Malawian rights organizations claim foreign adoption procedures need to be changed after Madonna's adoption of a Malawian boy

Malawian rights organizations agree that the country's foreign adoption procedures need to be changed while  Malawian government needs help monitoring Madonna's planned adoption of a Malawian boy.

Already, Malawi's Child Welfare Services office has missed one planned visit to London to check on how David Banda is doing with his celebrity family. Penston Kilembe, the director of Malawi's Child Welfare Services, is personally overseeing the Madonna case and indicated in an interview this week that money was one of the reasons the trip originally scheduled in May had been postponed. He said he now hoped to go by the end of August.

"We have been unable to travel because of logistical problems," Kilembe said. "You know it requires some resources for me to travel ...."

Lawyer Justin Dzonzi, chairman of the coalition of rights groups, said it was unrealistic to expect Malawi to oversee the adoption without help, possibly from British child welfare authorities.

"We just don't have the resources and the expertise," Dzonzi said, adding Britain had a very comprehensive adoption review process.

Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, took custody of David, then 14 months old, last October. Malawian child welfare officials granted them initial custody of the boy, whose father, who is still living, had placed him in the orphanage where Madonna found him after the mother died following his birth. The welfare officials were expected to file a report on the suitability of Madonna and Ritchie as adoptive parents after two trips to their London residence. Originally, the trips were planned for May and December.

The singer has two other children, Lourdes, 9, and Rocco, 6.

While Malawi officials have not visited David, his adoption appears to fall under British laws providing for counseling of Madonna and Ritchie by British experts before they brought the boy home, and possibly monitoring since. British child welfare officials refused to comment on the Madonna case.

Critics had said Madonna, who met David while in Malawi to launch a project to help the country's 2 million AIDS orphans, used her celebrity status to circumvent Malawian adoption laws - allegations she denies. Malawian law is fuzzy on foreign adoptions. Regulations only stipulate that prospective parents undergo an 18-to-24 month assessment period in Malawi, a rule bent when Madonna was allowed to take David to London.

International adoption and children's rights groups have said the lack of clarity in Malawi's law could make its children vulnerable to trafficking.

In Malawi, Dzonzi's coalition of 67 children's and human rights organizations raised the lack of regulations in their successful legal suit to become party to the process of overseeing David's adoption.

Dzonzi said the group recently had gone to court again, this time asking that regulations be put in place for both Madonna's adoption of David and foreign adoptions in general. The group suggests Malawi adopt a U.N. convention on international adoptions, under which authorities in the prospective parents' home country could monitor the child's and family's progress. Assessments would then be communicated to the country from where the child came.

"We have reservations" about Malawi's ability to oversee the Madonna adoption on its own, said Maxwell Matewere, from the organization Eye of the Child, which is part of the Human Rights Consultative Committee. "We are a little worried whether Kilembe is competent enough to assess the U.K. environment and to make a fair conclusion on the whole process."

Settling into a new family and a new country would be a challenge under any circumstances, but Madonna's celebrity makes David's prospective family different from most.

Stevan Whitehead, chairman of the Overseas Adoption Support and Information Service, a private British group, said David was in the spotlight when he was first brought to London, where photographers and TV cameras met him at the airport.

"Frankly, I blame the media for that, I don't blame his mother. And since then she's done a very good job to keep him out of the spotlight," Whitehead said. "If he is kept out of the media, I can't see any significant difference between being brought up by a pop star or anybody else."

Kilembe played down questions about whether he could assess the Madonna adoption, saying his job was straightforward.

"What we expect is the child must be provided all the necessities of basic needs for him to grow up. He must go to school, must socialize, he must be taken care of, must have a ... comprehensive medical cover so that he is able to be protected."

But on the broader issue, Kilembe agreed Malawian adoption law needed changes. A date for a hearing on the rights group's petition has not been set.

"What we need is to standardize our law to meet the international standards of the international conventions like the Hague Convention, the Convention of the Rights of the Child , and other laws," he said.

The father of the young boy whose case could rewrite Malawi's laws said in an interview in his village this week that he was happy for the adoption to go ahead as long as David is well looked after.

But, he added: "Yes, I miss him."

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Author`s name Angela Antonova