In 2002, the world smiled with approval when Angelina Jolie brought back an orphan boy from Cambodia. No one mentioned the fact that in 2001, the United States government suspended adoptions from the country due to concerns about child trafficking.
Now Madonna is the poster girl for what critics say is an unfair advantage enjoyed by celebrities who want to adopt children from foreign countries. Some experts say that in taking custody of 1-year-old David Banda from Malawi, Madonna circumvented the African nation's strict adoption laws, which require the prospective parents to live in the country for 18 months.
"The part that is good is bringing attention to orphans of Africa, the fact that they need help," said Cheryl Carter-Shotts, founder and managing director of Americans for African Adoptions. "The fact that's not good is that rules and regulation that the average person has to comply with are dropped."
According to reports, Madonna also donated $3 million for the country to build an orphanage to care for up to 4,000 AIDS orphans — another sticking point for Carter-Shotts.
"You just can't walk into a country and disregard the laws and disregard their country Along with offering $3 million, she was going to build orphanages and teach her religion," she said. "$3 million is a huge sum of money for [Malawi]. Of course they would comply."
The New York Post reported that Madonna wants to spend some of the $3 million to drill wells to provide clean water, but that the water "will be Kaballah water." Madonna is a practitioner of the mystical Jewish sect; Malawi is a predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Madonna's spokesperson did not return The ShowBuzz request for a comment.
On Wednesday, the singer issued a statement that said she and her husband, Guy Ritchie, had been planning the adoption for many months prior to their trip to Malawi.
"Nevertheless, we have gone about the adoption procedure according to the law like anyone else who adopts a child," she said. "Reports to the contrary are totally inaccurate. The procedure includes an 18-month evaluation period after which time we hope to make this adoption permanent."
Other celebrities have adopted children from poorer countries. Jolie adopted her son Maddox and Ethiopian daughter Zahara. Meg Ryan has a Chinese daughter, and Ewan McGregor's daughter was born in Mongolia. Screen legend Mia Farrow pioneered celebrity international adoption. She has 10 adopted children, two of which are from Vietnam. The most famous is Soon-Yi Previn, who was born in South Korea and later married Farrow's longtime boyfriend, Woody Allen.
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