For Mary-Louise Parker, Adoption Was a Childhood Dream Come True

10/06/2008 at 03:30 PM ET
Alastair Macpherson/Splash News Online

Mary-Louise Parker often reflects back on her childhood, wishing her parents would adopt a sibling and promising herself that someday, she would adopt a child of her own. Now mom to Caroline "Ash" Aberash, 2, the 44-year-old actress says the adoption from Africa was a dream fulfilled. "I think it’s something everyone should do if they can and wantto," Mary-Louise said Saturday night at the New Yorker Festival in New York City.

"I can’t adopt 500 children, but I did adopt this one beautiful little girl and it was an amazing thing. Especially after having been to a Third World country, and having seenthe desperation there, and the need, and all the children, and holdingthose children and seeing them and touching them."

Mary-Louise said that she recognizes that the need for adoptive parents is just as great in the United States as it is abroad, but believes every child should have a chance at a great life, regardless of geography:

"I hear the comment, "Why not adopt from this country?" There’s a lot of need in this country. And I think if you want to adopt anywhere it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not a contest. So you shouldn’t say "Why don’t you adopt this child over that child." A child is a child and every child deserves to be loved.

If was a contest, however, a Third World country is different from, say, Baltimore. It’s different when there are dead bodies by the side of the road and parents having to amputate their children’s limbs so children can beg to get money, and mothers are having to sell their daughters into sex slavery. It’s a different thing, so I don’t think you should make it a contest when it comes to children, and who’s deserving of love and who’s deserving of a family. Every child is deserving of that."

Click ‘More’ to read about Mary-Louise’s work with the Worldwide Orphans organization, and for an update — exclusive to CBB — on son William Atticus, 4.

The actress was busy Saturday, filming a clip with Ash for Worldwide Orphans — the organization helped Mary-Louise to find her daughter — before stopping in to speak at the New Yorker Festival. She shared that she broke bedtime rules to get Ash up and out for the nighttime shoot.

"She was asleep obviously," Mary-Louise said. "I’m very scheduled, so shewas asleep. I had to quietly wake her up — I never wake up mychildren — but [I told her] it was for the other orphans of the world."

A single mom — Mary-Louise and actor Billy Crudup split while she was pregnant with son William — the actress claims she’s ditched glitzy New York City parties for evenings in with her children in recent years. "I get a lot of invitations to go to a lot of things, and I don’t go tolots of things because I want to put my kids to sleep at night," shesays.

Though her family of three is content, Mary-Louise says they do deal with the typical verbal attacks from random strangers or the paparazzi. On a recent trip to Disneyland, Mary-Louise and William took a liking to the Peter Pan ride — so much, in fact, that they stayed on the attraction for nine loops in a row! When relaying the story to an acquaintance, Mary-Louise said she was criticized for receiving special treatment because she was famous — the acquaintance implied such liberties wouldn’t be granted to a non-celebrity family without a VIP pass. In defense of her son’s right to have fun, she said:

"William thinks that everyone who is met [when arriving] at the airport is met by creepy people who run after them with flashbulbs and scream — and follow him when he gets off the plane and follow him through security when he’s throwing up — and still take his picture and scream his name. That’s the trade-off. So yeah he gets to ride the Peter Pan ride nine times!"

One thing Mary-Louise is able to shield William from, though? The subject matter of her hit show, Weeds. "He thinks I’m on a show about plants," she laughed.

Source: PEOPLE

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Stéph on

It’s sad when we hear about what the paparazzi make to these children, when we actually know what the child thinks about it. I also think William deserved to ride the Peter Pan ride 9 times.

I also want to adopt when I’m older but I don’t know what country from yet.

shan on

I just wish it was as easy to adopt for everyday folks who are so desperate for a child, it seems too easy for a celebrity to do it who for them money is no object.
Gorgeous baby though, I like this woman she is a great actress.

Megan on

We adopted our son from Ethiopia last year. It was most definitely an eye opening experience! Also, very easy to do for a young couple just starting out and on one salary, so it’s not like only movie stars have this option! Our next child will likely be through domestic adoption given the rising wait times for international adoptions, but I feel almost guilty that we aren’t going back to Ethiopia for a sibling. There was so much poverty, so many kids (and adults) in need, it was just shocking! I’m still processing it all almost a year later, I still look through our trip pictures and think “people really live like that? Our son lived like that?” It really drives home how lucky we are over here.

paula on

We adopted our son from Russia 4 years ago and we are certainly not celebrities, or even wealthy. Nor are any of our friends who have also adopted internationally. But we budgeted and saved and worked it out.

kaya on

I love, love, love Mary-Louise Parker! Always nice to see her on this site. And I agree that it’s always sad to hear what it must be like for those children, especially with someone like her who genuinely doesn’t seem to want this kind of attention. So I agree on the special treatment thing lol

marla on

i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE mary-louise parker. what an honest interview from someone who seems like a wonderful mother. and i really like how she responded to the domestic vs. international adoption questions. i find it irritating when people bring that up, as if american children are somehow more deserving of adoption? she makes very valid points about poverty abroad compared to poverty in america. not that it doesn’t exist here and that all children deserve a safe home where their needs are met, but if you’ve ever left this country or ventured beyond the tourist traps abroad, you will see what she means. what a sweet family.

FAY on

shan, have you gone to the dept of family services in the largest county in your state to inquire abt adopting one of those children?

not to shan… it bothers me to NO END, when ppl on this website talk abt how you can only adopt if you’re rich, when i have a coworker who’s house is filled to the gills of foster children who will stay in the system FOREVER because these “celebrities” arent going to social services… if u want a baby… if you want a CHILD, maybe not a designer porceleain baby… but if you TRULY want to parent a child, and have a child who loves you and you can give your unconditional love to, STOP spending all your money w/ these private adoption agencies…. go to the largest county in your state… i’ll bet you’ll have a kid in your house THAT NIGHT… lol

and i’m not ready to adopt yet, i’m pregnant w/ a baby i can’t afford, but u can rest assured this will be my LAST biological, all of my subsequent children WILL be coming from a social services agency…

And Mary Louise Parker has obviously never been to a grimey part of baltimore where their ARE dead bodies laying in the street, and women ARE selling their children in to sex slavery… ugh… i love the rose colored view ppl have of this country….

Shaunie on

I used to volunteer @ a group home facility, and adoption agency. One of the biggest misconceptions about adoption is that you have to be wealthy to do so.

Alot of agency only require that your yearly income is at least $30,000 & up.

As far as adoption cost…If you really are committed to the idea of adopting there are ways to come up with the funds. You can take out loans, raise the money via collecting donations, in the U.S. there are adoption tax credits you can apply for (or wait for your tax return on the adoption). If you live in the U.S. you can also go the foster/ foster-to-adopt route, which cost very little. And of course you can just save up the money.

Each option on its own probably won’t be enough to cover ALL adoption cost, but it would definitely help cover some of it.

Kara on


American kids are not the only people in the world that NEED to be adopted. You obviously do not know what it is like for children in other countries. I am sick of people on this site getting upset when a child is adopted from Africa, Asia or Europe. Grow up and take a look around the world. Look at what is happening to children in Darfur and China.

Chiara on

If there’s anybody who doesn’t discriminate in terms of country boundaries or government, it is a child. We could learn a lesson from them.

A child who needs a family is a child who needs a family. Period.

Megan on


I just felt that I should mention that the reason so few are adopting from foster care is that this route, while less expensive, can be much, much harder. No, you could never have a kid in your house that night. You’d need to complete a homestudy, complete classes that can take months to schedule and get through, then wait for a child to be matched with you through social workers. In my area fost-adopt isn’t even possible, it takes several years to adopt a child you’re fostering, and often you won’t get to adopt most of the children in your home. Other places are better I know. The big thing, though, isn’t the potential adoptive parents, it’s the system that makes it difficult to adopt. Children with no major attachment, mental or health problems typically aren’t waiting because there aren’t homes that want them, they’re waiting because they aren’t free for adoption or the system is taking forever processing their cases. Domestic non-private adoption is pretty complicated and convoluted. You also have to remember that many of these children will have problems adjusting to a new family, as sweet as they may be, and many parents aren’t equipped or prepared for what could take years of therapy to overcome. I wish it (as many do) that adopting these children was a simple affair. Truth is, we were able to adopt from Ethiopia but were turned away from fostercare entirely because of our ages, even though we were within their age limits. Many others are turned away as well. The system needs a major overhaul, at least where I live.

Sasha, USA on

This discussion is really the first time I’ve heard supporting the affordability of adoption and the true urgency, here and abroad, of providing safe homes for children as well as recognizing the serious level of poverty that most of the world lives at. Fay made an excellent point about foster parenting, which is exactly what I would do if I were to adopt. Fay, I also see your point about the broken homes and poverty found right here at home, but it’s much more widespread overseas.

Emily on

we are foster parents to newborns who are waiting to be adopted- in Australia the adoption laws are ridiculous.
Only around 6 children are adopted annually in sydney.
Birth parents aren’t allowed to pick parents till the baby is born and they have had 3 months counselling and 30days cooling off period.
then the adoptive parents must pay up to 10 thousand dollars, and one must quit their job to stay home with the child for at least 1 year. Because of the thousands of people on the list if you have a child you are ineligible.

Meaghan on

I’ve thought about fostering a child to adopt but have been turned off by a friend of mine who took in a boy she loved as her own son. She wanted him more then anything only to have the mother take him back after 3 years. She was heart broken and I just don’t think I could handle it.

Lilly on

I agree Meaghan.

A family friend had a little girl she raised from birth since the mother was a drug addict and gave up her daughter to our friend, though she didn’t initially sign away full parental rights. Less than a year after the birth, the mother is put into jail and gives up her rights to the lady. When she gets out of jail, the little girl is almost 5 years old and has only known her the lady that cares for her as her mother, but the birth mother decides she has cleaned up her act and says she will get a job, then fights to get custody of the girl again. Unbelievably, the birth mother ends up taking back the little girl in the end.

The adoptive mom spent so much time and money trying to help that little girl which she loved so dearly, she even quit her job and did whatever she could to make her happy and provide her with the best education and treatment possible.

I can’t imagine going through all that. There are only some states, like Utah, where birth mothers can’t reverse their decision after they give up or sign away their parental rights. However, many states allow birth mothers to change their minds at any point.

Chiara on

“However, many states allow birth mothers to change their minds at any point.”

I’d like to see proof of this. I have a hard time believing that “many” states allow mothers who have legally and knowingly given up their children for adoption are allowed to step in and reclaim them, no questions asked, when they’re, say, 12 years old.

jenny on

Chiara- In California it is one year.

Lilly on

Pardon my semantics/wording.

What I meant to say was that most states are not like Utah in that once the decision is made, that it is irreversible. Each state has either their own time limits, whether it is 1 year, 3 years, or perhaps none at all. At any point during that time limit, if it exists, the birth mother can change her mind.

Megan on


Time to revoke consent is typically 30 days, though I’ve heard some states do less. The cases where you have first parents coming back years later (in the US) are also the cases with shoddy paperwork, adoption cases that were never formalized in court, or cases where the biofather didn’t consent to the adoption. It seems to happen in in-family adoptions, where people raised a child but never had the adoption formalized legally and then, yes, the first parent can come back and fight for custody as the person raising the child is not a full legal parent of that child.

FAY on

To kara,

actually, i’m african…so yeah, i DO know…and i didnt say anything was wrong w/ international adoption, i plan to adopt from my home country…however, i spoke of ppl who say that domestic adoption is too expensive (which if u just don’t want an american child, that makes sense, but just say that… don’t hide behind ‘financial issues’)

and two, mary-louise parker made a comment abt ppl in baltimore not seeing dead bodies on the street and women selling their children into sex slavery… and as i have been to baltimore, and have several friends in baltimore, i think she shld do a little more research before she says something like that… things like that are happening all over the u.s.

and u shldn’t talk AT ppl, U SHLD talk TO them

Jennifer on

CBB, Thanks for posting all these great adoption stories. And thank you all above for the interesting comments.

My husband and I have been very seriously talking adoption for the last year. I think this thread is the first where it seems $$ is not everything in adoption, which internationally we were convinced that without the $$ you do not get to adopt.
We are looking more within the US now, but its still a ‘metaphysical labor’ as Meg Ryan put it. We are still researching, but I think based on our discussions for both sides of the US-international coin, we will probably adopt within our own state.

There is need everywhere. And Mary Louise is 100% correct – EVERY child deserves the chance to live happily and healthily. Every child.

mom-squared on

It is highly doubtful that Baltimore streets are filled with dead bodies that children have to step over to get to school. While Baltimore has a horrendous crime rate and murder rate I don’t see the local Baltimore government leaving any dead body in plain view in even the worse neighborhood. So I think if you want to make a comparison at least leave out the exaggerations.

I believe overseas children and domestic children have equal rights as far as deserving a loving, healthy, happy home. I don’t question why someone chose to build their family with international children or domestic children. It’s all good in my book.

The US adoption system is very, very flawed and indeed fraught with much heart-break and while the International adoption system is equally flawed there does seem to be a higher rate of coming home with a child.

I also think it’s very insulting to White women (and I’m Black, btw) to say they shouldn’t want a child that “looks like them” as if it is someone how selfish, when it’s certainly not and to assume that all they want is to adopt newborn White babies, especially when the statistics say otherwise. I think people like to spew devisive sound-bites that don’t reflect what is happening in the real-world.

For those who do foster-to-adopt, my hat is really off to you because I can’t imagine having raised a child for any amount of time but still having the looming reality that the child may never be yours.

And while states have time limits as to when a birth parent can change their mind, they still leave it up to the agency’s discretion. And yes, I have know children who have been taken from their adoptive parents after 1 year to 10 years have past and it is absolutely devastating and disgusting if I may add.

shan on

In response to everyone who has found it easy to adopt, in Australia it is very hard, if you are over 40, very hard, younger couples with a couple of kids already, well unless you have $500,000 dollars in the bank, you can’t do it. I would love to adopt from another country but it won’t happen.
And I am sorry it is just a fact of life that celebrities are given priorities, people can deny it all they want, yes you can foster.
It is a personal choice, my neigbour does it all the time, but there are different kids in her house every week, personally I want a child I can raise for the rest of their lives. That may be selfish but that is what I want.

shan on

oh when I said you need $500,000 in the bank I was quoting a friend of ours experience, and even then it did not guarantee her a baby, Australian adoption laws are disgusting, Debra Lee Furness has spoken out about it before, and if her husband was not Hugh Jackman no matter how much money they had, at their age they would not have been allowed to adopt at all.
Someone like Diane Keaton, she would not have been allowed to adopt here.
It is sad, and needs to be addressed, some countries would rather see children rot than let a loving family take them in.

CelebBabyLover on

shan- Actually, celebrities are NOT given priorties in adoptions. For example, when Angelina Jolie adopted Pax, the adoption agency she used stated very clearly that she was NOT given preferential treatment, and that she had to follow the same laws, regulations, etc. that anyone else adopting from Vietnam would have to follow.

Also, someone (I forget if it was the agency or Angie herself) stated that the process of adopting Pax began shortly after Shiloh’s birth. Considering Shi was 10 months old when Pax was adopted, the adoption process took nearly a year, which is the amount of time it normally takes in most countries.

We need to remember that we don’t usually hear about a celeb’s adoption until the adoption is either iminent or has happened. Therefore, of course it seems to us like celeb adoptions happen quickly.

However, we have no idea how long those celebs have actually had to wait to adopt (except in cases like Pax’s, where the celebs state how long it took).

CelebBabyLover on

I just want to clarify that it’s possible that SOME countries DO give preferential treatment to celebs (for example, I have a feeling that Madonna would not have been able to adopt David if she weren’t famous). However, that isn’t the case with ALL countries.

shan on

I do agree with that. I am sure it is just frustrating to alot of people who cannot adopt and it is always thrown in peoples faces that celebs can do it all.
I guess that is all to do with the media and paparazzi who should sometimes mind their business.

MiB on

Both Deborra-Lee Furness and Hugh Jackman have been very outspoken about how difficult it is to adopt in Australia, but they had no preferential treatment from the Australian government since they gave up their attempts to adopt in Australia and adopted from the U.S. instead (

J on

I agree with her. Who says American orphans are more important than others? Every child deserves a good home and happiness. And in the states it’s by choice. We are talking third world country poor were being poor is the only option. In the states their are plenty of well to do people that can take care of these children. And some people that aren’t wealthy find a way.

lexxi on

really, Mary-Louise. THIRD WORLD?!?!? it really bothers me when people can be so politically incorrect. i applaud her choice to adopt from such a DEVELOPING country. third world is a term created such a long time ago, and is demeaning to these people and countries. and what would a ‘second world’ or ‘first world’ be considered. it justs bugs me that someone could be so incompetent.

lexxi on

p.s. DEVELOPING is a much more correct term.