I've always been a big supporter of Madonna. No matter what crazy-ass thing she did, from the Sex book to the fake British accent and Kabbalah, I've defended her both as a brilliantly self-inventing and reinventing businesswoman and as a certain kind of artist (though not so much the kind she thinks she is). But this time, I have nothing good to say.
Being a news-avoider (both the real kind and the entertainment kind), I had only been vaguely aware of Madonna's adoption plans when my friend S. filled me in last night. Basically, as I understand it, Madonna visited Malawi on some sort of charity trip, donating a bunch of dough ($3 million?) to children there who are being ravaged by poverty and AIDS. Then she decided she wanted to take one of those babies home. Malawi law doesn't allow international adoption. However, rather than starting the labor-and-time intensive international adoption process from a country that does allow international adoption of its orphan children, Madonna decided that her celebrity status would allow her to bypass this bit of "red tape" and picked out a kid.
Yeah. Picked out a kid. One year-old David Banda, who has been living in an orphanage, but who is not an orphan. While David's mother died shortly after his birth, his father is still alive and is involved in his life (sounds like he's at the orphanage due to his father's extreme poverty and inability to care for him).
So not only is Madonna insisting on adopting a child from a country that doesn't allow international adoption, she's also adopting a child who has a father who wants him.
Making matters worse, while waiting for travel documents/permission to take David out of the country, Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie, left the country, leaving the baby with employees. Yep. So attached to the kid they couldn't wait a few weeks.
And that's pretty much where it stands now. Her adoption is being challenged, various organizations are arguing over whether it's a good idea, the baby's father has said that he did not support the adoption, but was told by the orphanage that he should, etc.
This is fucking infuriating, for a couple of reasons. First there are the obvious problems with this particular instance--Madonna's complete lack of respect for other people's laws and customs, for the adoption process, and for this boy's existing family. But beyond that, there's what the media around Madonna's baby-buying (because really, that is what this sounds like) does to people who adopt internationally for the right reasons, within the laws, and with years of forethought.
The obvious counter-example to the Madonna story, since we're talking celebrities, is Angelina Jolie. Angelina has two adoption children, both orphans. Her son Maddox is from Cambodia and her daughter Zahara is from Ethiopia. There have been piles of press about these adoptions, both positive and negative, and no shortage of insistences that Jolie bought her babies. However, this story is a lot different than Madonna's--it includes legal adoptions, of orphans, from countries with international adoption laws. And Jolie reportedly spent up to 18 months in Cambodia with Maddox before she was cleared to take him out of the country. While Madonna and Ritchie couldn't spare a few weeks.
The more important thing, though, is what this does to regular families who were brought together through international adoption. It's a subject near and dear to my heart because my best small friend, H., came to her parents, S. and T., by way of international adoption from China. Over the time period we've been friends with S. and T., we've watched much of the adoption process, from the beginning gathering of paperwork through multiple home visits, the months of wondering when the referral will come, the joy when the referral finally does show up, the arduous trip to China, the bonding of the new family, and H.'s first two years on American soil. Being an observer to this process has given me tremendous respect for people who choose to go this expensive, heart-wrenching route, and knowing this family and all of the good, true, right reasons they chose to expand in this way has made me livid at hearing international adoption scoffed at as accessorizing your boho family, as baby-buying. Which it is. Often. And sometimes by otherwise reasonable folks. How much more of this is Queen Madonna bringing down upon those adopt these kids by the rules and for the right reasons? And what fucking right does she have?