Monday, October 16, 2006

Most adoptions start with a little light kidnapping

We first heard the news that David, the poor kid which has been selected as Madonna's post-tour project, had been lifted in an email from regular correspondent Karl T:

Funny that. I seem to recall there being a little bit more, well, process involved when my parents adopted my brother. Then again, he was from Long Eaton.

Sadly, Long Eaton babies aren't quite as photogenic.

It does, indeed, seem that David has left Malawi, although it's far from clear that he was supposed to have gone.

The human rights charities had postponed a legal challenge to the adoption while it "collected evidence." Meanwhile, the Malawian authorities are attempting to correct the impression that it rolled over and gave the rich woman whatever she asked for:

Penston Kilembe, director of child welfare in the ministry of gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, said Madonna and her husband had broken no laws.

"The process did not start today - Madonna's people have been pushing the papers for some time and her coming was just to sign the papers to conclude the process," he said.

Really? Malawian law appears to insist that adopters live in the country for 18 months, and while it's possible that Madonna has been sending people over for a year and a half, her tendency to attract attention to herself and the whole international tour thing makes it seem far from likely Madonna and Guy have been living in Malawi for that long quietly; the reports of Madonna's people driving round looking for children and the fact that David can't have been in the orphanage for more than two months suggests that there's not been any period of investigation to see how adopted parents and child get on.

And while Madonna may have had permission to take David away from his home, surely the responsible thing would have been to wait to see if the legal challenge failed? If you're that sure of the rightness of your actions, and that you will spend the next twenty years caring for the child, why not wait a few more days to convince the world?

A statement from Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's publicist in New York, said the child was issued a passport and a visa Monday.

"It is expected that the family will be reunited within the next few days," the statement said.

Rosenberg said Madonna and her husband, filmmaker Guy Ritchie, were granted interim adoption of the child, who was granted a visa that allows him to travel with them.

"This interim adoption grants David's new parents temporary custody for 18 months, during which time they will be evaluated by the courts of Malawi per the tribal customs of the country," she said in her statement said. "It is expected that the family will be reunited in the next few days."

The child was accompanied out of Malawi by one of the singer's bodyguards, a witness told Reuters news agency, and is believed to be en route to South Africa.

So Madonna couldn't even be bothered to wait to take what by now will likely be a confused and frightened kid on the longest trip of his short life, instead thrusting this supposed wanted child into the care of some paid retainer. Cynics might say that's starting as you mean to go on.

And what will happen in 18 months? Even if Malawian officials concede they've made a terrible mistake, it's going to be very, very hard to put it right - allowing a child from Malawi to Hampstead is one thing; letting him come to feel that Hampstead is his home and then returning him to a small African village quite another.

So, instead of waiting a few days to think seriously about the options, the Malawian authorities have collaborated in a grotesque fait accompli, in which nobody comes out well. Madonna looks desperate and grabby, treating a child like an eBay product, swooping in to ensure nobody else can get it. Malawi looks like a nation which is happy to collude in deals which treat its citizens as chattels. And David? He's probably just lucky he's too young to understand that what's best for him matters less than keeping some rich woman happy and providing a cutesy ending for a self-aggrandising film about how great she is.

If Madonna really cared about the kid, if she was interested in the person rather than the statement, why wasn't she prepared to invest the time in the adoption that the law demanded?


Anonymous said...

Please tell me you cut and pasted this self righteous nonsense from some pathetic tabloid trash mag.

Careful - you're in danger of turning into the people you usually skewer.

simon h b said...


It might be righteous rather than self-righteous, but I'm a little bemused by your reaction. If we strip this story down to its basics, it's:

rich woman takes baby out of country with blessing of authorities who have ignored all their usual laws, rules and safeguards

I'm not sure why you'd expect me to be applauding this.

Anonymous said...

"If we strip this story down to its basics, it's:"

How about - rich woman takes 'impoverished' and 'orphaned' baby out of 'impoverished' country with blessing of authorities 'and baby's family' who have ignored all their usual laws, rules and safeguards 'to see baby placed in mega-wealthy, hugely influential, and, from all appearances, well adjusted family'.

Let's face it, if it was anybody but Madonna (pretend it's Angelina) most people would be 'applauding' this. The outcry over has been so forced and self-serving and it's insulting.

And there are valid reasons for why this adoption might rub some people the wrong way, but it's got nothing to do with doting Is and crossing Ts on Malawian adoption papers (and certainly nothing that would interest tabloid journos in gloomy ol' London for that matter).

I don't know, I'm stunned at the lengths people are going to to get in a few cheap shots at the woman (more so given the circumstances). I'm guessing the pics of her wrinkled hands just don't sell the papers anymore.

Mikey said...

A lot of people, not just journalists, are somewhat troubled by this action of Madonna's. If journalists have siezed upon it as a news story that may - at least in part - have been driven by the numerous photocalls she organised while she was out there. After all, the natural habitat of the pap photographer is outside chinabloodywhite, not some dusty kiddies' home.

She could have saved herself a lot of grief too if she'd just selected a real orphan instead of the little demi-orph she selected.

Surely there must've been one or two equally photogenic candiates among the thousands of possibles.

Ultimately, there's no point worrying too much about Madonna's motives or fitness to adopt: Some Polish nanny is going to end up bringing the kid up because Madonna spends 75% of her waking hours in the gym.

simon h b said...


I take your points, but I disgree with many of them:

The baby isn't orphaned, David has a father who believed that the orphanage would offer better conditions for a sick child

That a family is wealthy and influential has absolutely no bearing on if they're the right people to bring up a child - look at the Windsors, for example

"From all appearances 'well-adjusted'" - they're members of a cult; the marriage of the adopted parents is sometimes reported as being less than solid; and by virtue of their fame and position the child is going to spend the rest of his life being poked, probed and prodded in the pages of Heat and on E! television. I'd hate to see your idea of maladjusted. (It might be that Madonna has in place a plan to save this kid the pain of life as a famous kid, but there hasn't been the chance for anyone to investigate that.)

If it was anyone else would I be applauding? Nope, I don't think so. But then if it wasn't Madonna the kid wouldn't have been smuggled through Heathrow under some sort of gillet this morning.

I'm not saying Madonna shouldn't be allowed to adopt. What I am saying is that she should be treated like everyone else. With a situation where a child is being taken from next to nothing to being a millionaire's kids, dotting those Is and crossing those Ts is vital, don't you think?

Again: If she's so serious about this adoption, why couldn't she go through the process?

Mikey said...

Yep. Definitely not just a trend among the twatterati.

A little brown baby is this year's dog in a bag.

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