Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 16:36 UK

Madonna to begin Malawi adoption


Madonna was seen walking through the village of Chinkhota with her daughter Lourdes.

Madonna has arrived in Malawi to begin the process of adopting a second child from the African country.

The pop star wants to adopt a young girl called Mercy James, local officials have said.

The singer was seen walking through the village of Chinkhota with her 12-year-old daughter Lourdes.

She refused to answer questions from reporters but said it was "amazing" to be back in the country where she adopted David Banda in 2006.

Madonna is due to sign adoption papers in court in the capital Lilongwe in the coming days.

An unnamed welfare official told the Associated Press (AP) agency Mercy James' mother was an unmarried 18-year-old who died a few months after the baby was born.

The girl is in the same orphanage that was home to David, who is now three years old.

There are differing reports of Mercy James' age, with AP and Reuters saying she is four years old and Agence France Presse (AFP) saying she is three.

But Madonna has come in for criticism over her plans. David Nutt, spokesman for the Save the Children charity, urged Madonna to think again.

"We don't want to pick on one individual - any time, any set of circumstances can change," he said.

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

"But the problem is, very often this is the wrong thing to do, and Madonna tends to make it seem like it's the answer to everything and all problems, and it just isn't."

But Steven Whitehead from the charity Oasis, which represents families who adopt from abroad, said foreign adoption was a good idea in many cases.

He said: "There are a number of children for whom inter-country adoption represents their only chance of having a family, and the human convention on the right of the child gives every child the right to a family.

"And it's much better for them be in a family, wherever it may happen to be, than be in institutional care. The damaging effect of institutional care on children is so well recognised that, you know, it's just not an issue of debate."

Madonna's spokeswomen, Liz Rosenberg and Barbara Charone, and her lawyer in Malawi, Alan Chinula, have not commented.

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."

In 2006, critics accused the Malawian government of sidestepping laws banning foreign adoptions in order to allow the celebrity to take David home with her.

Madonna's adoption of David Banda was confirmed last year.

'Role model'

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.

Madonna has also established a charity, Raising Malawi, which aims to provide accommodation, food, education and other support to orphans in the country.

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