Famous Adoptions

Celebrity Adoptions

Adoption is nothing out of the ordinary to the celebrity class. (Brangelina, anyone?) Many famous people in Hollywood and the real world have adopted children.

For other celebs, their familiarity with the subject started at a much earlier stage of their lives — when they, themselves, were adopted. Here’s just a very small roundup of the famous who have either brought children into their own families by adoption or who joined their own families this way.

Celebrities Who Have Adopted

Let’s start with the celebrities who’ve adopted children.

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart — The union of Ally McBeal and Han Solo eventually resulted in the adoption from birth of son Liam in 2002. Having Indiana Jones for a dad isn’t placing too high of expectations on a newborn, is it?

Al Roker — The NBC weather forecaster and morning show anchor always knows which way the wind blows. He also has a blended family that includes an adopted daughter from his first marriage. Courtney, who’s now 32, is part of a family unit that includes her adoptive father’s two other children with second wife and 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts: daughter Leila, 20, and son Nick, 16.

Patti LaBelle — The “Godmother of Soul” and “Lady Marmalade” hitmaker has adopted at least two children upon the deaths of their parents and informally taken responsibility for even more kids in her life whose parents are gone. “Hey sister, go sister!”

Earvin “Magic” Johnson — The retired NBA Hall of Famer defined the league of the 1980s, along with Larry Bird. Today, he’s a superstar parent, along with wife Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly to biological son Earvin III, known as EJ and Elisa, a daughter the couple adopted in 1995.

Alfre Woodard — One of the classiest women in Hollywood has been nominated 18 times for an Emmy Award and additionally for an Oscar and a Grammy. And those aren’t even among her most notable achievements. She and her writer husband, Roderick Spencer, are parents to two adopted children, Mavis and Duncan.

Wyclef Jean — The rapper, author and actor first gained fame as a member of the New Jersey hip hop group The Fugees. He and his wife, designer Marie Claudinetter Pierre-Jean, adopted daughter Angelina Claudinelle in 2005. Like her father, the little girl was born in Haiti.

Connie Britton — The co-star of TV’s Friday Night Lights and the feature film The Brothers McMullen has had an even more important role since 2011. That’s when she adopted her son, Eyob, from Ethiopia. Connie’s little boy goes by the too-cute-for-words nickname Yoby.

Emma Thompson — Her highly-respected and award-winning theatrical skills earned her the title Dame Emma Thompson. Conducting life with as much nobility as her title, the Academy Award-winning actress, and her second husband, the actor Greg Wise, informally adopted 16-year-old Tindyebwa Agaba. The boy, a former forced child soldier in Rwanda, is now a British citizen who stays periodically with the couple at their home in Scotland.

Mary Louise Parker — She’s made a place for herself in both Broadway and Hollywood — and in the heart of Caroline Aberash Parker, the little girl she adopted from Ethiopia in 2016. Caroline is the younger sister of William Atticus Parker, the child shared by Parker and her former fiance, actor Billy Crudup.

Michelle Pfeiffer — This classy actress has been nominated for Academy Awards for her roles in Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Love Field. She also lit up the screen as Catwoman in Batman Returns. In 1993, before marrying producer and screenwriter David Kelley, Pfeiffer had started the process to adopt newborn daughter Claudia Rose.

Cate Blanchett — If you were to reduce the famed actress’s resume to numbers it would look something like this: Two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, three BAFTA Awards and three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. But now let’s add what’s really important to Blanchett: three biological sons and one adopted daughter.

Thomas Rhett — With Lauren Akins, the wife he’s known since they were in second grade, the country singer and songwriter adopted the toddler Willa Gray Akins from Uganda in 2017. Willa has a sister, born to Rhett and Akins in 2017, and another sibling expected in late 2019.

Hoda Kotb — The co-anchor of NBC News’ Today morning show has twice become an adoptive parent. In 2017, she welcomed Haley Hoy into her life. Two years later, she became a single parent to Hope Catherine.

Katherine Heigl — The Grey’s Anatomy TV star also co-starred in Knocked Up, but that’s not how she first became a mother with her pop star husband, Josh Kelley. The two adopted daughter Naleigh from South Korea in 2009. Interestingly, that’s the same birth country as that of Heigl’s sister, Meg. Heigl and Kelley adopted a second daughter, Adalaide Marie Hope, from the U.S. in 2012 and added a biological son to the growing family in 2016.

Hugh Jackman — You could call him an actor, a singer or a performer, but the best description might simply be “showman.” The Australian “Wolverine” actor and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, have two adoptive children, Oscar and Ava. They chose adoption after suffering two miscarriages.

Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw — Put together the creative genius behind Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and Saving Private Ryan, among so many other Hollywood blockbusters, and the actress who’s charmed audiences in Indiana Jones and the Lost Temple of Doom and SpaceCamp, and what do you get? Among other things, a blended family of seven kids, two of whom are adopted.

Jillian Michaels — The author, TV personality, personal trainer and fitness guru co-adopted Lukensia from Haiti when the little girl was two, in 2012. Michaels and her fiance at the time, Heidi Rhoades, also had a biological child born the same month the adoption went through.

Ty Burrell — He plays a great dad on TV — and in his off-screen life too. The actor Burrell has achieved a level of fame playing series lead Phil Dunphy in the beloved Modern Family. In his private life, he and his wife, Holly, have adopted two daughters, in 2010 and 2012.

Viola Davis — The award-winning actress has lit up screens large and small with roles in Fences, The Help, Eat Pray Love, Doubt and Law & Order. Perhaps her smallest but most important project was as adoptive parents, along with husband Julius Tennon, to Genesis, the newborn daughter they joyfully brought into their lives in 2011.

Denise Richards — The actress has often ranked high in media lists of the world’s most beautiful or sexiest women, but Eloise Joni Richards only knows her as “mom.” Richards adopted Eloise as a single parent in 201, when the newborn joined her two older sisters, who were born to Richards and then-husband Charlie Sheen.

Mariska Hargitay — When you think Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this actress comes immediately to mind. Hargitay has been a part of the franchise since 1999. She and her actor husband Peter Hermann have three children, two of whom are adopted. Incidentally, Hargitay’s mom was Hollywood 1950s sex symbol Jayne Mansfield and her dad was Mr. Universe and actor Mickey Hargitay.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt — The since divorced couple have six children together, three of which were adopted. Jolie first adopted Maddox from an orphanage in Cambodia in 2002 during the last days of her marriage to Billy Bob Thornton. When she became romantically involved with Pitt, he co-adopted Maddox and, later, Zahara (from Ethiopia) and Pax (from Vietnam). The couple also have three biological children together.

Madonna Circonne — You know the fabulously famous pop singer by first name only. Madonna has adopted four of her six children from the African nation of Malawi at different times between the years 2006 and 2017. They are David Banda, Mercy James and twins Esther and Stella Mwale.

Lionel Richie — There’s a reason the singer Lionel and reality star Nicole share a last name, but it’s not because they’re biologically connected. The legendary performer and his wife, Brenda Harvey, became the legal guardians of Nicole when she was just three when her biological parents couldn’t care for her. The Richies officially adopted Nicole Richie when she was nine.

Sheryl Crow — One of the biggest hits of the twangy rock star is “If It Makes You Happy.” What has made Crow happy is adding to her family with the adoption of Wyatt, when he was nine in 2007 and Levi at age six, in 2010. Curiously, Crow and another entry on this list — Brad Pitt — briefly date while both attended the University of Missouri.

Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards — We’re not sure if Mary Poppins loved children enough to adopt two of them, but we know that actress and singer Julie Andrews does. Andrews and her late husband and film director Edwards adopted two young girls from Vietnamese orphanages in 1974 and 1975, just before American forces left the country and South Vietnam fell to the Communist North. The two girls joined a family that also included two stepkids of Andrews’ and a biological daughter of the two.

Sandra Bullock — Her marriage to Monster Garage star Jesse James didn’t last, but soon after her divorce she adopted a baby boy as a single parent. Later, the star of The Blind Side and While You Were Sleeping added a daughter through adoption to her family.

Willie Mays — The Say Hey Kid was, and still is, one of Major League Baseball’s most famous players. He’s much less known as an adoptive parent, but he and his wife, Marghuerite, adopted their son, Michael, when he was three days old. Marghuerite also brought a daughter into their family from an earlier marriage.

Charlize Theron — The South Africa-born actress is known for her beauty, grace and acting skills. In addition to appearing in such films as The Cedar House Rules, Monster and Mad Max: Fury Road, she has an ongoing role as “mom” to Jackson, whom she adopted from her native country in 2012.  

Diane Keaton — The highly respected actress killed in Annie Hall, Manhattan, Something’s Gotta Give and many other Hollywood projects. Offstage, she “mingled” with the likes of Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, but she never married. That didn’t stop her from expanding her family, though. In 1996, she brought adopted daughter Dexter into her fold and added Duke in 2001.

George Herman Ruth, Jr. — Never heard of him? Better known as Babe Ruth, he’s still one of the most famous baseball players who ever lived. After a pay raise, the astounded press asked him if it felt strange making more money than the president of the United States. Not at all, he replied. “I had a better year.” Ruth and his first wife, Helen, adopted a daughter, Dorothy, in 1921. It’s likely that Dorothy was actually the product of Ruth and a mistress. After Helen’s death, Ruth married again and adopted second wife Claire’s daughter, Julia, who died in 2019 at age 102.

Meg Ryan — “America’s sweetheart” of the Eighties and Nineties is also an adoptive parent. In addition to Jack, her biological son with then-husband Dennis Quaid, she’s mother to Daisy True, who was 14 months old when Ryan adopted her from China in 2006.

Jamie Lee Curtis — She’s much more than a “scream queen,” but her first film role, in 1978’s Halloween, is still what most fans know and love most. Curtis and her husband, Christoper Guest (of Spinal Tap fame), are parents to adoptees Annie, who joined the family in 1986 and Thomas, in 1996.

Celebrities Who Have Been Adopted

Now, we present just a few famous folks who began life or spent part of it in the loving homes of their adoptive families.

Simone Biles — It’s not an exaggeration to say that Simone Biles has gymnastic talent of the kind that’s never been seen before. It was her adoptive parents — her biological grandfather, Ron Biles, and his second wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles — who are partly responsible. They took Simone and a sibling out of foster care and made sure she got the training required to earn Olympic Gold and a mess of other medals and world recognition.

Colin Kaepernick — The former NFL quarterback is better known for his political activism in the form of “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before games. What’s less well known about him is that the future football player was adopted by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, after the couple had lost two young children to heart defects.

Steve Jobs — That’s right. One of the wealthiest and most famous tech people in the world was an adoptee. Incidentally, the Apple Computer co-founder’s biological sister is also well known. Mona Simpson is the award-winning author of Anywhere But Here and several other novels.

Jamie Foxx — He’s starred in The Kingdom, The Soloist and Django Unchained — and as the real-life adopted son of his grandparents, Esther and Mark Talley. Foxx’s birth mother gave Jamie up for adoption to her parents soon after he was born.

Kristin Chenoweth — The talents of the accomplished singer and actress were nurtured by adoptive parents (and cutely named) Jerry and Junie Chenoweth in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Kristin was adopted by the Chenoweths when she was just five days old.

Faith Hill — The superstar country singer, occasional actress and wife of fellow country superstar Tim McGraw was raised by her adoptive parents Ted and Edna Perry in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

Eleanor Roosevelt — Yes, FDR’s wife and the First Lady during the Great Depression and war years spent much of her childhood as an adoptee. Both of her natural parents died while she was a child, so Eleanor Roosevelt (that was her maiden name as well as her married name; she was a distant cousin of FDR) was adopted and raised by her maternal grandmother.

Bill Clinton — The 42nd president of the United States started life modestly, in Hope, Arkansas. Born William Jefferson Blythe III, the future president’s father died in a car accident three months before his birth. His mother married Roger Clinton about four years later. Young Bill was formally adopted by his stepfather, and his last name legally changed, when he was 15.

Dave Thomas — Not many businessmen achieved the level of fame of Dave Thomas. You can attribute his appearance in many television commercials for Wendy’s, the fast food chain named after one of his daughters. While Thomas made it to a position of fabulous wealth, he was born to a young single mom he never knew. He was adopted at six weeks by a hardscrabble couple, Rex and Auleva Thomas, and moved around frequently. Thomas later became a big advocate of adoption, even founding the non-profit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Jesse Jackson — The minister, civil rights activist and presidential candidate had a turbulent early life. He was born to a 16-year-old girl and her 33-year-old married neighbor. A year later, his mother married maintenance worker Charles Henry Jackson, who later adopted him. Though he took his stepfather’s last name, Jackson also saw his birth father frequently and considered both men as fathers.

Les Brown — The author, television host, motivational speaker and one-time husband of singer Gladys Knight was born, with his twin brother, in an abandoned building in one of the worst neighborhoods in Miami. Put up for adoption soon after, his new mother was Mamie Brown. The 38-year-old domestic worker and cafeteria attendant was a positive influence on Brown’s life and pushed him to success.

Michael Reagan — The older son of President Ronald Reagan was born in 1945 and adopted by Reagan and his first wife, film actress Jane Wyman. Michael Reagan would stay close to his father and remain a strong advocate for his political and policy positions.

Nicki Polizzi — You know this four-foot-eight personality as “Snooki.” This Jersey Shore reality TV star is actually Chilean in ancestry, but she was adopted at six months of age by Italian-American parents, raised in New Jersey and, well, you know the rest of the story.

The famous might not be exactly like you and me, but they love their children as much. Some are biologically “theirs” while others might be adopted — and many celebrity parents can scarcely remember which is which.

Celebrities Who Have Placed a Child for Adoption

There’s also a third vital party to the adoption community: those who recognize that they don’t have the financial or emotional resources to raise their birth children and make them available for others to raise, nurture and love. Let’s look at a few celebrities who felt that giving up their children for adoption was the most loving thing they could do.

Kate Mulgrew — She’s more famously known by some as Kathryn Janeway, the first female Star Trek captain. But long before the actress’s interstellar travels began, Mulgrew gave birth to a child. She was young, unmarried and unprepared for motherhood. She was also appearing in a soap opera at the time, and Ryan’s Hope script writers wrote her pregnancy into the show. Mulgrew put her daughter up for adoption and met Danielle years later when her birth daughter was a college student. The actress says that today she’s in contact with her rediscovered daughter as much as she is with her sons.

Roseann Barr — The comedienne, actress and “domestic goddess” gave birth to a child when she was 16 and hospitalized for behavioral issues caused by a traumatic brain injury brought on by a car accident. She put the child up for adoption.

Andy Kaufman — The actor and comedian with the bizarre stage presence had a child with a high school girlfriend in 1969, and they put her up for adoption. In 1992, that girl, now named Maria Bellu-Colonna, learned the identities of her birth parents some eight years after the premature death of her birth father.

Joni Mitchell — The legendary Canadian singer-songwriter and author of Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi was about 21 when she discovered herself pregnant, alone and in dire poverty. She was reunited with her biological daughter, now named Kilauren Gibb, in 1997.

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MSW, LSW-Certified Adoption Assessor

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