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Judge rejects Madonna's adoption efforts in Malawi


April 3, 2009 / CBC News

A judge in Malawi has rejected pop singer Madonna's application to adopt a second child in the country on residency grounds.

Judge Esme Chombo, based in the capital of Lilongwe, stated that prospective parents must be a resident of Malawi for 18 to 24 months before they are able to adopt, sources told the Associated Press.

The residency rule was waived in Madonna's first Malawi adoption in 2006, when she was allowed to take her adopted son, David Banda, to London before his adoption was finalized in 2008.

It was not clear why Chombo ruled differently Friday. Another judge had handled Madonna's previous adoption case.

Madonna, 50, was not in court on Friday and it is not yet clear if she intends to appeal the decision. Her lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

The singer had filed an application to adopt a three-year-old girl whose mother died soon after childbirth in the African nation. The child's name is listed on the court application as Chifundo James.

In court papers made public Friday, Madonna said Chifundo's grandmother was unable to care for her.

Madonna had promised to make the child a permanent part of her family and spare her the "hardship and emotional trauma" of life as an orphan.

The girl's mother, according to the affidavit, died at age 14 just days after her baby was born Jan. 22, 2006. There was no mention of the father in the affidavit, but the mother's brother is listed as having consented to the adoption.

'I am able and willing to securely provide for Chifundo James'

"I am able and willing to securely provide for Chifundo James and make her a permanent and established member of my family," Madonna said in the document. "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable."

Madonna has faced criticism — including from child advocacy and human rights groups — when she adopted David. After the child's biological mother died, his father was unable to care for him and had turned him over to an orphanage.

Madonna also has a daughter, Lourdes, from a previous relationship and a son, Rocco, from her recently ended marriage to filmmaker Guy Ritchie.

Critics have blasted the American singer for her adoption efforts and have accused her of using her celebrity to fast-track or bypass the Malawian adoption process.

However, some in Malawi support the adoption as well as Madonna's charitable efforts in the southeastern African nation, which include raising funds for food, shelter, education and health care for Malawian children.

Malawi's child welfare minister had endorsed Madonna's second adoption application.

"We have close to two million orphans in Malawi who need help," said Anna Kachikho, minister for women and child welfare development. "We can't look after all of them as a country. If people like Madonna adopt even one such orphan, it's one mouth less we have to feed."

2009 Apr 3