Community: Real Life

A-list adoption


Lauren is a freelance journalist who volunteers for TheSite. She hates brown rice, being interrupted and children with snotty noses - and has a growing passion for cheese.

Are celebs really putting the child's needs first when they adopt from overseas? Lauren feels celebrity adoption is happening for all the wrong reasons.

Nicole Kidman and Sharon Stone have been doing it for years. Angelina and Brad are famous for it, and apparently even Britney's thinking about it. Now it's Madonna's turn. Adopting babies is becoming as crucial to celebrity status as appearances on red carpets and in magazine spreads. But, I think the impact of the new international baby shopping trend may actually result in a negative impact that could last a child's lifetime. It seems to me that the rich and famous are bending the rules and pushing the boundaries to bring babies back to their own countries.

When I was nine I bought a Tamagotchi. Remember them? The little electronic pets designed by a crazy Japanese man in the hope of getting young people to learn about responsibility and parenthood while he made a buck or two. The pets, mine was a cat named Kevin, appeared on a small screen and needed to be fed, loved and played with or else a big RIP sign would flash up and the pet would appear six feet under. Kevin lasted about a week. The first day I had him I over-fed, over-played and smothered him with love, but as the novelty wore off and boredom set in, I forgot Kevin and after six long malnourished and neglected days Kevin kicked the bucket.

Now, I'm not comparing Madonna's newly purchased baby, David Banda, to Kevin. I'm not even comparing her parental skills to my own. I'm sure as a mother of two she will do a far better job than I did. I'm merely saying that her decision to adopt in the way that she has comes with far more responsibility and potential problems than may first appear. It also raises big questions about power and money, over ethics and morals.

Madonna should be commended for handing over nearly 2 million to help Malawian orphans. She is raising the profile of a country in desperate need of help and is highlighting an issue many would rather ignore. And, of course, she is providing a child with an opportunity to live in health and wealth for the rest of his life. But we must remember that David is not an orphan, he has a father who simply could not afford to keep him and who claims he was misled when signing adoption papers that he says he could barely understand. Could Madonna not have offered David's father money to give him a better life or adopted an orphan instead?

The laws on international adoption aren't simple. Most childless couples who are desperate to adopt an African child wouldn't have been able to do so with the ease of Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Most people aren't able to hand over a few million quid so that the authorities view them in a rosier light or bend and break the laws for them. The law in Malawi states an 18-month inhabitancy within the country before potential parents can adopt a baby and take them out of the country. However, Madonna and Guy claim they began the adoption process months prior to their trip to Malawi and have followed the adoption procedure according to the law like anyone else.

"This child will now live a life of invasion, his identity may never be more than as Madonna's son."

Get beyond the law breaking and there's still the issue that this child's future has completely changed. Who is to say that this child will be happier being brought up in the western world, spoiled with expensive living and excessive goods? How can anyone be sure that this society won't have a worse effect on the boy when he will be exposed to things that he may never have even known existed in his world? What were the chances of him being bullied for being different in Malawi? In Malawi he may not have had to be afflicted with big brother or peer pressure or having paparazzi rummaging through his bins. This child will now live a life of invasion by the press and his identity may never be more than as "Madonna's son".

On the reverse side, David Banda, has been saved from poverty. He's escaped a fate that many hundreds of thousands of children in his home country will suffer from through poverty, malnourishment and disease. But will he grow up with the culture, language and values of his forefathers?

Maybe Madonna is adopting this baby with all of the best intentions. But there has to be a part of it that is selfish. A part of her that is doing it for her own self-fulfilment so she can feel like a do-gooder. When she looks at her trillion figure bank account she can now say, "Well I've adopted an African baby, don't you know?"

Like Meg Ryan, Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie, Madonna appears to have fallen into the celebrity adoption shopping race. How many babies, from how many different countries and how much? But at what cost? Will it take the 'Brangelina' tribe to grow into an entire football team before these celebrities stop and think about the harm, rather than the good they may be causing these children?

In my opinion there is something very distasteful with this new trend of celebrity adoption. There is a feeling of a disproportionate power to responsibility ratio that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. As David Banda is carried off in his new mum's private jet, surrounded by body guards and with the world's press after his picture, something just doesn't quite fit.

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Updated: 11/06/2007

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