Sorry, toy dogs. The newest must-have celebrity accessory is an adopted child from a foreign country.
Meg Ryan adopted a child from China. Angelina Jolie has children from Cambodia and Ethiopia. Added to the list is Madonna, with her child from Malawi. It’s a nice gesture, but it seems hollow.
These stars have been on the covers of “Us Weekly” and “People” with their new children. They’re the lead stories in all forms of media because of their great compassion. Never mind the people who also adopt children from other countries, or the millions of children in America who need homes, or the foster moms who dedicate their lives to helping orphaned children with much less money and help. No, a celebrity goes to another country and picks up a child and they deserve the Nobel Prize.
In Malawi, it’s illegal to adopt a child if the adopter does not live in Malawi. Unless, of course, you’re Madonna.
Bending the rules for Madonna has human rights groups challenging the adoption to ensure that the child, David Banda, won’t be going home simply because Madonna is wealthy and has given a lot of money to the southeastern African nation.
One of the groups challenging the adoption is Eye of the Child. Boniface Mandere, a spokesperson for the group, told the Associated Press, “The court seems to have made a decision based on Madonna’s wealth. But being a good parent is not about money, it is about caring, having a heart; it’s about love.”
Another concern with all international adoptions is that it is not in the child’s best interest to leave the country he or she was born in. If the child cannot be around parents or extended family, it is best for he or she to be raised by the community.
UNICEF noticed a dangerous trend in 2004. With international adoption rates rising, a growing adoption industry is also thriving. According to UNICEF, “Abuses include the sale and abduction of children, coercion of parents and bribery, as well as trafficking to individuals whose intentions are to exploit rather than care for children.”
No one is suggesting that celebrities are taking part in the exploitation of children. However, by making international adoptions the next big thing, they are increasing the potential of exploitation. A trend in international adoption could potentially do more harm than good.
These celebrities have enough money to build better orphanages and to provide a better quality of life for thousands of children, not just one. They also have the ability to adopt a child from their home countries, thus avoiding the legal trouble of international adoption and still helping a child.
The media isn’t focusing on the problems affecting the countries these children come from. Instead, they focus on the celebrities. The average American still can’t find Ethiopia, Cambodia or Malawi
on a map or name the capitals. Their actions haven’t generated public interest in landmines in Cambodia or AIDS in Africa. They’ve generated public interest in Madonna and Jolie.
Media footage show Madonna dancing with Malawians or Jolie and Brad Pitt walking around a village. There has been no in-depth information about the country
or about how to help.
The idea of adopting a child from a foreign country seems generous, however, it doesn’t help the child as much as a donation to that child’s homeland. This trend could also lead to the further exploitation
of children. Even the best of intentions can go awry.
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at