With pop star Madonna reportedly considering adopting an Indian baby, a group of British researchers says such adoptions are encouraging poor couples to dump their children in orphanages.
Psychologists from the University of Liverpool say that publicity surrounding "Madonna-style" adoptions was also causing couples to adopt foreign babies - even in European countries with the highest rates of children living in institutions. <b1>
Madonna's high-profile adoption of a Malawian baby in 2006 kicked up a storm after claims that she used her fame to speed up the process.
A tabloid reported Monday that she was now considering adopting a girl from India.
Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have adopted two boys - from Cambodia and Vietnam - and a girl from Ethiopia.
From the previous generation, award-winning actress Mia Farrow has adopted as many as 10 children, one of them a boy with polio who had been abandoned at a railway station in Kolkata.
The British researchers said media attention surrounding the baby boy from Malawi fuelled an increase in the number of international adoptions.
They said international adoptions should be the last resort. Adoptions from abroad had become an easier process but harmed the children involved, they added.
"Some argue that international adoption is, in part, a solution to the large number of children in institutional care, but we have found the opposite is true," said child psychologist Professor Kevin Browne.
"Closely linked to the Madonna-effect, we found that parents in poor countries are now giving up their children in the belief that they will have a 'better life in the west' with a more wealthy family," Browne said.
"Some celebrities have unwittingly encouraged international adoption, yet it has been shown that 96 per cent of children in orphanages across Europe and probably across the globe are not true orphans and have at least one parent, often known to local authorities," he added.
He said governments and orphanages made substantial financial gains from the process, adding orphans were better off with foster carers in their own country.