Madonna-style adoptions...


Rise in institutionalised children linked to 'Madonna-style' adoption

Liverpool, UK - 7 April 2008: Psychologists at the University of Liverpool say that 'Madonna-style' inter-country adoptions are causing a rise in the number of children in orphanages.

Researchers found that EU countries with the highest rates of children living in institutions also had high proportions of international adoptions. This did not reduce the number of children in institutional care but attributed to an increase. The study highlights that in countries such as France and Spain, people are choosing to adopt healthy, white children from abroad rather than children in their own country who are mainly from ethnic minorities.

This process has been labelled the ‘Madonna-effect’, so-called after the singer’s high-profile adoption of a young boy from Malawi in 2006. Statistics show that the media attention surrounding this case contributed to an increase in the number of international adoptions, but at the expense of local orphans.

Child Psychologist, Professor Kevin Browne, said: “Some argue that international adoption is, in part, a solution to the large number of children in institutional care, but we have found the opposite is true. Closely linked to the Madonna-effect, we found that parents in poor countries are now giving up their children in the belief that they will have a ‘better life in the west’ with a more wealthy family. 

“Some celebrities have unwittingly encouraged international adoption, yet it has been shown that 96 per cent of children in ‘orphanages’ across Europe and probably across the globe are not true orphans and have at least one parent often known to the local authorities. The fact that these rules and regulations can be broken makes international adoption an ‘easier’ process than it has ever been before.

Professor Browne added: “Governments and orphanages can reap substantial financial gains from international adoption and this appears to be fuelling its growth but many are breaking the UN Convention of Rights of the Child which states that international adoption should only be used as a last resort in situations where all other means of fostering, adoption and care within the child’s country of origin, are exhausted.” 

The Liverpool researchers are recommending that more stringent guidelines for monitoring policy and practice are implemented to ensure that international adoption is used as a last resort.

The study was published by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering last week.

Notes to editors:

1.  Results from the study were complied from questionnaires sent to the governments of 33 European countries, which provided researchers with detail on the number, characteristics and reasons for children residing in institutions for more than three months without a primary caregiver. Information was also gathered on the proportion of national and international adoptions and fostering and professional support to families in need.  Results were compiled from the 25 countries who responded.

2. Professor Kevin Browne holds the Chair of Forensic and Child Psychology at the University of Liverpool. He is currently Consultant to the European Commission, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation following 12 years as an Executive Counsellor of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. He has worked in more than 50 countries worldwide, working with governments to improve the lives of children.

3. The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £108 million annually.


More on Madonna (and "friends")

A few words from David's Dad

Despite his previous support for the idea in the past, the father of the Malawian boy adopted by Madonna has now said that he didn’t realise he was permanently giving up his son to Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie - and if he had known, he wouldn’t have agreed to it.

Yohane Banda is claiming that the local officials didn’t explain the procedure in full to him and he thought David would only be living with Madonna during his early childhood: “I was never told that adoption means that David will no longer be my son… If I was told this, I would not have allowed the adoption. I want more clarification on the adoption.”

“I would prefer that David goes back to the orphanage where I can see him any time I want, rather than send him away for good.”

“I cannot read or write so I relied on what officials told me, that the papers said Madonna would look after the child the way the orphanage planned to educate him. What we agreed with Madonna was that she looks after my child until he finishes school and becomes independent. Then he comes back to me.”

A number of children’s rights organisations in Malawi are seeking a court order to prevent Madonna and Guy’s interim adoption agreement being made into a permanent one. Yohane’s family have previously claimed that government officials took advantage of Yohane’s lack of education to facilitate the adoption.

What inspired the Madonna miracle-cure for one child?  Buddy Bob Geldof's Inspiration certainly proves it's not what you know, but who....

Chatting to Bob Geldof after last year’s Live 8 concert reportedly inspired Madonna to adopt a child from Malawi, after he told her about the level of poverty and HIV in the country.

According to the Sun, Madonna has told friends that she and husband Guy Ritchie would never have visited the country - and met baby David Banda - unless they had had that conversation and in return, she’s agreed to help support any new charity campaigns he organises and has given a large donation to his existing fundraising organisation.

A source close to Madonna told the newspaper: “She feels that she is forever in Sir Bob’s debt for having introduced her to the country where she eventually met her beloved son. She is extremely grateful to him for bringing David into her life and feels she owes him a lot.”

“She has now made a very generous donation to the Band Aid charity through her own Ray Of Light Foundation.”

“She also sent Bob a lovely personal thank-you letter to extend her gratitude to him. And she gave him a huge bundle of photos that she and Guy had taken while they were in Malawi. She thought Bob would appreciate them.”

Last but not least, what does another famous international adopter have to say about Madonna's choice-in-child? FromControversey and Cameras comes these well-scripted words:

Angelina Jolie believes Madonna must have known that her adoption of a baby from Malawi would be controversial because she knew that the country is not covered by the Hague Convention for intercountry adoption.

Madonna’s adoption of 15 month old David Banda is being challenged in Malawi by a coalition of 67 human and children’s rights groups because they claim she paid to bypass the country’s usual adoption laws.

Angelina is quoted in New magazine as saying: “Madonna knows very well that she adopted from a country without legal adoption, so it was an unusual situation.”

Angelina added that she doesn’t anticipate falling into the same trap when she adopts her next child with partner Brad Pitt: “I don’t intend to adopt a child from a country where there is no legal adoption.”

Does the interest in adoption and fulfilling the needs of a child add-up yet?

The story and the numbers

Having read Roelie Post's book Romania for Export Only, nothing of what this article says about the study done was in any way new to me. Forget about the catch phrase Madonna-effect. It doesn't require celebrities to make the abandonment figures rise once the adoption industry has established business in a country.

Of course it is good this study is done and I don't want to dismiss the results it presents, but it is a story that has already been told. In that sense it adds to work Roelie Post has done. Her's is based on personal experience in the political arena of the European Union, mainly focussing on one country, where this is a statistical study looking into many more countries and seeing the same effect taking place.

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