Adoptive Mother, Madonna to Rock Lucas Oil Stadium For Super Bowl XLVI Half Time Show

When we first think of the pop sensation Madonna, most of us picture two periods in her career. The first is the button-pushing, outrageously sexy star of the 80’s, and the other is her Ray of Light days studying the Kabbalah and adjusting to parenthood. During the half-time show of Super Bowl XLVI, while the Giants and the Patriots take a break, Madonna is rumored to perform songs from both eras: playing Vogue and Ray of Light. She is also likely to perform “Gimme All Your Luvvin,” a hot new single scheduled to drop on Friday, February 3. Hopefully, she will avoid all Janet Jackson-style “wardrobe malfunctions.”

While Madonna’s success as a performer is indisputable, her record as an adoptive parent is mixed. Madonna has two biological children, Lourdes and Rocco, and two adopted children from Malawi, David and Mercy. The controversial aspect of her adoptions comes from the Malawi law regarding adoption.

Malawi, hard hit by the AIDS epidemic and drought, has one million orphans needing forever families. Malawi first caught Madonna’s attention in 2006, when she co-founded the Raising Malawi initiative, funding an orphanage and visiting the country. When she visited Malawi, she met David Banda Mwale and decided she wanted to adopt him. Adopting from Malawi has one major barrier – Malawi law requires the prospective adopting parent to be a resident of Malawi for over a year in order to adopt. Some organizations maintained Malawi law does not make allowance for international adoption. Madonna maintained there are no written adoption laws that regulated foreign adoption.

Madonna chose to bring David to the United States under temporary custody due to his health concerns. When she met David, he was suffering from pneumonia, after recovering from malaria and tuberculosis. While understandable, Madonna’s decision is risky for two main reasons – one, it risked strong psychological damage to David if the Malawi courts decided not to award permanent custody, and two, it placed all international adoption from Africa at risk by flouting the legal ambiguity to get what she wanted.

The drama of this second risk cannot be overstated. Following the rules is of incredible importance in international adoption, because just one anxious adoptive parent who ignores local regulations can trigger a domino effect that leads to that country closing its doors to international adoption. This is another parallel with this Superbowl rematch. Back in 2008, the Patriots came under attack for flaunting NFL regulations and videotaping the signals used by opposing teams. When they arrived at Superbowl XXLII, the specter of their cheating still lingered. Perhaps that contributed to their loss against the Giants, 17-14.

Madonna chose to adopt from Malawi a second time in 2009. This time, the High Court initially approved her adoption of Chifundo “Mercy” James, and then rejected her application because she was not a resident. Ultimately, the Supreme Court granted Madonna the right to adopt Mercy, citing a narrow interpretation of residency. The judge ruled that Madonna’s involvement in the country, through Raising Malawi, was sufficient to satisfy the residency requirements. Madonna succeeded in helping her two orphans, but at what cost?

As traditional sources for international adoption – like China, Russia, Guatemala, and India – have reduced adoptions by foreigners, Africa has become the newest option in international adoption. Historically, African orphans lived within extended families. Due to the ravages of AIDS and civil war, these communities are struggling. In countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, the orphan crisis is huge – five million children who need families. In order to help the greatest number of these children, it is imperative that adopting parents and adoption agencies follow the country’s laws and respect the local traditions. By avoiding even the hint of corruption, we ensure the continued success of international adoption from Africa.

As you enjoy the Superbowl this weekend with friends and family, remember that this great American tradition is only possible thanks to carefully designed rulebooks and strict but fair referees. And if you choose to pursue international adoption, keep the rules in mind. The laws and the people who follow them make it possible for orphans to find their way home.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.