Teens 'Borrow' Babies to Practice Parenting on Reality Show

Jan. 12, 2007 — -- In a new BBC reality TV show, "The Baby Borrowers," parents donate their children to teenagers so they can "practice" what it's like to be a parent.

"With the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe, Britain's teenagers are breeding like rabbits," the show's announcer says in the opening of the show.

The concept of the series is simple. Five teenage couples face the ultimate challenge -- parenthood, complete with real-life babies for three straight days.

Twenty-five children, some of them just 6 months old, were placed in houses with teenage couples taking on the full responsibilities of parenthood.

"It is like watching a 15-year marriage in fast forward breakdown," said "Borrowers'" executive producer, Richard McKerrow.

One Step Too Far?

Some critics, however, are appalled.

"I find it incomprehensible that any parent could consider that," said Caroline Ball, of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board. "How could these parents have willingly put their children in that situation?"

The producers took precautions. The teenage couples were carefully screened. The babies came with instruction manuals and highly trained nannies were always close at hand.

For the babies' parents -- who were not paid a penny -- watching it all over closed circuit television was sometimes excruciating. But they have no qualms.

"When you drop them off at a nursery you don't know what they're doing," said Darren Martin, a father of one of the children. "This way we drop them off and we actually watched them."

"You had a fantastic time didn't you?" Martin said to his son Harrison, who appeared on the show.

Documentary Holds Message to Teens

The teenage couple that looked after Martin's son decided they didn't want a child yet -- and that's partly the point.

After it airs on the BBC, the series will be shown in schools to discourage teen pregnancy.

"By the end of the experience they hopefully will be saying, 'Damn, let me be 16 again,'" McKerrow said.

Martin agreed.

"If it stops one teen from getting pregnant, then it was worth it," he said.

But critics are still skeptical.

"It was a sort of program that should not be made," Ball said.

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