Madonna effect 'disastrous' for UK children in care

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The Independent Online

Madonna's adoption of an African boy could lead to vulnerable British children being left without families.

A recent survey discovered that 74 per cent of the public wrongly believe that overseas adoption is easier and 58 per cent mistakenly thinking Britons adopt more children from abroad than at home.

The singer's adoption of one-year-old Malawian David Banda - who is now at her London home after she was granted a temporary custody order - has led to a huge debate on the subject but little clarity.

"Overseas adoption has received so much attention over the past month and we believe this has distorted public perception," said David Holmes, the chief executive of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF).

"People think it's common and easy. This is not true. There are fewer than 400 inter-country adoptions in the UK each year. You must go through the same rigorous assessment and approval process as you would if adopting a UK child, as well as complex negotiations with the country from which you want to adopt."

The association, which released the GMTV survey on the eve of National Adoption Week, fears that the misconception might put people off adopting a child in Britain. "This would be disastrous for the 4,000 vulnerable children needing adoption across the UK every year," Mr Holmes said.

Already, many children have to wait more than a year for adoption and some never find homes and are left in care until adulthood.

While a large number come from difficult or abusive backgrounds and may need special care, the association found that, here too, there were misconceptions.

"There is an impression that you can adopt a healthy baby from abroad or only a child with special needs from here. That is just not true."