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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, October 21, 2006

Buying babies, yes, adopting kin, no

She can't be adopted.

Nightmare of British nurse who wants to adopt her Malawi niece..but her name's not Madonna
Last updated at 22:41pm on 20th October 2006

Alone with her thoughts, a beautiful little African girl wanders forlornly around the backyard of a sparsely furnished shack, her bare feet covered in orange dust.

Once a bright, inquisitive, laughing child, Erykka Mambala is now sullen and withdrawn.

She cries pitifully each evening at precisely the time her mother once returned home from work.

This four-year-old is one of Malawi's tragically abandoned Aids orphans.

Both her parents died recently from HIV-related illnesses, and although an elderly great-aunt provides her with basic shelter, she has no one to care for her and no one to play with.

She is fed on maize, washed infrequently and always wears the same ragged and grimy blue smock.

For sad-eyed Erykka, however, life need not be so cruel.

Just like David Banda, the Malawian boy who this week began a privileged new life as Madonna’s soon-to-be adopted son, she has been offered a fresh start with caring new parents in Britain.

Last July, Erykka (who, mercifully, tested negative for Aids after her mother died) was adopted by her aunt and uncle, Charity and Michael Gladstone, who want her to come to Britain and live in their immaculate fourbedroom semi in Walsall, West Midlands, with their own three children.

Unlike the Material Girl singer, the couple may not be able to afford a £15,000 nursery and exclusive £5,000 rocking horse.

But the room they have waiting for Erykka is brightly decorated and the whole family is looking forward to welcoming her.

Shamefully, however, a pledge that Mrs Gladstone made to her late sister just before she died that she would raise Erykka as her own daughter - is being delayed interminably by apparent double-standards in Britain’s minefield adoption laws.

And watching pop queen Madonna’s little African prince being whisked into London with disquieting haste this week, while their own adoption bid is hamstrung by red-tape, the Gladstones have reached an inescapable conclusion.

"It seems there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us," says Mrs Gladstone, 33, an NHS intensive care nurse who measures her words carefully.

"One of the reasons we originally came to Britain is because it has a reputation for fair play. But it seems that unless you are wellknown and you can pay for a good lawyer, you are helpless." Sadly, she appears to be right.

Superficially, this ordinary British-Malawian family and the world’s highestpaid performer are bound by a common aspiration - to provide a stable, loving home for a bereft Third World child


A few days after the funeral, Mrs Gladstone began taking the steps which, she had been advised by local officials, would secure Erykka’s speedy passage to the Britain.

On July 20, she and her husband formally adopted the child. The following day, the social welfare officer in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, wrote a letter to the British High Commissioner.

In it, she described Erykka as "destitute" and said Mrs Gladstone was the only reliable person able to help her.

Armed with these documents, plus her British passport, her aunt thought the little girl would be granted a visa as a matter of formality.

Indeed, Mrs Gladstone was so confident that she told Erykka all about her new home in Britain, with its toys and huge TV, and the three cousins waiting excitedly to greet her.

But she was stunned when British diplomats in Malawi told her she could not take her niece home without clearance from the adoption team back home in Walsall.

Mrs Gladstone had no option but to fly home, leaving behind a tearful Erykka who had taken to pointing to the skies in excited anticipation at every passing aircraft.

In the three months since then, the little girl’s misery has deepened.

First minded by a succession of friends, she has now been taken in - under sufferance - by her maternal greataunt (an elderly tradeswoman who is away from home from dawn to dusk).

Yesterday, the Mail found Erykka in the bare-walled, sparsely-furnished hovel in the suburbs of Lilongwe.

She was alone in the yard, spending her days wandering around, or squatting on a rickety wooden chair, staring into space.

Like David Banda when Madonna’s eyes first alighted on him, perhaps, Erykka has an aura of utter abandonment that is distressing to see.

She sleeps in the same spartan room as the great-aunt and her husband.

Other family members visit occasionally, but usually, she is left to her own devices.

Before her parents died, she was faring well at school. Now, she attends a local nursery, where she receives little tuition
However, Dr Peter Selman, one of Britain’s foremost experts on inter-country adoption, points out that new regulations introduced after such scandals do allow discretion to be exercised in worthy cases.

"Erykka’s case is bizarre when you have the Madonna situation," he says. "Madonna doesn’t seem to have gone through a British home study."
In all probability, they will allow him to be adopted without delay, even though he still has a father and despite the fact that some relatives are demanding the child’s return to Africa.

But where does this leave Erykka Mambala — a true orphan wanted only by her aunt and uncle in Walsall?

The couple may not have £600 million in the bank, a private jet and properties dotted around the globe, but they are a decent, responsible couple.
Madonna can basically buy a baby and get away with it, while these people cannot raise their kin without being tortured.

There has to be a way to expedite this case, as there would be in the US, with a private bill in Congress.

posted by Steve @ 2:59:00 AM

2:59:00 AM

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