Before Madonna, before the hype and the fury over her Malawian babies, there were the Clementinos of Burlington, Ont.
The global spotlight never fell on the Clementinos. Nobody heard of their long struggle to adopt a little girl named Idah from Malawi.
But their victory, after a four-year, $35,000 legal battle, was a precedent that paved the way for the U.S. pop superstar to adopt a pair of children from the same African country. Their story raises the same awkward issues – of poverty and culture, of deciding what is best for a child's future, and for the future of a country.
Children like Idah – and Madonna's far more famous David and Chifundo – have sparked a fierce debate in Malawi, where activists worry that the phenomenon of foreign adoption is creating a commercial value for their children, and diverting financial resources that would be better spent on health and education.
But for her adoptive parents in Burlington, who have never been to Malawi, the issue is simpler. By removing Idah from the austere existence of an African orphanage, they believe they are giving her the nurturing that she needs to have a chance in life.
“We're not trying to remove Idah from her culture, but to give her an opportunity,” says Jane Clementino, a management consultant and mother of three other children. “We're doing it for the good of the child. If you can make a difference, why wouldn't you?”
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