When I was a child, there was still stigma around the idea of adoption. But a few remarkable statistics show how quickly things have changed in just a few decades.
According to the Adoption Network, around 130,000 children are adopted in America each year, mostly by foster parents. Altogether, there are around 1.5 million adopted children in America (7 million adopted people of all ages), and more than a third of parents say they’ve considered adoption.
Those numbers mean that you probably either have an adopted family member or know someone who does. Still, harmful stereotypes about adoption and adopted children linger.
Sandra Bullock, a celebrity with two adopted kids of her own, is fighting to end these stereotypes in a unique way. She refuses to call her son Louis, 9, or daughter Laila, 7, "adopted."
“Let’s all just refer to these kids as 'our kids,'" the Miss Congeniality star told InStyle magazine. "Don’t say, 'my adopted child.' No one calls their kid their 'IVF child' or their 'Oh, s—, I went to a bar and got knocked up child.' Let’s just say, 'our children.'"
Many adoptive parents, who say they have to fight to be considered "real" parents or are hounded for details about their decision to adopt by nosy strangers, thanked Bullock for using her fame to speak out.
In the same interview, she also talked openly about the stress of the adoption process, and how her fame only complicated things even more. During a transition period from foster parenthood to adoption, a slip up involving the paparazzi almost ruined Bullock’s chances to adopt Laila.
"When you adopt a child, there's a placement period, and if something goes sideways, they have the right to take the child away," Bullock explained. "It's a tenuous, strenuous six months. We had an allergy scare that sent us to the ER, and we were followed by the paparazzi."
Bullock eventually sold a photo of her with Laila to keep the paparazzi from harassing her family, but she says the ordeal took its toll on her and her children.
"It was heartbreaking. Louis would hear a helicopter or drone, and he’d run to get his sister and drag her across the lawn and hide her under the trampoline."
Bullock has spoken out about hurtful labels before, including when she explained to People why the phrase "traditional" home or family upsets her.
"I have no idea what a 'traditional family' looks like anymore," she said.
"If a traditional home is one that is filled with lots of love and poop jokes, no sleep, schedule books filled with more kids’ social events than adults… then I have a very traditional family."
"My family is blended and diverse, nutty, and loving and understanding," she added. "That's a family."
She also flipped the script on adoption, suggesting that stories about parents with no other choice but to adopt don’t tell the whole story of loving, adoptive families.
"We are lucky, because we can make the family that makes us the happiest. And sometimes you just need to go out and find it and bring it home."
In case you were curious, Bullock says she’s not interested in marriage after her disappointing relationship with TV host Jesse James, but has nothing but nice things to say about her longtime boyfriend, photographer Bryan Randall.