Parents defend 'educational' Baby Borrowers

MARK NICHOLLS The parents of an infant given to teenagers to be looked after as part of BBC TV's The Baby Borrowers tonight defended the broadcaster over its decision to film the controversial show.

MARK NICHOLLS

The parents of an infant given to teenagers to be looked after as part of BBC TV's The Baby Borrowers tonight defended the broadcaster over its decision to film the controversial show.

Darren and Lynne Martin argued that far from being a reality TV experiment, they felt the programme was educational and could help halt the high number of teenage pregnancies in the UK.

The Downham Market couple handed their son Harrison, who is now one, over to “teenage parents” Alex Carter and Sam Griffiths to look after for the programme, filmed last year in Norwich.

Mr and Mrs Martin, who also have a three-year-old son Rowan, decided to approach the BBC with a view to taking part after the producers contacted the nursery their baby attends.

“We telephoned to find out more and we were told from the start this was not intended to be a reality TV programme but meant to be an educational programme and aimed at stopping the high number of teenage pregnancies in this country,” said Mr Martin, an aircraft engineering instructor.

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“I can understand people are concerned about the welfare of the children, but no-one is more concerned than Lynne and I about our two boys.

“We decided to get involved but only after we had spoken to the programme-makers at length.”

They, and Harrison, underwent psychological testing and assessment to find out if their baby was happy being separated from them.

The Martins spoke to the BBC about risk assessments, met Alex and Sam and also felt reassured there were nannies present round the clock.

“In fact every question we asked the BBC, they seemed to have thought of it ahead of us” added Mr Martin.

During three days of filming, where the couple could watch what was going on via CCTV, the Martins said there were no incidents that alarmed them and they felt they needed to intervene only once.

“That was when the going was tough for the young couple and I felt it was important to intervene to give them a boost and tell them how well they were doing,” said Mrs Martin, who is a junior director of a print and ink supplies firm.

The couple also stress they were not paid by the BBC apart from accommodation for the duration of the filming and expenses for food.

Mr Martin said: “We feel very strongly this is an educational programme and if through it we can help stop teenage pregnancies it will be worthwhile.

“If at the end of it the teenagers realise that they would not want to raise a child at that age, then it will have been educational.

“The other thing is that teenagers will not listen to what adults tell them but if they see other teenagers trying to cope with raising children, they may actually take more notice.

“Personally, I think the BBC should be applauded for what they have done here. It would be easy for them to pull the plug and not show this programme but I have nothing but admiration for them going ahead with it.”

They also felt that politicians and child welfare charities were premature in criticising the programme without having seen it.

Mr and Mrs Martin said they had not taken part in anything like The Baby Borrowers before and would consider doing it again but only if they felt fully reassured that all the necessary safeguards were in place.