Is Madonna's Malawi Adoption Crusade Setting a Good Example?

Despite critics, some say Madonna's wish to adopt from Malawi is a good thing.

ByCole Kadzin and Sarah Netter
April 02, 2009, 7:26 AM

April 2, 2009— -- She may have been the biggest selling female pop artist, but these days Madonna is raking in more headlines for her adoption crusade than her music.

Madonna awaits court approval in Malawi on her request to adopt a girl named Mercy James who is reported to be 4 years old. She would be Madonna's fourth child and second from the impoverished African country, but critics accuse her of being a "bully" and collecting children as trinkets.

The Human Rights Consultative Committee, a nongovernmental organization, has also accused Madonna of using her celebrity status to circumvent Malawi law to bring Mercy home faster than traditional process, saying that the children should be kept within their communities.

And still others have condemned Madonna for adopting overseas when there are an estimated half-million children in foster care in the United States.

But not everyone's a critic.

Adoption advocates say that the need to place children in good homes knows no borders.

"I think that this construct of one child versus another is really unhealthy," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy group. "They both need homes -- how can we put one kid against another?"

And while Madonna has been accused of using her celebrity statues to bypass local laws, celebrities bring needed attention to countries like Malawi, where the United Nation estimates that half of the 1 million children who have lost one or both parents have been orphaned by AIDS.

She adopted David, 3, there last year. She also has two other children, Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, 8.

"I think celebrities adopt at the same rate as the rest of the population, just that the rest of the population doesn't have cameras following them around," Pertman said. "It does, ironically at the same time, it normalizes it. 'If Angelina can to it, then so can I.'"

That's exactly how Monica and David Clark got involved in overseas adoptions.

The California couple said David Clark had a dream after hearing about Angelina Jolie's adoption of a little girl from Ethiopia.

"I had a dream and this little girl looked up at me and she said 'Daddy, I need you,'" he said. "I said 'Monica, we have to do something.'"

'Children in Africa Are Our Children'

Armed with an article about Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt that included a list of adoption agencies, the Clarks set out for Ethiopia, despite already having six children in a blended family.

"If you are going by your heart and your love and what feels right, you just do it," Monica Clark told "Good Morning America." "It's not always 'Let's do a budget.' Instead of getting a roof, we paid for our children's adoption."

The couple traveled to Ethiopia in 2006 initially intending to adopt one child. But once there, they fell in love with three sisters.

The couple returned to the United States with Helen, Yuri and Mekdes, who spoke no English. They are now not only fluent, but on the honor roll at school.

The Clarks said they've been following the stories about Madonna's Malawi adoptions and have even been met with some of the same criticism themselves.

"With her celebrity she's exposing the problems of the world," David Clark said.

"Those children in Africa are our children," Monica Clark said. "Those people who have the nerve to point their finger at us -- if I choose to adopt from Africa -- those children are our children."

Though it can cost up to $10,000 to adopt a child, the Clarks said the return on the investment is priceless.

"We realized that we are the ones who are blessed to be their parents. They taught us about digging deep," Monica Clark said. "It's a beautiful gift they gave to us."

As for Madonna, she awaits a Malawian court hearing, scheduled for Friday, where she will learn whether or not she'll be allowed to adopt Mercy.

Mercy's mother died at 18, shortly after giving birth to the girl, the uncle has said, and her father is believed to be alive, but has little contact with his daughter.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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