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Boy of 13 becomes a father |
Source Evening Standrad
By Robert Mendick And Paul Waugh, Evening Standard
Published: February 13, 2009, 23:46
London: A boy of 13 has become one of the country's youngest fathers sparking a political row over "broken Britain".
The birth of Maisie Roxanne prompted outrage with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith highlighting the case as a "tragic example" of Britain's social decline.
Duncan Smith, who runs the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said: "I don't know about these particular families but too many dysfunctional families in Britain today have children growing up where anything goes."
Duncan Smith added: "It exemplifies the point we have been making about broken Britain. It's not being accusative, it's about pointing out the complete collapse in some parts of society of any sense of what's right and wrong.
"There is no opprobrium any more about behaviour."London The short video clip posted on YouTube last week shows a schoolboy, who looks no more than eight, cradling a baby girl in his arms. In fact, the boy is 13 and incredibly the baby's father.
Alfie Patten holds his child carefully while the baby's mother, Chantelle Steadman, 15, sits next to him. Alfie, who is just four feet tall, appears extremely young for his age, his voice has not broken and his monosyllabic answers to questions indicates his immaturity.
Asked on the video what he will do financially, Alfie replies: "What's financially?"
The question is then reworded. "What will you do for money?" Alfie answers: "I don't know."
Chantelle got pregnant after one night of unprotected sex with Alfie, who was 12 at the time. Chantelle discovered she was having a baby 12 weeks later after a trip to the doctor's but kept it secret from her mother Penny, 38, for a further six weeks. They decided against an abortion and on Monday ‹ after five hour's labour Chantelle gave birth to Maisie Roxanne, who weighed in at 7lb 3oz at Eastbourne Hospital.
In an interview with the Sun, Alfie promises to be a good father but admits he can't really afford the child's upkeep.
Alfie said: "I didn't know what it would be like to be a dad. I will be good though and care for it. I thought it would be good to have a baby. I didn't think about how we would afford it. I don't really get pocket money. My dad sometimes gives me £10.
"When my mum found out, I thought I was going to get in trouble."
Chantelle and Maisie are living with her parents Penny and Steve, who is unemployed, at their council house in Eastbourne, which is shared with Chantelle's five brothers. Alfie lives on a nearby council estate with his mother Nicola, 43, but spends much of his time at the Steadmans' home. He even keeps a school uniform there so he can go straight to school from there.
His father Dennis, 45, who works for a vehicle recovery firm and has had nine children himself, admitted Alfie did not really fathom the enormity of what has just happened.
"He could have shrugged his shoulders and sat at home on his Playstation. But he has been at the hospital every day," said Patten.
"He hasn't got a clue of what the baby means and can't explain how he feels. All he knows is mum and dad will help.
"When you mention money his eyes look away. And she is reliant on her mum and dad. It's crazy. They have no idea what lies ahead."
He described his son as a typical 13-year-old, who enjoys computer games, boxing and supports Manchester United.
Chantelle, who went home with Maisie from hospital on Thursday, told the Sun that she was nervous going into labour but excited now her daughter had been born.
"I know we made a mistake but I wouldn't change it now," said Chantelle. "We will be good loving parents. I have started a church course and I am going to do work experience helping other young mums."
Her mother has accepted life will be difficult for the teenagers.
"I told her [Chantelle] it was lovely to have the baby but I wish it was in different circumstances," said Steadman.
The omens for Chantelle and Alfie in the long term do not appear good. Britain's youngest known father is Sean Stewart, who was 12 at the time his girlfriend Emma Webster gave birth to their son in 1998. They broke up six months later.
Meanwhile, reducing the relatively high level of teenage pregnancies in Britain remains one of the government's top health priorities, although the favoured solutions continue to prove controversial.
The latest figures, for 2006, show that despite a 13.3 per cent fall in conceptions among girls aged 15-17 since 1998 around 40,000 still give birth each year. This total rises substantially when the number of even younger mothers are added.
Research shows that the most common risk factors for becoming a teenage mother include poor education, including exclusion from school, low aspirations and a lack of self-esteem.
Limited expectations from the girl's family are often also a factor. One recent study in London found a clear link between high pregnancy rates and the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Inner city boroughs such as Lambeth and Southwark, which contain districts of deprivation where these risk factors are frequently present, have featured prominently in national lists of the areas with the highest levels of teenage pregnancy. However, some more affluent outer London boroughs such as Harrow and Barnet have also seen teenage pregnancy rates rise sharply over recent decades.
Seaside resorts ‹ where social deprivation and thrill-seeking lifestyles often exist ‹ also suffer similar problems.
Reducing teenage pregnancies was an early priority after Labour's election victory in 1997.
Ministers have responded with a comprehensive strategy for cutting the birth rate. This includes targeted intervention for those teenage girls deemed at risk, efforts to reduce exclusion and under-performance at school and to tackle low self-esteem as well as improved access to contraception and sex education.