LILONGWE, Malawi – Madonna and her husband took custody of a motherless 1-year-old boy from Malawi on Thursday after filing adoption papers and receiving interim approval from a judge in the impoverished southern African nation.
The boy's father said he was happy for his son, named David, and pleased with the celebrity couple who wants to be his parents.
Yohame Banda, the father, said he met Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie at the court as part of the formalities. While they talked, Madonna, who has two children, carried the baby boy, Banda said.
"They are a lovely couple," Banda said. "She asked me many questions. She and her husband seem happy with David. I am happy for him. Madonna promised me that as the child grows she will bring him back to visit."
Madonna has not commented publicly since her arrival in Malawi on Oct. 4, though she has made several public appearances in support of projects she supports here to care for AIDS orphans. Her publicist declined comment on Wednesday on the adoption reports.
Judge Andrew Nyirenda "has just given out an interim order" that allowing Madonna to take David, said Thomson Ligowe, a court registrar. The interim order allows the couple to take the boy home.
Penston Kilimbe, director of child welfare services in the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, had said earlier that Madonna and Ritchie filed adoption papers before a judge at the Lilongwe High Court.
"They have followed the normal processes. This has been going on for some time. Now this is the completion point," he said.
Madonna and Ritchie have a son, Rocco, 5, and the singer also has a daughter, Lourdes, 9.
On Tuesday, 32-year-old Banda told The Associated Press: "I am the father of David, who has been adopted. I am very very happy because as you can see there is poverty in this village and I know he will be very well looked after in America."
He said his wife Marita died a month after David's birth from medical complications and the child had been cared for at an orphanage in Mchinji, a village near the Zambian border.
Banda said his son left the orphanage on Monday and was taken to the capital, Lilongwe. Madonna has visited the orphanage at least once during her visit. Its director, the Rev. Thompson John Chipeta, has refused to speak to the media.
Madonna's charity Raising Malawi is setting up an orphanage to provide food, education and shelter for up to 4,000 children. It will have projects based on Kabbalah, Judaism's mystical sect, which counts the 48-year-old singer among its devotees.
Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world, with rampant disease and hunger, aggravated by periodic droughts and crop failure. Some 14 percent of its 12 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and an estimated 1 million children have been orphaned. In many villages, grandparents or older siblings struggle to feed orphans.
In an open letter to Madonna released Tuesday, the private Malawian child advocacy group Eye of the Child welcomed her concern for Malawian children, but questioned whether foreign adoptions were in the best interests of children.
Jackie Schoeman, executive director Cotlands, a South African organization that cares for children affected by HIV, said a local family should be the first choice for orphans. In Africa, orphans usually are taken in by extended families, but AIDS has affected many of the people who might have traditionally provided support.
"If the only other option is for them to be in a long-term institution then we would consider international adoption," Schoeman said.