Lessons learned from celebrity adoptions

Sep 11, 2009 at 7:55 p.m. ET

Celebrity adoptions are nothing new -- Mia Farrow has been adopting from impoverished nations for decades. But with the recent spate of celebrity adoptions there are some good lessons to be learned.

Angelina and Zahara and Pax

Celebrity adoptions have been making big headlines in recent years as some of the world's most famous people have chosen children to raise. But celebrity or not, it's not an easy process to adopt -- emotionally, financially or practically.

Fortunately, there are many lessons that can be learned from celebrities who adopt. Here's a few:

Do understand the laws

There are no set rules or laws for adoption and that can make the process of adopting a little harder.
Adoption attorney Michelle M. Hughes cautions that it's important to know the regulations on adoptions for wherever you plan to adopt from. "Hire someone reputable - an adoption attorney who knows what they are doing and/or a licensed adoption agency that knows what they are doing," says Hughes.

"Understand (that) the law varies state by state. (Likewise laws vary country to country)."
Madonna took a big risk with adoption laws when she sought to adopt a young boy from the African nation of Malawi. Malawi doesn't typically allow foreign adoptions, however after a two-year process, the adoption of David Banda was finalized in 2008. Recent reports say that Madonna, who is now divorced from husband Guy Ritchie, is trying to adopt a second Malawi child -- a challenging feat since Malawi isn't keen on adoptions by single mother's either.

Don't be too specific

There are children all over the world who need homes, but if you limit yourself to a child who meets very specific characteristics, then you limit your ability to find matches. That can mean years of searching, whereas if you are more open then the process of finding a child can go much faster.

"The more open you are to various parameters of adoption, the quicker a match. But never accept a match that you can not handle. It is not fair to the child," says Hughes

Actor Hugh Jackman and his wife, who have two adopted children, were able to adopt quickly thanks to their open minds. "We've always known there's a need for mixed-race adoption. What's the point of queuing up for a blond, blue-eyed kid? Adoption, in the best sense of the word, means that regardless of physical or background traits, you're willing to take on that child and assimilate him into your family and community," Jackman said in a 2001 interview with USA Weekend.

Do be aware of risks

When you are on the path to adoption, it's natural to become tied to the child you think you are getting. But the truth is that until the adoption is finalized, nothing is definite. "Know the risks. There are no guarantees with a match or a placement. It is all about signatures and court orders," says Hughes.

Rosie O'Donnell and her wife, Kelli, learned that the hard way. In 2000, they began fostering Mia, 2, and later announced their intentions to adopt her. However, after fostering her for a year and a half, they were unable to finalize the process since Florida prohibits homosexual people from adopting. Mia was subsequently removed from their care and adopted by a hetrosexual couple. The incident devastated O'Donnell, prompting her to formally "come out" as a lesbian to speak out against the law.

Don't take on more than you can handle

Adopting a child is expensive - and the costs don't stop at the approval of the adoption. Clothing, food, education ... they all cost money and the more kids you have, the more it will cost. Even stars like Angelina Jolie, who has three adopted children and three natural children, say that there is a cost of being a large family. "Brad and I want to continue to adopt, but keeping a big family uses up a lot of money," Jolie told the UK's Daily Mail in 2007.

For more information on adopting