Stars Who Grew Their Families by Adoption
Hoda Kotb, Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock and more open up about the experience of adoption
The actress welcomed daughters Jackson and August through adoption, saying that she "cast a very wide net" when filing her adoption papers, because "I wanted to believe that somehow my child would find me in the way that we were just meant to be."
In the end, she was blessed with her "two beautiful powerhouses," whom she honored on National Daughters Day in September. “Everything that I hoped would happen during my adoption process did happen because these two babies were meant to be in my life — and they’re my children,” she has said.
Kotb announced the arrival of her second daughter by adoption, Hope Catherine Kotb, in April 2019.
Hope joined Kotb's elder daughter Haley Joy, whom the anchor adopted in 2017. And since then, Kotb has said that she and fiancé Joel Schiffman (pictured, with Kotb's mom Sameha on Halloween 2020) have put in the paperwork to adopt another child.
"I said to [Joel], 'We have a lot of love in this house — do we have space for more love? Yes, we do. Would our family be enhanced? Yes, it would. Are there children who need us to? Yes, there are'," Kotb said recently. "Every answer was yes ... It's not in our hands now."
Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner
The model and Baby Phat entrepreneur expanded her family in January when she adopted Gary, then 10. He joined elder sisters Aoki Lee and Ming Lee and brothers Kenzo and Wolfe.
On Oct. 30, the Hallmark star and her husband Jason Wayne welcomed their second son by adoption through the foster care system. In addition to Jeffrey, 2, the couple are parents to his half-brother Kayden, and biological daughter Julie.
The "Together" singer confirmed that she welcomed two sons into her family in 2019 during a May 2020 interview with SiriusXM's The Morning Mash Up, sharing that she adopted the teenage boys when they were leaving foster care due to their age.
In October, the star elaborated on the decision in an interview with InStyle. Saying she had wanted to be a mom all her life, but had unsuccessfully done IVF for years while married to her ex-husband, her life changed when she watched a documentary about the foster care system.
"I learned the story of a 16-year-old boy and instantly fell in love with him. Older children have a really hard time getting adopted, and when I saw him, I said to myself, 'That's my son,' " she said, adding that by the time she found him, he was 18 and about to age out of the system. "The only thing he asked was if he could also bring his cousin Che ... I had two spare bedrooms, so I said, 'Sure!' "
"I just felt so blessed to have them both with me," Sia said. "And I've realized over the past year that Che was meant to be my son too."
The actor opened up to PEOPLE about the decision to adopt Oscar and Ava, now teens, with wife Deborra-Lee Furness after struggling with miscarriages and IVF. “Because of her age, we started [trying] straightaway when we were together,” said Jackman, who wed Furness in 1996 when he was 27 and she was 40. “We struggled, a couple miscarriages, [in vitro fertilization] — it was not easy. It was difficult, obviously particularly on Deb.”
They chose to adopt from a community in which they saw "the biggest need": mixed-race children. “A lot of people go into [adoption thinking] it’s really important to them for the kid to look like them, and honestly, for Deb and I, that just never even was an issue,” says Jackman. “What really defines you is beneath all that.”
The Oceans 8 star became mom to Louis and Laila when she adopted them from the Louisiana foster care system. "I can tell you absolutely, the exact right children came to me at the exact right time,” she told PEOPLE in 2015.
Bullock gushed about both of her children to InStyle. “[Louis is] wise and kind. I saw that when they handed him to me. There was a spiritual bigness to him. I was like, ‘I hope I don’t eff that up,’” the actress revealed about her son. As for her daughter? “Laila is just unafraid. She’s a fighter, and that’s the reason she’s here today. She fought to keep her spirit intact. Oh my God, what she is going to accomplish. She’s going to bring some real change.”
The country star and his wife, Lauren Rhett Akins, brought home daughter Willa Gray from Uganda just three months before welcoming daughter Ada James.
“The word ‘adopted’ doesn’t even make sense in my head anymore really,” Rhett told PEOPLE. “I know that it happened and I remember it very vividly, but it kind of feels like she has just always been here. Even though Willa Gray comes from [a] whole different part of the world, she’s ours and it feels like she never wasn’t.”
In February 2020, they again expanded their brood, welcoming daughter Lennon Love.
In addition to teen daughters Sam and Lola, whom she shares with ex-husband Charlie Sheen, Richards adopted Eloise while she was a single mom in 2011. (All are pictured at Richards' 2019 wedding to Aaron Phypers.)
Eloise was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder at age 4, which has resulted in developmental delays, but the Beverly Hills Housewife is very optimistic about parenting her youngest.
“Every child is different,” Richards told PEOPLE. “You take care of your children no matter what is going on with them. I don’t know if [Eloise] is ever going to talk like a typical child. But as a parent, you want what’s best for your children, and you just do it.”
Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt
Jolie adopted son Maddox from Cambodia in 2002, as a single mom, then adopted daughter Zahara from Ethiopia in 2005. Partner Brad Pitt formally adopted the children in 2006, and then as a couple, they adopted son Pax from Vietnam in 2007. (The duo, now split, also has three biological children, Shiloh, Vivienne and Knox.)
"It's strange, I never wanted to have a baby. I never wanted to be pregnant. I never babysat. I never thought of myself as a mother," Jolie told Access Hollywood in 2016, reminiscing about her time playing with children at a Cambodian school before adopting Maddox. "It was suddenly very clear to me that my son was in the country, somewhere."
It was double bundles of joy for Michaels. The fitness guru adopted daughter Lukensia from Haiti in May 2012, the same month her then-fiancée Heidi Rhoades gave birth to their son Phoenix.
“It was not the way we had planned it!,” Rhoades told PEOPLE. “That’s how our life works. It’s always big. It could never be something like one child at a time.”
"I am thanking my lucky stars every day," the Nashville actress told PEOPLE after adopting son Yoby from Ethiopia in 2011. And rightly so: Britton's dream of motherhood came true after a three-year-long wait. "[It's] such a wonderful moment of completion."
The Oscar winner adopted her daughter Genesis in 2011 and likes to say “she was born from my heart, not my belly.” Although she has total control onscreen as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder, Davis has talked about her struggles as a mom.
“You have those moments: exhaustion, the stress of having an exuberant child, and you don’t want to be judged by your worst mistakes,” she told PEOPLE at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. “It’s a part of life, and it’s a part of what makes us who we are.”
Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman
Cruise and Kidman were married in 1990 and adopted Connor and Isabella, now in their 20s, soon after. Cruise and Kidman split in 2001, and the children continued to practice Scientology like their father; despite the religious differences, the actress said she supports them unconditionally. "They are adults. They are able to make their own decisions," she said. "They have made choices to be Scientologists and as a mother, it’s my job to love them.”
Connor lives in Clearwater, Florida near the Church of Scientology headquarters and Isabella lives in London with her husband Max Parker. Neither Cruise nor Kidman attended Isabella's 2015 wedding but Cruise helped pay for the ceremony and reception while a Kidman source told PEOPLE that she was “very happy for Bella.”
In 2017, the legendary singer announced that she had added twin girls from Malawi, Estere and Stella, to her brood (including children David Banda, Mercy James, Rocco John and Lourdes).
Madonna has a long history with the African country: The singer adopted David and Mercy from Malawi in 2006 and 2007, respectively, with ex-husband Guy Ritchie.
“It’s inexplicable,” Madonna told PEOPLE of what drew her to her children. “It’s like saying, ‘Why do you fall in love with the people you fall in love with?’ You look into the eyes of somebody, you feel their soul, you feel touched by them — that’s it.”
"It changed my priorities in a moment without even trying to," O'Donnell told PEOPLE about adopting her first child, Parker, now in her 20s, in 1995 as a single parent. Flash-forward and the comedian is now mom to four: Vivienne Rose (with ex Kelli Carpenter), and adopted son Blake and daughter Chelsea Belle. "What makes a family is love," she's said, "and we all love each other."