NEW YORK – The Malawi welfare official overseeing Madonna's efforts to adopt an African toddler said Wednesday that he will make a long-awaited trip to the singer's London home next week to assess her suitability as an adoptive parent.
Director Penston Kilembe canceled a visit in May, the first of two court-ordered trips to check on the adoption process. Newspaper reports have spoken of an internal ministry dispute over the possibility that Madonna paid his expenses for the trip.
Kilembe told AP Television News outside United Nations headquarters that the financing was always meant to be shared between the prospective adoptive family and the Malawi government.
"This is a fifty-fifty, the government contributes and they also have to do that if they are so willing," said Kilembe.
"But you have to remember that our budget on children's issues is very, very small so we may not able to afford that one ... it's in the best interest of the child that she does support, as a way of complementing government efforts," he said.
Madonna spokeswoman Liz Rozenberg told The Associated Press she would issue a statement from the singer later in the day, but there was no response by the end of business hours.
Malawian law doesn't cover all aspects of foreign adoptions. Regulations only stipulate that prospective parents undergo an 18- to 24-month assessment period in Malawi, a rule that was bent when Madonna and her husband, the film producer Guy Ritchie, were allowed to take David Banda, then 14 months old, home last October.
Malawian rights organizations have said their government needs help monitoring Madonna's planned adoption of the Malawian boy -- and the financial issues Kilembe raises would appear to lend support to that argument.
David had been placed in the orphanage where Madonna found him after his mother died following his birth. David's father is still living.
Child welfare officials are expected to file a report on the suitability of Madonna and Ritchie as adoptive parents after two trips, originally planned for May and December, to their London residence.
Kilembe said that planned to travel on September 4 or 5 to check on David's general well-being and how he has bonded with Madonna's family. The singer has two other children, Lourdes, 9, and Rocco, 6.