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Malawi judge says No to Madonna’s second adoption

Malawi judge says No to Madonna's second adoptionLast week, the world learned that pop star Madonna was seeking to adopt a second child from the African nation of Malawi. On Thursday, Malawi’s Minister of Child Welfare supported Madonna, saying the adoption left one less mouth for the government to feed. On Friday, shortly after an unofficial report claimed the judge had privately told her she would be approved, her case was rejected by a Malawi judge, effectively terminating her appeal to adopt 3-year-old Chifundo “Mercy” James.

The 50-year-old singer did not appear in person in court. Her New York spokeswoman did not comment. But her lawyer filed notice that he would appeal the decision.

Reportedly, the refusal is based solely on a law that requires adoptive parents to have lived in the country for a year and a half. The judge said she would not bend the rules just because Madonna was rich and famous. And since she had “jetted into the country during the weekend just days prior to the hearing,” she could hardly be considered a resident. This addendum has led some to believe that Madonna’s celebrity status is actually the reason why she was rejected.

Others suppose it is because of her single parent status. The residency requirement was waived for her first adoption, when Madonna was married to Guy Ritchie. Today, Ritchie spoke kindly of Madonna, saying she was a great mum and that he was saddened by the court’s decision. “She is motivated only by being a caring parent who seeks to share some of the advantages and opportunities that her life has given her.”

For the second time, Madonna also drew sharp attacks from her own critics, as well as child welfare groups that generally look down on international adoptions. Their mantra is “the child is better off with relatives.” That is the typical course for African orphans. But since 14% of adults in Malawi have AIDS, there aren’t enough relatives to go around. Even healthy adults are often incapable of providing financially for children, many of whom end up on the streets.

When Madonna adopted now 3-year old David Banda, the criticism was a little more understandable. His father is alive but unable to care for him. He had never once visited the orphanage where David lived. At the time, the father supported the adoption, according to Madonna’s 2006 interview with the BBC.

Mercy James is different. Her mother, just 14 when she gave birth, died shortly after. Her father is not mentioned. Her grandmother is unable to care for her. The child’s maternal uncle consented to the adoption. Madonna promised to rescue the child from a life of “hardship and emotional trauma” that is inevitable for an orphan. Still, some people say that Mercy should stay in the country because of the possibility that distant relatives may appear and be able to take her in.

After the court decision was handed down, Madonna and her three children (3-year-old David, 8-year-old son Rocco, and 12-year-old daughter Lourdes) toured the location of a school she is building. Later, she threw a party at her hotel with traditional dancers, as well as government officials and the staff of Raising Malawi, Madonna’s charity. Earlier in the week, they visited David’s orphanage and David’s biological father.

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