collin and his siblings, it doesn’t really come as a surprise. In fact, his claim that reality TV tore his family apart seems pretty commonplace for families who have had their lives chronicled on television.

Last week, Chrisley Knows Best stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were convicted of conspiracy and tax fraud. The couple received a combined 19 year sentence and 32 months of probation between them. Reality TV stars getting convicted and sentenced to prison or probation is nothing new – but in the Chrisley family, there is a 10-year-old girl who will be affected by these legal issues. 

Chloe, the child of Todd’s estranged son, Kyle, was adopted into the family by Todd and Julie, who raised her as their daughter. According to the family, she is fully aware of what’s happening. 

"She listens. She listens more than you think," Todd and Julie’s daughter, Savannah said during a pre-recorded episode of her podcast, Unlocked. "She'll put on her headphones and act like she is listening to something when in reality nothing's on.” 

Savannah, like Collin, says the family’s involvement with reality TV worked against them.


“It all goes down to us being in the public eye and someone wanting to prove a point,” she said during the podcast episode. Sure, public figures are often “made an example of”, but let’s not forget that they were found guilty in a court of law.

The tax and fraud mess were by no means the only issue this family had to face. In May, Business Insider reported that Todd’s ex-business partner alleged he and Todd had a gay affair in the early 2000s during his marriage to Julie, and that a blackmailer threatening to out them was paid $38,000 in hush money. And back in 2019, another one of Todd’s estranged children, Lindsie, claimed her dad was extorting her over a sex tape, urging her to lie in her testimony surrounding his tax mess.

There is something to be said about how much of a factor dysfunction is in a family reality show. And the TLC network in particular has done an impeccable job of finding and documenting the lives of unique families that grip the attention of the audience. 


In 2012, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo premiered on TLC after Alana Thompson (Honey Boo Boo) appeared on Toddlers & Tiaras. The show followed the southern U.S. family’s daily life and transformation of Mama June and her daughters. But when it was revealed that June was involved with a convicted sex offender, the show was ultimately pulled. It was also revealed that the father of two of her children was another man who had been convicted of a sex crime who served time for the sexual exploitation of minors.

Catering to an audience with an appetite for drama is one thing. But there is also inherent danger in major networks who fail to vet their stars more thoroughly, and offering a massive platform to people and families with certain lifestyles, habits and interests. We saw this with the Duggar family, whose eldest son, Josh, was sentenced to 12 years in prison over child porn charges and molestation accusations from a slew of victims, which included his own sisters. 

But the biggest problem with reality shows surrounding families is that when children are involved, they aren’t really given a choice about whether they want to film. For the Gosselin kids, who started out as toddlers, how can they make a fully informed decision? It’s one of the reasons Jon was enraged when, despite a judge ruling that filming was not good for the kids, Kate continued to let the cameras roll. 


“The judge and the guardian ad litem both agreed that it wasn’t in my children’s best interests to be filmed, but my ex-wife and TLC had other ideas. They put profits and ratings ahead of the well-being of my children and filmed illegally without work permits,” Jon said at the time.

As the kids that once starred in reality shows get older, it’s invaluable that we’re hearing more from them. Collin sharing his version of events and doing this interview was years in the making. Recently, Alana Thompson and her sister shared a TikTok shading their mom over her decision to abandon her kids to be with a man. This incident led to Alana’s 22-year-old sister stepping up and getting custody of her. And today, part one of a podcast where Alana and her sister share their story was released. In it, they discuss some of the highs and lows of their lives and open up about life before cameras and where they stand with their mom.

I have no doubt that within a few years, we’ll hear from Chloe Chrisley, too, once she’s had a chance to process everything. But I’m hoping that the silver lining of her family’s legal woes is that the cancellation of the show will allow her to do what she and all of these other child stars should have been doing all along – be a kid.