Thursday, April 02, 2009

I wrote a letter to Ethica

I'm very disappointed in the decision Ethica has made to attempt to raise money for Chifundo ("Mercy" in the press) James, the child who may or may not be adopted by Madonna, an attempt that smacks of publicity stunt more than humanitarian effort. I read the proposal, and I read the president's letter, and I have real concerns about a child becoming an "illustration" -- and about adoptive parents assuaging their own guilt by contributing to a fund to keep a single "illustrative" child with her extended family of origin.

I asked Ethica to consider instead appointing an independent legal advocate for the child and to petition the US and/or Britain (where does Madonna live now?!) to deny an application for an entry visa for the child should Malawi approve the adoption, requiring Madonna to either give up her efforts or remain in the country with the child. THIS must be illustrated: Receiving countries have to have high standards for receiving. If a child does not meet the criteria for immigration as an orphan, the child should remain in her country of origin.

So US/UK: Please consider issuing Madonna a Notice of Intent to Deny if this child does not meet the requirements for international adoption.

That's a campaign I could get behind. Receiving countries cannot assume that the practices of sending countries are ethical. The responsibility is on the receiving country and responsible agency to do their homework.

I simply received an email redirecting me to Ethica's president's letter, which presents a fine analogy (if someone with money goes to an impoverished neighborhood here, we don't expect to hand over the kids!) but it doesn't provide an adequate argument for raising funds for one particular "illustrative" child to be bought back into her extended family of origin.

The BBC reports that a judge has ruled against Madonna's petition:
"In the ruling, read out outside the court, the judge also voiced concerns about the potential ramifications a ruling in Madonna's favour might have on adopted children's human rights.
"By removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals," she said."

This is how a system should work, with consistency and transparency. An 18-24 month residency in country is the safeguard that they have put in place (which means, effectively, that Malawi lacks a system of international adoption). Circumvention rather than changing laws suggests a context where child trafficking is possible. I'm glad the petition was denied at this stage -- the next hope was that the receiving country's system would work (denying the emigration) and by then it would have been much harder on Madonna's other children (no matter how much I despise the material girl, these are real kids).

I hope Ethica follows through with their commitment to preserve this child's family -- and yet I fear they have used this little girl for publicity and set a terrible precedent for not allowing the system to work first, further commoditizing children by determining a specific USD amount to keep one child with her extended family.

Later: Please don't say "Slumdog Children" when you mean to insult Angelina Jolie -- and not the children.

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