Malawi Still Murky on Madonna Adoption

Malawi Still Murky on Madonna Adoption

There's still some red tape standing in the way of Madonna's mother-of-three status.

Due to Malawi's timeworn adoption laws and the lack of resources to oversee the case, officials are not much closer to signing off on the pop icon's adoption of David Banda, who was 14 months old when the Material Girl took custody of him in October, than they were last year.

Although Madonna and hubby Guy Ritchie were informed that the process wouldn't be finalized for at least 18 months, during which the Britain-based duo were given interim custody of the boy, it was up to the Malawian government to monitor David's settling-in process with his new family.

Malawi's Child Welfare Services, which is supposed to evaluate the family's suitability, has already missed its first scheduled visit, in May, to the Ritchies' London abode, citing various logistical problems.

"You know it requires some resources for me to travel," the agency's director, Penston Kilembe, told the Associated Press, indicating that money was an issue and that he hopes to touch down in the U.K. by month's end. A second visit is planned for December.

"What we expect is the child must be provided with all the necessities of basic needs for him to grow up," Kilembe said. "Must go to school, must socialize, must be taken care of, must have a…comprehensive medical cover so that he is able to be protected."

But thanks to the logistical logjam, now the same Malawian rights groups that wanted to investigate the legality of the adoption in the first place are saying that the government is going to need help, probably from British authorities, if it wants to be able to follow the letter of its own law.

"We just don't have the resources and the expertise," said attorney Justin Dzonzi, chairman of the Human Rights Consultative Commission, whose 67 children and human rights advocacy groups had protested the ease and rapidity with which Madonna was allowed to take David out of the country.

Dzonzi maintained at the time that they wasn't trying to block Madonna's adoption per se, but rather draw attention to Malawi's "archaic" laws that can be easily circumvented by foreigners and make the country's children vulnerable to trafficking.

The Commission petitioned the court again recently, Dzonzi said, to ask for new regulations on foreign adoptions, including Madonna's, which would include a statute mandating that authorities in the adopter's home country monitor the situation, as well.

The organizations also questioned last year whether the child's father fully understood the implications of the adoption.

Yohane Banda had placed his son in an orphanage after his wife's death, fearing he couldn't support David himself. Although media reports at the time were conflicting, with some implying that Banda was somehow bamboozled into giving his son up and others quoting the man as saying how happy he was for David, Madonna said in a Today show interview in October that she had offered Banda money for childcare but that he turned it down.

"So, when he said no, that was my sign that—that, you know, it was my responsibility to look after him," said the singer, who sat for a bunch of interviews during that period, in which she was labeled everything from angelic and magnanimous to a selfish Angelina copycat.

Now, nearly 10 months later, Banda says that he would like to see his son but that "there are procedures" he has to follow.

"Yes, I miss him…We agreed in court that I can only see my son once every four years," he told AP Television. "And the boy will come to Malawi. There was no agreement in court for me to fly to London to see my son."

As for the procedure, however "archaic," outside experts seem to think that Malawi's practice of checking up on foreign families is perfectly reasonable.

"It makes perfect sense to me that a social worker or a specialist from Malawi is the person who comes to do the assessment," Stevan Whitehead, chairman of the Overseas Adoption Support and Information Service, told the AP.

"He is not being adopted under the U.K. system, so that's got nothing to do with U.K. social workers. He is being adopted in Malawi under the Malawian system by an American who is being assessed under the American process."