Madonna's Quest to Adopt Malawian Boy: More Harm Than Good?

Has Madonna done great good -- or great damage -- by spending millions of dollars to help a poverty-stricken corner of Africa, and bring home a child who isn't an orphan and is seen by some as a symbol of the power of the wealthy to take from the poor?

David Banda, 1, was greeted by dozens of photographers as he landed in London today, as Madonna's attempt to adopt the Malawian boy continued to spark debate around the world.

Human rights and child-protection groups are concerned that child-protection laws were swept aside to give Madonna preferential treatment, and they are challenging the court decision that granted the singer temporary custody of David.

A random sampling of public opinion on the streets of London promises that Madonna's quest to adopt will be a long, sensational saga.

"I think it's wrong that she was just able to go out there and pick whatever child she wants without following normal processes that you or I would have to go through," said Claire Jenkins, an employee recruitment executive.

But Jenkins also told ABC News that Madonna could have a lot to offer David.

"Madonna has given a lot of money that can help, so I suppose there is a flip side," she said.

British Media Buzzing

Still, some observers believe Madonna would be better off helping an orphan -- a child less fortunate than David.

"The child has a father," photographer Giles Keyce said to ABC News. "And it would have been better to adopt a child who didn't have any parents at all."

Robina Gibb disagrees.

"I think what she has done is wonderful," said Gibb, who adopted a child from the former Soviet Union several years ago.

"I think what's she's doing is highlighting the plight of children in orphanages in a poor country. She's highlighting the plight of adoptive parents," Gibb said.

It's no wonder that people are buzzing about Madonna and her baby.

The British news media have descended upon the story like the locust swarms that occasionally ravage large parts of Africa.

The Daily Express said, "Madonna drew worldwide condemnation last night as she was allowed to sidestep local law to fly an African baby boy out of his country."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail read, "'Cash for babies fury.' … Amid the news that Malawian authorities, after Madonna's pledge of $3 million to help disadvantaged children in their country, waived local rules to grant the singer and her British film director husband, Guy Ritchie, that interim adoption order."

"Madonna and Child: A Morality Tale" is the headline on the front page of The Independent newspaper of London.

"Another example of the overwhelming power of money and celebrity? Or a rare piece of good news from a land with 1,000,000 orphans?" asked the paper, which, on an inside page, vaguely suggests that Madonna could conceivably end up in jail.

"People who adopt from abroad without first being approved by the UK authorities face imprisonment under the Adoption and Children Act," the paper said.

"From Poverty to Easy Street" is the Times headline.

"By his teens he (baby David) would have joined other local (Malawi) children hawking fruit and vegetables or cigarettes … and walking long distances each day to find water," an article in the paper said.

Focus on the Good Madonna Has Done

If the adoption is finalized, David will have plenty of designer mineral water, and will be flown around the world in private jets.

But some nongovernmental agencies are more concerned that Madonna may be setting a harmful example.

"It's great that she is investing in the local community, but she doesn't need to do this adoption as well," Philippa Lei, a child-rights advocate at the development charity World Vision UK, said to ABC News.

"We believe children should be brought up in their own communities, and Madonna could support this child in his own community for much less than she is spending to adopt him," Lei said.

All this means is that Madonna may have some serious public relations problems on her hands, as well as a new child.

Max Clifford, a British publicist who is famous for helping make, and break, show-business careers, tells ABC news that if Madonna asked him for advice, he would tell her to outmaneuver the tabloid newspapers by going on TV talk shows as soon as possible, and talk straight to the public about her motives.

"She has done something good," Clifford said. "She should explain her motives, and let people see for themselves how sincere she is."

Whatever view people have about what Madonna has done, everyone we spoke with agreed on one thing: Last week, the public was not focused on the plight of orphaned, abandoned, abused and disadvantaged children.

This week Madonna has made us all think about them -- at least this week.

Additional reporting by ABC News' Benjamin Barnier.