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Madonna defends adoption

The singer and the Malawian baby are reunited in London. She says custody is legal.

October 18, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Madonna said Tuesday she had acted according to the law in taking custody of a 1-year-old Malawian boy, responding for the first time to the fierce debate about the legality and morality of the planned adoption.

The pop star's statement came after she was united with David Banda at her London mansion. Madonna said she hoped to make the adoption permanent following an 18-month evaluation period, imposed by Malawi authorities.

"We have gone about the adoption procedure according to the law, like anyone else who adopts a child. Reports to the contrary are totally inaccurate," Madonna said in the statement, issued via e-mail.

Madonna said she and her husband began the adoption process "many months prior to our trip to Malawi," but she had not disclosed their intentions because she wished to keep the matter private. As child-protection groups challenged Madonna's custody order, photographers swarmed outside the singer's home and bloggers and editorial writers weighed in, that appeared a vain hope.

"After learning that there were over 1 million orphans in Malawi, it was my wish to open up our home and help one child escape an extreme life of hardship, poverty and in many cases death, as well as expand our family," Madonna said. "This was not a decision or commitment that my family or I take lightly."

David, who has spent most of his life in an orphanage in poverty-stricken Malawi, arrived before dawn at Heathrow Airport aboard a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. He was bundled into a waiting Mercedes minivan in the arms of an aide, surrounded by airport officials and armed police officers.

Photographers, reporters and camera crews clustered in the street as the van arrived at the brick Victorian town house near London's Hyde Park that Madonna, 48, shares with her husband, director Guy Ritchie, and her daughter Lourdes, 9, and son Rocco, 6.

Last week, Malawi's High Court granted Madonna and Ritchie an interim adoption order giving them custody of the boy for 18 months. The order waived a Malawian law requiring would-be parents to live in the country for a year while social welfare officers investigate their ability to care for a child.

Human rights and child protection groups were challenging the custody order in court in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. They said they wanted to ensure child-protection rules were not swept aside to benefit a singer who has been generous to Malawi.

Malawian government officials said they had no objection to the adoption.

Jonathan Pearce, director of the adoption-support group Adoption U.K., said celebrity adoption could bring attention to the need for adoption but could also give the impression that adopting a child was a simple process.

"I am sure there is a perception that you can just go out there and purchase a child," he said. "Obviously that is not a good way to portray adoption."

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