Thirteen-year-old Alfi Patten and Chantelle Stedman, 15, the teen parents from the UK, seem to be caught in a media maelstrom. Observers now worry about the traumatic impact of it all.
The parents themselves seem to be in a hurry to strike it rich quick, selling their stories, but the law seems to catching up with at least one pair.
AdvertisementThe mother of Alfie is due to appear in court next week for failing to ensure the 13-year-old attends school.
Nicola Patten, 43, is facing charges relating to a five-month period last year when he failed to attend regularly Willingdon Community School.
A source close to the school said: 'We don't see Alfie at school that often. He plays truant a lot.'
The council started court proceedings against Mrs Patten under the Education Act and as a result she could be fined.
The news came as the baby's mother Chantelle Stedman, her newborn child, her parents and five brothers ad sisters fled from their council house in Eastbourne yesterday.
A neighbour said the family had 'done a bunk' under cover of darkness.
Alfie, at home with his mother, kept in contact with Chantelle by phone.
It's not clear why the Stedmans chose to flee. Excessive media attention or some huddling on future deals?
It is also reported that the parents of both children, Penny and Steve Stedman and Nicola and Dennis Patten are thought to be keen to determine the father of the child and hence DNA tests are proposed.
The girl herself is said to be maintaining it was Alfie who had impregnated her, but others also claim to have had sex around the same time. There are three boys in the race. Hence the families are asking the social services to help to determine the paternity.
Max Clifford, the newly appointed spokesman of the Pattens said, 'Alfie believed he was the father but due to reports in the News of the World at the weekend, he wants to make sure by having a DNA test as soon as possible.'
To resolve the dispute a saliva test might be resorted to, all right, but should the civic authorities pay for it all is the question now. East Sussex County Council refused to comments on claims that its social services department would pay for the paternity test, but sources said that such tests would be up to the individuals to pay for, and not the local authority.
A spokesman for East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust said the NHS also did not pay for DNA tests.
Actually there are six claimants, it is said. How the girl is receiving such reports is not known, but some suggest that she is indeed distraught.
Publicist Phil Hall agreed the families were unlikely to gain millions from selling their story - unless it had a happy ending.
He said a lot of the media are becoming wary of paying huge amounts for the story when there was public concern about where the money was going.
'If by some miracle he (Alfie) becomes an incredible father, then he has the potential to earn a lot of money - but the story has to have a happy ending,' he said.
He also said one TV company had made a bid for £80,000 but that most media would choose to refrain from paying for the story 'on moral grounds.'
One source said the Channel 4 documentary would earn the family about £50,000, but Clifford said the real figure was 'much below that'.
He added that the documentary would provide 'a realistic insight into a major issue of our time'.
Asked how the 13-year-old was handling life as a father he said: 'It hasn't really hit him yet, he's still a boy himself - he's still trying to come to terms.
The seemingly cynical manipulation of the children by their own respective families as also by a voyeuristic media raise many uncomfortable questions over the moral universe of the Britons.
Psychologists are also worried how the children will emerge from the ordeal. The picture of Alfie, face covered, but a finger poking out rudely, is perhaps a pointer to the shape of things to come.
For its part, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) confirmed it had launched an inquiry into payments by The Sun and the People newspapers to Alfie's parents, Daily Mail reported.
Announcing the inquiry, a PCC spokesman quoted clause 6(iv) of the Editors' Code of Practice which says: 'Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interests.'
The PCC statement said: 'Newspapers are allowed to breach this rule if there is a demonstrable public interest.
'The PCC will make a public ruling on the matter when it has completed its investigation.
'The commission has powers - under which it is conducting this inquiry - to launch investigations of its own volition."