Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Madonna 'to adopt second child'

Madonna with children Lourdes, Rocco and David Banda
Madonna also has two biological children, Lourdes and Rocco

Pop star Madonna is to travel to Malawi in a bid to adopt a baby girl called Mercy James, officials have said.

The Reuters news agency was told that the child has "no father and mother, they both died", and an assessment was completed on Thursday.

The 50-year-old is expected to arrive at the weekend and attend a procedural hearing at the High Court on Monday.

The 14-month-old baby will be a sister to David Banda, the first child Madonna adopted from the African country.

The official adoption of the little boy was confirmed last year.

She brought the child back to the UK from an orphanage in the country in 2006.

'Role model'

An official at the Malawian department of women and child welfare told the BBC's Raphael Tenthani that the pop star had already filed adoption papers and her case could be heard as early as next week.

The official later told the Reuters news agency: "We expect her over the weekend or earlier than that... but without a doubt she is coming before the end of this month."

The best place for a child is in his or her family in their home community
Dominic Nutt, Save the Children UK

Charity Save the Children UK has issued a statement urging the star and fellow celebrities to think very carefully before adopting from overseas.

Spokesperson Dominic Nutt said: "The best place for a child is in his or her family in their home community. Most children in orphanages have one parent still living, or have an extended family that can care for them in the absence of their parents."

He added that the organisation believes that "international adoption should only be considered if the child is a genuine orphan, and if all other alternatives in their own country have been genuinely exhausted".

He added: "We urge any celebrity to set an example, to follow internationally agreed procedures designed to protect the child, and to ensure that the child in question has no other options in their home community."

Madonna's spokeswoman in New York, Liz Rosenberg, would not comment.

Her lawyer in Malawi, Alan Chinula, also declined to comment.

However, a US government official - speaking under condition of anonymity - told Reuters news agency that an adoption bid was under way.

Writing in response to e-mailed questions from Nation readers last week, Madonna said: "Many people - especially our Malawian friends - say that David should have a Malawian brother or sister.

"It's something I have been considering."

Critics accused the Malawian government of sidestepping laws banning foreign adoptions in order to allow the celebrity to take 13-month-old David home with her.

After the adoption was legalised, Madonna said the difficulties had arisen because "this adoption essentially was the beginning of the creation of adoption laws in Malawi".

She hoped it would make it easier for others to adopt from the country and explained: "I am the template or the role model, so to speak, for future adoptions."

The star also has two biological children - Rocco, her son with former husband Guy Ritchie, and Lourdes, whose father is Carlos Leon.

Film director Ritchie and Madonna's divorce was finalised in November.

Malawi does not, as a rule, approve adoptions for single or divorced people, but the official at the country's welfare department said that each case was considered on merit.

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