The news that Elton John and his civil partner David Furniss want to adopt a Ukrainian child raises yet again the issue of the rights and wrongs of celebrity adoption. Elton intends joining a long list of stars from western nations adopting children from countries and cultures other than their own – Maddona, Mia Farrow, Angelina Jolie, Ewan McGregor, Johnny Halliday and most fabulously, Josephine Baker who adopted twelve children whom she called the “Rainbow Tribe”.
This phenomena gives me a sensation of moral queasiness but which I find difficult to pin down. On the one hand it sounds rather like buying babies; but on the other a child removed from destitution to be brought up in affluence isn’t likely to complain. Maddona, who has adopted two children from Malawi, has also set up a community centre and a charity for orphaned children there. This may have helped facilitate her adoption applications but, whatever the motives, it will mean that many more children than just the two she has adopted will benefit from Madonna’s maternal drive.
One of the children Mia Farrow adopted with her then husband, André Previn, Soon-Yi later became the lover of Mia’s next husband Woody Allen. After the divorce Woody and Soon-Yi married in 1997. As far as I know Soon-Yi remains with Woody in the USA and has shown no desire to return to poverty in South Korea. Adding another twist to the tale, Soon-Yi and Woody have themselves adopted two children – Bechet Dumaine Allen born in China and Manzie Tio Allen who broke the pattern by being born in Texas.
A question I ask myself is if I were rich and famous and applauded everywhere I went and if I desired to adopt a child would I choose to go to the adoption department of my local UK Children’s Services at Loamshire County Hall? Would I choose to fill in forms, attend training sessions and group meetings; go through all the palaver of a Form F assessment, CRB checks etc., etc., all taking months and months before getting to be patronised at a meeting of the Loamshire Adoption Panel so as to just possibly be permitted to meet some poor child who has been the care system and waiting for a family for the past couple of years? OR would I choose to go to another country where my desire to adopt a poor orphan baby would be enthusiastically welcomed?
It would be very interesting to know how these sort of celebrity adoptions turn out in the long term. Here is a picture of two of Josephine Baker’s adopted children; Jarry and Jean Claude at a party held at Chez Josephine, Jean-Claude’s New York Bistro in 2006 to mark the 100th anniversary of their adoptive mother’s birth. Looks as though they turned out OK.
So, am I right to feel queasy about international celebrity adoptions or am I just envious of the freedom which comes with stardom?