Friday, October 13, 2006

Madonna and Child

I believe adoption should be a private matter, if all parties involved choose to keep it that way. This goes for celebrities as well as the not-so-famous. Meg Ryan recently adopted a girl from China and, while there have been a few news reports about it, she’s pretty much kept a low profile. That may be due in part to the fact that she’s not as big a star as she used to be, certainly not as big as Angelina Jolie is right now, but also because she hasn’t exactly sought the spotlight, either. In general, though, celebrities are going to have their lives scrutinized more so than the average person.

Much has been made recently about Madonna and her apparent adoption of a boy from the African nation of Malawi. As much as I dislike her music and the oversexed, shock-at-any-cost image she’s created for herself, I wouldn’t criticize her for wanting to offer a better life to a child who would otherwise spend the rest his developing years in foster care or in an orphanage.

However, the more facts that come out about this story, the harder it’s becoming to pass the smell test. First, the boy, whose mother died shortly after his birth, has a father who is still alive but was not willing to keep the boy due to financial hardship:

On Tuesday, 32-year-old [Yohame] Banda told The Associated Press: "I am the father of David, who has been adopted. I am very very happy because as you can see there is poverty in this village and I know he will be very well looked after in America."

He said his wife Marita died a month after David's birth from medical complications and the child had been cared for at an orphanage in Mchinji, a village near the Zambian border.

Also, Malawi supposedly has very strict laws regarding adopting children out of the country:

The decision by the judge at a Malawi court brings to an end 24 hours of uncertainty for the couple who both appeared in court earlier to convince authorities to sidestep strict Malawian law.

Under Malawian rules, nobody can adopt until they have fostered a child for two years - while living in the country.

Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, seemingly convinced authorities to bend the rules. This rule bending may have been influenced by the couple’s willingness to donate millions of dollars to local charity, on the condition the schools teach Kabbalah:

Madonna worked closely with the Raising Malawi charity, which has earmarked $1.5 million to the village of Gumulira, population 6,000. Part of the funds will be used to improve the local school.

However, concerns have been raised that Madonna-supported care centres feature a curriculum based around Spirituality for Kids, which is linked to the mystical Kabbalah faith, of which Madonna is a famous advocate.

Finally, there are reports that Madonna asked for 12 children to be identified so she could choose one:
Officials in Malawi continued to insist Madonna was in their country to adopt a child, but acknowledge tension with the singer who denies choosing an orphan boy."Madonna's people asked us to identify 12 children aged one, and the Ministry of Women and Child Development has done (that), and what I know so far is that she identified one child yesterday," Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati told Reuters.
I find this part of the story most unseemly, and, for the record, it has been denied (sort of) by her publicist. Adoption is a sensitive subject, particularly the adoption of a child of a different race from another country. I want to think the best of Madonna and her motives and that she will give the best life possible to young David. I don’t want to be as critical as some others, but at the same time there are aspects to this story which suggest that money and celebrity can trump the rule of law and children are mere accessories and status symbols. Such an image can only hurt international adoption.


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