Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Madonna says Malawian infant's adoption is legal

AP , LONDON

A nanny, accompanied by a police escort, carries the baby that pop star Madonna is trying to adopt on arrival at London's Heathrow Airport on Tuesday. The boy is 13-month-old David Banda, who was living in an orphange in Malawi. The nanny kept the boy's head covered and away from the glare of photographers who sought to get a glimpse of him.

PHOTO: EPA

Madonna has defended her adoption of one-year-old Malawian baby David Banda, rejecting a swirl of protest over her decision to offer the infant a home and insisting she had acted according to the law.

Speaking for the first time about the African child, the pop star said in a statement on Tuesday that she hoped to make his adoption permanent following an l8-month evaluation period, required by Malawian authorities.

"We have gone about the adoption procedure according to the law like anyone else who adopts a child. Reports to the contrary are totally inaccurate," Madonna said in the statement, issued via e-mail after she was united with the boy at her London mansion.

Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's New York-based publicist, said her client was referring in her statement to laws which applied in both Malawi and Britain.

Madonna said that she and film director husband Guy Ritchie had begun the adoption process "many months prior to our trip to Malawi," but had not disclosed their intentions as they regarded it a private matter.

"After learning that there were over 1 million orphans in Malawi, it was my wish to open up our home and help one child escape an extreme life of hardship, poverty and in many cases death, as well as expand our family," Madonna said.

"This was not a decision or commitment that my family or I take lightly," she said.

Madonna confirmed that following the l8-month evaluation period, her family "hope to make this adoption permanent."

David, who has spent most of his life in an orphanage in poverty-stricken Malawi, arrived before dawn at Heathrow Airport aboard a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. He was bundled into a waiting Mercedes minivan in the arms of an aide, surrounded by airport officials and armed police officers.

Photographers, reporters and camera crews clustered in the street as the van arrived at the brick Victorian townhouse near London's Hyde Park that Madonna, 48, shares with Ritchie, daughter Lourdes, 9, and son Rocco, 6. Madonna also has a house in the English countryside and a home in Los Angeles.

Last week, Malawi's High Court granted Madonna and Ritchie an interim adoption order giving them custody of the boy for 18 months. Rosenberg said that during that time, the couple would be "evaluated by the courts of Malawi per the tribal customs of the country."

The order waived a Malawian law requiring would-be parents to live in the country for a year while social welfare officers investigate their ability to care for a child.

As David arrived in London, human rights and child protection groups were challenging the custody order in court in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. They said they wanted to ensure that child protection regulations were not swept aside to benefit a singer who has been generous to Malawi.

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