Angelina Jolie, Madonna and the truth about celebrity adoption abroad

Stars like Angelina Jolie and Madonna have long been subjected to the assumption that celebrities can decide one day to pluck a child out of a foreign country and bring them home to adopt. 

It’s often believed that celebrities need only flash their cash and the child is theirs to whisk off to their multi-million dollar mansions.

Maleficent actress Angelina is a proud mum to six children, three of whom she adopted from different countries – Maddox, 19 (Cambodia), Pax, 16 (Vietnam), Zahara, 15 (Ethiopia). She also has Shiloh, 14, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 12, with ex-husband Brad Pitt. 

Madonna also has four adopted children, David, 15, Mercy, 14, and twins Estere and Stella, eight, from Malawi, in addition to her biological kids Lourdes, 24, and Rocco, 20. 

These two stars have been particularly subjected to scrutiny for adopting children from other countries but, according to , they likely would have had to follow the same process as everyone else. Even if their money did give them a slight advantage. 

Breaking down the process, Amna Khaliq is the Head of International Surrogacy and Adoption and Wilson Solicitors LLP, told ‘There’s probably some misconception about celebrities going to any country and being able to pluck children up and bring them to their home country. 

‘The reason for that is because not all countries are open for adoption. You will have countries which either prevent adoption from happening overseas or are not on the UK’s list of countries where they will allow adoptions to take place due to the concerns about the processes of the country.’ 

Cara Nuttall, family law partner at JMW Solicitors, agreed and said: ‘It’s a common misconception that, like the “quickie divorce”, celebrities benefit from a special system that allows them to bypass usual procedure, but it is not actually the case. International adoption is a significant undertaking, for anyone.’ 

According to Khaliq, countries which the UK is currently not open to for adoption include Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nepal. 

Countries which are open to adopting from the UK would have signed up to the Hague Convention and have an understanding about how the process happens. 

How long does adoption take for celebrities? 

Khaliq says: ‘It’s not something that’s going to take a matter of weeks, it is a process and the potential adopters – even if they’re celebrities – they have to go through this process and it’s rigorous. 

‘The intercountry adoption centre in the UK is really well known to undertake assessments for potential adopters and to have special programs with countries and placing children from abroad into the UK.’ 

‘They go through the approval process which is known as stage one and that process in itself takes around two to three months. They register their interest, attend preparation courses, statutory checks to make sure they’re safeguarding these [children] to see if potential adopters have criminal records etc.’ 

If they pass, they move onto stage two which is normally a two-month process which involves assessment by a social worker, training courses and then the adoption panel where a decision is made on whether they should be approved as potential adopters. 

How much does celebrity adoption cost?

Perhaps the biggest assumption about celebrity adoption is that they can just splash thousands on speeding up the adoption. 

According to Khaliq, this isn’t actually too far from the truth as she explains: ‘There is a cost implication, if you are adopting a child, that’s where the advantage does come in with celebrities because it does cost thousands of pounds if you’re seeking to have a child adopted from abroad. 

‘If you were a celebrity in the limelight, you wouldn’t be able to get away with those processes, you’d have to follow it through. 

‘But what’s favourable to you is time because you may be able to expedite some of these stages if you’re able to find an agency that can do intensive training with you and make this seven-month process go through a little quicker but you’d still have to go through those processes.’ 

So, what’s the damage? 

Khaliq says the general cost of applying where the potential adopter has to pay themselves and isn’t funded by the local authority, is between £10,000-£15,000. 

Note, that’s just to apply. 

‘If you’re going to have to make a further application to the court, there’s going to be additional legal fees, on top of that, you’re going to have to pay for your travel, hotel fees, if you’re travelling abroad to see and meet the child,’ Khaliq explains. 

The lawyer added: ‘So your average person is not going to be able to go down that route, even if they’re wanting to adopt from abroad from one of these special [Hague] programs. 

‘Yes, you are at an advantage if you’re a celebrity in that if you’ve got access to financial resources, you can certainly have more options available to you, you can choose the agencies that you go with, you don’t have to go on a waiting list.’ 

Nuttall agrees and says: ‘Internal adoption can be an extremely costly process, due to legal fees (often in both countries), travel between countries whilst the process completes and the cost of assessments. It is right that for some people, the expense makes international adoption impossible. Wealthy celebrities do not have those cost constraints and, in that sense, they will have an advantage.  

‘It is important to understand that when courts look at adoption, material wealth and possessions are not as crucial as many think. As long as a child’s physical needs are catered for sufficiently, a grander, more luxurious lifestyle is not going to be a determining factor. 

‘The court is more concerned with the love and emotional support a child will get, and how their roots and origins will be nurtured and supported, so, in that sense, it does not take huge amounts of money to be a good parent.’ 

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected]

  • Why we’re talking about adoption this month
  • How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
  • The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
  • How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
  • Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
  • How to tell your child they are adopted 

Visit our Adoption Month page for more.

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