Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mrs E is disappointed with Madonna…


The are so many opinions regarding the adoption of baby David, by Madonna and Guy Richie. Most of the opinions are without doubt against the adoption, claiming rightly or wrongly that it was fast tracked due to her celebrity status. Discussing the adoption with Mrs E the other day I was astonished that Mrs E did not agree with Madonna’s adoption…especially since we had done the same thing in 1992…

One cold February day I arrived home from the office and Mrs E asked me straight…”shall we adopt a child?” Wow…this is a big decision, the biggest decision I have ever been faced with. Mrs E’s brother Walter was working and living in Monrovia, Liberia and the country was being torn to shreds by civil war. Charles Taylor and Prince Johnston had overthrown the then leader Samuel Doe, put his head on a stake at the square. People where dying and this little girl known to the brother in law and his Liberian wife were not going to survive. So we were sort of called upon to help…

Naturally we were going to do this by the book…the only problem was that the book was impossible to open. The first hurdle age…Mrs E was 37 at the time, and you couldn’t adopt if you are over 35, so if we wanted to do this we had to do it privately. Wandsworth Borough Social Services asked for £800 to do a home study report which would take 2 years…this was pretty stupid as in 2 years the little girl would be dead…Then one day we received a roll of film in the post. We had arranged for a Swedish aid organisation operating in Monrovia to take some pictures which they then sent with a person who was returning to Sweden and seeing those pictures melted our hearts and we knew that we had to move quickly as she was going to be abandoned.

We prepared all paperwork needed, health and financial reports plus personal references. Armed with this, a flight to the Ivory Coast as there were no direct flights into Monrovia, then a small plane from Abidjan to Monrovia. There was a fragile ceasefire in the capital at the time, but still this was not a holiday destination one would recommend…The girl, Zoë, was a happy six year old child who explained that she would go to England and see the Queen and more importantly to her, she would go to school…

The adoption took place at the courts in Monrovia, present at the court was Zoë’s biological mother, the father a Swedish construction worker was long gone and even though he had knowledge of her existence he had no interest, and her maternal Grandmother. She was issued with a piece of paper which had a photo of her stapled in the corner and simply said, “give this child safe passage to London”.

This is now were the problems started. You see we could not afford a private jet, hired help nor could we afford top solicitors to take on the bullish British Government, we were just a two man band with a lot of affection for our daughter and we were not going to be stopped by some jumped up little embassy snot telling us that we could not have an entry visa for Zoë. “Put her in an orphanage return to the UK and apply for an entry visa” was the answer they gave us. This was not an option of course, how can you adopt a child only to put her in an orphanage in the Ivory Coast…

We had the tickets so off we went, via Belgium then a small hop over to Heathrow. At Heathrow and official looked at the adoption papers and this was our lucky day…it was a Saturday morning so the home office was shut and to our amazement they stamped her little piece of a paper with a six months tourist visa???

Excellent, we were in and could start to work out our next move. As good and sort of law-abiding citizens we reported the arrival of Zoë to the social services two days later. She registered with our doctors and we went to the school and had a meeting to see which grade she should join. All was well and we did not hear anything from social services until nine months later, when we received a letter saying that we had illegally brought a child into this country. Social services assigned us a newly qualified social worker, just a kid actually, with no children of her own, who kindly informed Zoë that she could not call us mum and dad (something Zoe had chosen to do herself) and she was very quick in letting us know that Zoë could be taken away from us. We were further told that they would apply to the local court to appoint a legal guardian; social services would then appoint a social worker for Zoë. The social services were not supportive they were in fact threatening asking questions like, “What are we doing to ensure that Zoë keeps in contact with her ethnic background?” To which we answered, I am Swedish and we have already had visits from Sweden, meatballs are constantly on the menu and so on…
This was not what they wanted to hear, they meant her African heritage, to which we answered that she is only quarter African and three quarters European so with our family history, three African sister-in-laws an African mother-in-law plus heaps of Swedish family members this would be a near to perfect set-up. It became clear to us that the social workers were not interested in “helping” us and they made it clear that the British government did not recognise adoptions from Liberia, to which we responded “that is your problem not ours”.

As time went on we were getting very nervous that they had the authority to remove Zoë from us, also an incident when Zoë showed the social worker a Barbie doll saying “Daddy is Barbies boyfriend”, the social worker looked at Zoë, corrected her “You mean partner”. This was just too much for us so we went to the Swedish Ministry of International adoptions in Stockholm, who duly looked at all of our paperwork and in 2 weeks they issued Zoë with a Swedish citizenship. Two fingers up to the British social services and British government who now had the pleasure in issuing Zoë with a permanent residence visa, as Sweden had not joined the EU yet, a formality as at the time a child would be given the same alien status as the father…

Now based on the above and the problems we had you would think that Mrs E would be in support of Madonna’s adoption, but she isn’t and the reason?

Mrs E believes strongly that an adoption is an incredible commitment and Mrs Richie did not show that particular commitment. She could not sit in her hotel for two days whilst the passport was being processed. She left for London, leaving the hired help to deal with it and to bring the baby to England. If she couldn’t be bothered to do this then it doesn’t bode well. Something that important, the first act by a mother for her new son, she paid someone else to do it…

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