The National Council for Adoption has weighed in on the Madonna Melodrama. In the October 24 op-ed page of NCFA’s paper of record, Te Washington Times, NCFA president Tom Atwood complains that Malawian adoption law “sacrifices the orphan’s interest in a family to a nation’s interest in holding onto its children.” Apparently curmudgeon countries that object to sending their children to First World Worthies simply suffer from misplaced national pride.

Atwood complains that Romania shut down cross-country adoption 5 years go. He fails to mention that the corrupt and illegal actions of US adoption agencies and their sub-contractors working there caused the shut-down. He complains about a “past [adoption] moratorium” in Russia (Russia has never placed a moratorium on US adoptions, though members of the Duma have pushed for it). He fails to mention that the murders of 12 Russian adoptees and the physical and sexual abuse of numerous others at the hands of their US forever parents, unaccredited US agencies operating willy-nilly inside Russia, and the failure of US adoption agencies and adoptive parents of Russian children to follow-through on adoption agreements required by Russian law caused the threats. He complains about quotas in China, a proposed shut-down in Korea and post-adoption lawsuits in India and South Africa. As John Adams famously wrote, the Untied States is a nation of laws, not of men, but apparently other nations aren’t, or shouldn’t be. Atwood’s letter gives the impression that nothing would please NCFA more than for BushCo to hike out of Iraq for a few days and jackboot it on into non-compliant “Third World” countries to NCFAize adoption standards and put a child in every American pot…er I mean suburban home…on demand.

I am not defending Madonna. But I am not real keen on dumping on her either, not because I think what she’s done is OK, because it’s not. But Madonna is not the real problem. She’s a pretty celebrity cog in the big adoption wheel who cluelessly tripped the international adoption land mine.

Hail Mary full of grace! The truth is there are loads of mini-Madonnas roosting on Internet boards whining about “unfair” ethical adoption standards and practices (domestic and international), demanding that their empty nurseries and tummies (and in the case of the Matthew Mancuso-types, beds) be filled instantly with the fruit of the wombs of the unworthy. The only difference between them and Madonna is that Madonna has the money to pull it off, and at least had the decency to drop $3,000,000 into orphan care instead of the usual snatch and runner who can‘t be bothered to leave a $20 bill behind.

Atwood conflates the individual status of Madonna’s “adopted son” David Banda–who according to current press reports was NOT even legally available for adoption– to that of thousands of children (theoretically) available for adoption in countries that can’t place them domestically. “… when a child is not being adopted domestically, let the child be adopted internationally” Karl Marx musta spun right out of Highgate on that one! I haven’t seen NCFA advocate that the thousands of Wednesday’s children trapped in the US foster care system be shipped off to…Denmark. Or better yet, adopted by performers from Malawi’s Temwa Cultural Group.

The United States has a long history of biological family severance, transference, reconstruction, and forced assimilation based on race, religion, eugenics, economics, and class. The boarding school system, institutional slavery, state-induced fosterage, documentary genocide, ownership adoption, sealed birth records, and “safe haven” laws have created a culture in which state-manipulated identity is accepted as beneficial public policy–especially when those identities belong to children–and their disempowered parents–who have no resources with which to object. That historiography is now morphing into a Americanized international adoption“ child welfare” policy that everyone else is expected to comply with. To hell with the laws, customs, and desires of the rest of the world. I’m an American and want MY baybee!

At the same time the Madonna Melodrama plays out and NCFA frets, the British press reports on the problems of British-Malawians attempting to gain entry for orphaned family members stuck in Malawi.

Last July, Charity and Michael Blackstone, from Walsall, West Midlands, adopted Charity’s niece, Erykka Mambala, 4, after the girl’s parents died of AIDS. When the girl’s mother, Maureen Mambala, learned she was dying she wrote that she wanted Charity to “raise Erykka as her own daughter.” The Blackstones traveled to Malawi to adopt the girl. A Malawi child welfare official wrote the British High Commissioner that Erykka was “destitute” and that Mrs. Blackstone was the only “reliable person” to help her. The adoption was ordered with no problem. But British authorities now, due to new international adoption laws initiated in the UK in the wake of the Kilshaw-Internet Twins adoption scandal, refuse to allow the girl to enter the UK. The Gladstones, despite the legal adoption, are required to be vetted by the Walsall “adoption team” with voluminous paper work, a home study, intrusive questioning of their own 3 children to determine their attitude toward their new sister, and required parenting classes, tasks which can take over a year to complete. Relatives in Malawi are unable or unwilling to take Erykka. She currently lives with an maternal great aunt and is supported by funds sent monthly by the Blackstones. Her elderly maternal grandfather lives 8 hours away by bus and visits twice a month. Ironically, if the Blackstones had not taken British citizenship they could have brought Erykka home on their own visa.

In a similar case, Elizabeth and David Lee of New Cross Gate, are attempting to bring Elizabeth’s nephew Bruno, 8, and niece Stella Kajombo,9, into the UK. The children’s father died of AIDS in 2003 and their mother, Helen, Elizabeth’s sister, was killed in a traffic accident in May. Elizabeth told This is Hertfordshire, that her sister wanted thr Lees to take the children. “It was always agreed we would have the children if anything happened to Helen but now the authorizes won’t let us.” The children are currently living with an unemployed uncle and supported by the Lees. In August David Lee applied for visas for Bruno and Stella, but was turned down by the British High Commissioner because the children have family to care for them in Malawi. The decision is under appeal, but if it is not overturned, the Lees will have to wait until February 2007 to file papers with the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in the next stage of their challenge.
Kamla Adishian, a solicitor with the nationwide legal advocacy organization Citizen’s Advice Bureau believes that the “there is plenty of evidence” to show the children are dependent on the Lees. “Mr. and Mrs. Lee are the children’s permanent carers and it makes sense to allow them to come and live in the UK.“ Joan Ruddock, the Lee’s MP from Lewisham and Deptford calls the refusal of the British High Commission in Malawi to release the children “extraordinary.”

Charity Blackstone is a intensive care nurse at Birmingham’s City Hospital; her husband is a commercial underwriter for Royal Sun Alliance. David Lee is a an assistant head teacher at an elementary school. There is no doubt that the deceased mothers intended for their children to be cared for by the Blackstones and Lees respectively. The couples view their situation as one law for Madonna and another for the rest of us. When Charity Blackstone complained to the Walsall adoption team about Madonna’s apparent preferential treatment, she says she was told “Oh no, she’s not bringing in a child just like that. The law won’t allow it….She said Madonna would be subject to the same vetting as us, and could be fined 5,000 pounds or imprisoned for 12 months if she didn’t comply.”

Atwood offered similar sentiments in TWT: “Whether the child is adopted into the U.S. or the United Kingdom, the Ritchies will have to meet the same strict requirements that other intercountry adopters do. Government officials will determine the couple’s suitability as adoptive parents through a home study and background checks. They will also determine that the child qualifies under Malawian law as a legal “orphan” and thus is eligible for adoption.”

Does anybody really believe that after 18 months any government is going to dismiss the adoption suit of one of the most famous richest women in the world and remove David from “the only mother he’s ever known” to send him back to the orphanage or to another couple? And what government would want to deal with the fallout?

On October 16, only days after David’s “adoption” was announced, he was spotted, wearing a bright red Kabbalah wrist cord, being carried through Heathrow by his new nanny. The Blackstones and the Lees are still waiting.



  1. SK–would I lie?

    TWT editorial page editor is Tony Blankley who has MC’d NCFA events. His wife,Lynda Davis, is a former member of the NCFA board. TWT has published a number of NCFA commentaries. I tried to reply to one on open records a couple years ago and the letter’s editor emailed me back saying he didn’t know what I was talking about and could I re-write it. Since when does a newspaper care if a letter writer makes any sense?

  2. Dear Marley

    I am afraid you are perpetuating the same misinformation as the media.

    Madonna is not entitled to use the UK system because she is not “habitually resident” (a legal term) in the UK. Both the Blackstones and the Lees are – and therfore have to abide by the UK laws.

    There are good reasons for the law insisting that relative carers are vetted – see the Victorie Climbie case. Whilst that is another example of the inefficiency of some Local Authority Social Services Departments ( as is the time it takes for an assessment!) it is to my mind an example of why all substitute carers need to be carefully assesed and prepared for thier roles – and subsequently monitored for a time after placement. Just being a relative is not sufficient qualification to parent.

    But the families are right in that it is one law for the US and one for the UK. The law, regulations,standards, in fact the whole attitude in the UK is vastly different both for domestic as well as intercountry adoption. Madonna has gone through the US system – for her the UK system was not an option. Simlarly for the two families you mention the UK system was and is the only option.

    I am certainly not going to say one system is better than the other – both need significant improvements I would suggest – and both could look to learn from each other

    Stevan in the UK

  3. Marley:

    Great post. I’m glad you mentioned the 12 Dead Russian adoptees & the Masha Allen case.

    It still saddens me to see the photos of the children the Lees & Blackstones are UNABLE to adopt from Malawi.

    What a system some of us USians are supporting!

  4. “Tony Blankley “

    Jabba The Hut, who writes for the most blatantly right wing newspaper in the country, appears with Sean “Air Horn” Hannity, regularly leaves his dog droppings on HardBull, and engages in partisan rhetoric faxed straight from Uncle Karl’s private machine.

    I’m not surprised to hear he’s an adoption supporter as well. And the wife needs some charity work to do, I suppose. It must be Hard Work, planning parties where you can push your adoption agenda to the Washington insiders.

    Do they have a personal connection to adoption?

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