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NBC urged to cancel 'Baby Borrowers' due to health, safety concerns


By Christopher Rocchio, 07/07/2008 

NBC's The Baby Borrowers is being branded an unsafe social experiment by child health experts, who think the show has no place on television.

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The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry issued a statement last Wednesday calling for NBC to "pull" The Baby Borrowers due to health and safety concerns it has with the reality show, which separates babies and toddlers from their parents and places them with teenagers for three days.

"Separating babies and toddlers from their parents for extended periods of time can lead children to feel distress and anxiety," the organization wrote in the statement.  "After prolonged separation, a child can feel distrust for his or her primary caregiver. Separation can damage a healthy attachment and a child's sense of safety."

In addition, the AACAP stated it's concerned The Baby Borrowers promotes "baby borrowing" as an "acceptable parenting practice" that "will prompt imitation."

"Should this practice be emulated without the benefit of the observing camera, it is important to note that teenagers may be more likely than adult strangers to abuse or neglect infants and toddlers," said Anne Glowinski, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and member of AACAP's Infancy and Preschool Committee.

AACAP president Robert Hendren also claims The Baby Borrowers' "It's not TV, it's birth control" message could be better communicated than via a reality show.

"A more constructive approach would have had the teenagers shadow a family of a toddler or baby, keeping parents close," said Hendren.

The AACAP is not alone in its criticism of The Baby Borrowers, as Zero to Three -- a national advocacy group for young children -- also previously released a statement claiming the show "exploits very young children in the pursuit of entertainment."

"Legitimate social experiments are not conducted on national television or on reality shows," reads the statement.   "The Baby Borrowers may have a catchy theme, but it exploits young children with potential harmful consequences. This is no social experiment. It is an extremely misguided endeavor that puts at risk our most vulnerable citizens, young children who need our love and protection."

In addition, Zero to Three also discredited NBC's "safeguard" of having a nanny near the teenage parents in case a problem should arise.

"The nanny is no more familiar to that child than the two strangers who will be caring for him for three days. The nanny does not know him or what his signals mean -- such as what he needs when he cries out in the middle of the night, or how he shows he is hungry, tired, or is overwhelmed and needs a break from play," reads the Zero to Three statement. 

"Moreover, even though the parents of these young children are watching via closed-circuit television, the babies are not aware of that and have no way of knowing how long the parents will be gone."

Despite the criticism, NBC is apparently sticking by its show and the safety its youngest participants received during filming.

"The producers of The Baby Borrowers took all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and welfare of the children participating in the series," NBC said in a statement obtained by The Los Angeles Times. "The environment was carefully controlled, and the children were properly care for at all times."

The Baby Borrowers currently airs in the Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT time slot on NBC.

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