Hugh Jackman: Adopting Mixed-Race Children Was a 'No-Brainer'

02/24/2009 at 01:00 PM ET

While many couples pursuing adoption focus their efforts on children of the same race, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness blazed a different trail when adopting 8 ½-year-old Oscar Maximillian in 2000. It was no accident; In Barbara Walter‘s Annual Oscar Special the 40-year-old actor reveals that Oscar and his 3 ½-year-old sister Ava Eliot were both the result of a “deliberate” decision by the couple to adopt mixed-race children.

“When we went first to talk to someone in Los Angeles about adoption, I remember they said, ‘What do you want?'” Hugh revealed. “I said, ‘Well, healthy would be good.'” The official then pointed out that Hugh and Deborra had selected mixed-race on their questionnaire. Recalled Hugh,

“He said, ‘Now, listen. Please don’t, please don’t just tick that because you think it’s the right thing to tick.’ And he said to me, ‘We turn away children every month who are mixed race, because we can’t find families for them.'”

His answer “didn’t make sense” to the couple, who considered their decision a “no-brainer.” Adds Hugh,

“It was like, where’s the need? The need was obviously mixed race children. And that was it.”

Source: ABC News

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Mary on

Hugh did a great job hosting the Oscars. I was surprised because I’m used to comedians hosting.

I don’t want to start an argument but the “mixed race” thing kind of irks me when referring to Hugh’s daughter Ava. His son Oscar is a mix of Cherokee, African American, and Caucasian, so I think the “mixed race” label applies. Ava is half Mexican and half German. Mexican is not a race. I know people like to think so. Mexican is a nationality. You can be white and Mexican. I am white yet Latina. Hispanic is not a race, but rather an ethnic background.

Anyway, Hugh’s family is lovely.

Mary on

I wanted to back up my earlier post with some actual data. 🙂

“Hispanic is NOT a race. There are many races within the Latino community, including White, Black, Native Indian, and even Asian. Some segments, like the Cuban community, show very few mixed-race individuals. Argentineans are mostly White and some Latin American countries have a strong Native Indian background.

For years, however, the U.S. Census considered Hispanic a race. They have changed that definition since before the 1970 census and in 1977 the Office of Management and Budget issued the “Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting”. They established the U.S. racial classifications to be American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White. They added ethnic classifications of “Hispanic Origin” and “Not of Hispanic Origin”. Unfortunately, we continue to see the race question in most market research studies and marketers in this country continue to label Hispanic as a race.”

Ana on

I agree with you Mary, so no argument here as far as I’m concerned (and I’m not Hispanic and white). Actually what you said is highlited in the Census Bureau website. A hispanic is someone from or descendent from a Spanish-speaking country (and is a definition mainly used in the US to describe an ethnic background actually. The media began using it as referring to race as to describe “browns” or whatever, which is plain wrong, as you said there’s no such thing as Hispanic race). How many white people are there in Mexico, Venezuela or Argentina? How many non-whites are there in Germany, Portugal or the UK?

And yes Hugh Jackman was awsome hosting the Oscars…and the guy can sing, and dance! Well, act! (maybe everybody else already new this fact but I didn’t lol!).

As for his children. When all you want is a child and to be a parent, the child’s color is the least important issue.

ErykaWynter on

No matter how you slice it, Hugh and his wife are fantastic parents who are sharing their love with children who needed it. I swear, he is the perfect man. I’m in love.

Ana on

And backing up again. I don’t know if I made myself understood about me. I’m white and not hispanic.
The Census Bureau website even states: “Origin can be considered as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as “Spanish,” “Hispanic,” or “Latino” may be of any race.”

Ana on

About the being in love part. I understand.LOL

dee on

I think Hugh isn’t going to separated his kids by calling one of them bi-racial and the other white. When both are multi-cultural. In my experience the only Hispanics that kick up dust about race is the “white” hispanics. I was taking a back by it. Because I always thought hispanic was just hispanic. Some are light and some are dark. I didn’t know there were different races in being hispanic. Anyhoo, I think they are lovely. The Jackman family is so cute. They always look so happy.

susan on

My brother (who is white and Jewish) and his wife (Cuban and dark skinned) are going to have Jewban babies.🙂 I happen to think that children that are a mix of different skin colors are gorgeous. A good friend of mine is black and her husband is white and she says that she loves her “toast colored babies.” What more needs to be said than that?

Tito on

My friend is a mestizo a mix of European and Indian and she told me that a great many Mexicans are mestizo, half Indian but they only want to classify the European heritage. And yes, the Indians are a race. The majority of people in Argentina are the descendants of Europeans.

Ana on

I’m not kicking up dust about race, as I’m not even Hispanic. I just thought it’s an interesting issue to talk about. It’s a fact, a misinterpreted one, that’s all.
Of course he won’t be calling his kids by their race. They’re just his children, lovely and beautiful as you said.

Lou on

i have got to admit i dont pay a whole lot of attention to his family or posts about them…however even considering that, i’m feeling slightly silly for not noticing that
a) his kids were adopted, and
b) they were mixed race…

oops!! x

Kim on

They have a lot of mixed race people in Cuba actually. You can also be very dark and Mexican as my teacher is and he sees nothing wrong with calling his mixed race children mixed race. When they came to school one day, he described the difference in appearance between him and his children that way. That his wife was of a difference race.

Gina on

The indigenous natives of Mexico were not Europeans and nearly half of the population of Mexico are of Indian ancestry and most are brown. It seems that some Hispanics want to dismiss that part of their heritage and only want to be known as white or European.

Gina on

Mexicans and Germans are two different groups. Germans do not have Native ancestry in Germany. This is all very strange thinking. And yes, many Cubans are mixed race.

Gina on

I wonder if Ava’s Mexican heritage includes Native which is a different race, if so it applies.

JK on

Really there is no such thing as “race” at all! But I think we all know what he meant by mixed-race.
I really admire Hugh and his wife.

sara on

Why would anyone turn away a mixed race child? They are the cutest!! Ofcourse it’s a no-brainer.

Jacquie on

I wanted to say that most Mexican people descend from Spanish and/or various Native American ancestors so therefore would be considered bi-racial or mixed race. Either way it is nice that they reached out to a part of the population that at least according to one official is difficult to adopt out. I find that hard to believe since I think most mixed race children are beautiful!

Harley on

I don’t care how many ways you want to slice it, his kids aren’t culturally once race or another and that’s all he means by it. Keep in mind, it may be different in Australia. We identify my godson as being our little multi-cultural baby or our mixed kiddo because he’s black, white, puerto rican and mexican. The point here is that he and his wife chose to take children who are mixed in any sense of the term mixed, and give them all the love they have.

eva on

I’m an anthropologist so I’m always a bit amused when people say “race” when they really mean population. I don’t want to start anything but many years ago it was proven that there are no genetic distinctions among homo sapiens to classify them into differen taxonomic branches.Because there is no biological basis for races within the human race the classifications are arbitrary and purely cultural.Some cultures have more races than others, what is a race for some is not a race for others.I am a Chilean Jew, one is my nationality and the other my religion but when people ask me about my racial background I know what they mean and hence I answer “latina” or “jewish” or both. Sometimes I even say “slavic” because that is the group my parents belonged to, it all depends on the context. And FYI many latinos do consider their nationalities or at leas their background to be a race.It’s all subjective.

Ofelia on

I was going to say that perhaps Ava is part Mestizo Mexican and that is a blending of two different groups, the Indian and the European. Ava has a somewhat Mestizo look to her like my family which are proudly Mestizo though I know that some in Mexico dislike this term.

Mary on

Gina wrote “It seems that some Hispanics want to dismiss that part of their heritage and only want to be known as white or European.”

I think this is a broad assumption you’re making, and may I ask on what grounds would you make this assertion?

As I stated earlier, Hispanic is NOT a race. That’s the main point I was trying to make.

I know someone from Africa who is white. He refers to himself as “African American” which confuses some people. You can be from Germany and be black. You can be Peruvian and be Asian. You can be Cuban, Argentinian, Uruguayan and be white. Do you see the point I’m making? The term Mexican or Hispanic just indicates a cultural origin, not a race.

Mary on


That’s an interesting observation you made. My father was born in Spain and my mother was born in Colombia, although her grandparents were from Spain so I really consider myself fully of European origin. The region my mother hails from in Colombia was inhabited mainly by Sephardic Jews, a subgroup of Jews originating from Spain and Portugal, so many people in that area look European.

I find this kind of cultural discussion fascinating. Thanks for the insight.

bre on

I have a friend who worked for and adoption agency (in the US), and she’s seen a lot of people who say they want to be parents who have said outright they’d prefer not to have a black or even half black child but wouldn’t mind any other race. I guess there is still a stigma out there for some people, heck even Michelle Pfeiffer said she got asked insensitive questions after adopting her daughter. It just confuses me, what’s difference in adopting and asian baby or a black baby if you are not either of those races? (This is mainly a rhetorical question, I have nothing against people doing what they feel is right for them when building their families.)

I love Hugh Jackman, and I commend them for what they have done for their obviously very happy children.

Mariana on

Gina let me tell you that not all Mexicans are brown, I’m blonde, green eyes, and my skin is white and I’m Mexican so that’s more like a stereotype and I dont want to be known as white or European i’m very proud of my heritage …

Anyway Hugh’s a great father and his kids are lovely and beautiful best wishes to them !!!

Alison McDonald on

I have been in the adoption business for many many years and I can tell you that Biracial, half Black children are being adopted by people all over the world. We have clients as far away as Ireland asking for biracial, children. The younger the better, older children of Hispanic and other races are harder to place. In fact, more people, usually White are adopting more Black and biracial children than ever. In the past, most people went to China, Korea and Vietnam to adopt, but now they are looking towards America or even Africa to adopt. trans-cultural, racial adoptions are becoming the norm all over the world.

Uno on

If Eva is half mestizo, which she probably is, then she too is mixed race, since the Mestizo group are a combination of two races.

jackie on

In Hugh’s use of the term “mixed race” it’s clear what he meant. Yes, it’s true that race doesn’t even really exist but what he said about adoption is true. I too work in the social work field and deal with adoption and MANY families will not adopt children from mixed origins/cultures. This is a fact!

For many families the task of raising a child from a different cultural background is daunting. It doesn’t always come from a place of racism, some families feel they simply don’t know enough about a particular culture. Sadly, sometimes it is due to racism. I have found that many people are more comfortable with asian adoptions, I’m not sure why. I have such a new found respect for Hugh and his wife, they must be wonderful parents. I hope they will be an example to others, there are SO MANY wonderful kids that need homes…let’s forget about all the other nonsense. Thank you Hugh for bringing this issue back into the spotlight- he’s obviously beautiful on the inside and out!!!

California Girl on

There was a time when people only wanted to adopt children from their own racial and cultural group, and although that preference still occurs, most people who want to adopt really want a child, whether they are White Black, Asian or Hispanic. I agree, that it is age nowadays that affects if a child is adopted or not. Babies come first. Many Hollywood types adopt babies of different races, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Mia Farrow, brad Pitt, really too many to name.

Ofelia on

It is subjective Eva, because I know many Hispanics who refer to themselves as a race as well. It is up to them isn’t it? I don’t think anyone inferred that all Mexicans are brown and what difference would it make if they were? There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, most of the darker-skinned Mexicans are the poor ones who immigrate to America so many people have that assumption.

Jessica on

I thought Ava was German and Asian? Anyways Oscar, Ava, Hugh, and Deborra are a great family and I wish them nothing but happiness.

Dakota on

The world is becoming more global and inter-dependent so cross cultural and cross racial adoptions are going to grow in number. I thin that celebrities sort of fuel the interest in adopting babies of different cultures and that’s a good thing for all.

bre on

Alison, I remember seeing a story a few years ago about how black children were having a hard time being adopted in the US but the international adoptions for black american babies was increasing. Mostly in places like Canada, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands. I’m just happy when any child finds a home with a loving family.

Lilly on

Ava is half-German and half-Mexican, not Asian.

Debbie on

Good for Hugh Jackman and his wife. Race is not something to be dismissed as inconsequential but appreciated as bringing more awareness to your life.

eva on

How interesting that you trace your identity through genetic make up,it is the exact opposite of my situation.I consider myself to be of fully Chilean although I do not share a gene pool with the majority of the people in my country as my parents and their parents were born in the former Soviet Union.So genetically I am more related to the Ashkenazi groups of Europe but culturally not so much. Now I have a daughter of Afro-Caribbean background who considers herself to be hispanic and speaks fluent Russian. There’s just no limit to the way we can interpret our identities,the posibilities are so vast.I too find those constructions of identity and belonging to be fascinating =)

Ryo on

While I’m sure there are some people who do not adopt black children because of racism, I don’t think that’s true in all cases. When you really start researching into adoption, you come across lots of information very quickly about the fact that you will face challenges when you raise a child of another race. (I had never really thought about it before I started looking into it.) Besides basic cultural differences you may encounter, there are other things that people get intimidated about as well. And I’ve even read articles on how even just taking care of a child of another race is harder than you think it will be: black children’s hair, for instance, is something you have to learn to care for properly if you’ve never done it before, and I’ve even read a few times that Asian children’s skin gets dried out more easily than Caucasian skin if you don’t take care of it properly. (I haven’t yet asked anyone about that.) So there’s a lot more to it than racism, although I’m in no way naive enough to think that doesn’t stop some people.

I absolutely adore Hugh and his family – it took me quite awhile to even realize that Oscar and Ava were adopted! They seem like such a happy family.

eva on

Ryo, many parents of newborns have not changed a diaper in their lived before so it’s something new to learn when you have a child. Most of us,before having children,had never faced the trials of temper tantrums and melt downs and we learned to cope with those as well.Parenting is a universe of new experiences that other people have done before you but for a man or a woman doing it for the first time there are many though lessons to learn along the way.I had never in my life combed and tried to care for African hair,I messed my daughter’s little pigtails many times before I got a handle on it and now I am a maestro. Just another whimsical thing to learn and it gets easier, so easy that now I do it without even thinking.I say,parenting is in and out of itself a hard,scary new experience,minor things like hair and skin appearance are just as hard as getting a picky eater to finish her veggies.As for the social and cultural challenges,yes there are plenty of them but,like any parent with conflicts,there is so much more to it that I can tell any adoptive hopeful, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Shawn on

I am an adoptive mom of two beautiful African American boys. My oldest is 14 and my youngest is almost 10. We got them both at two days old and they are the joy of our lives. I am white and my husband is Philippino so I like to say we have our own United Nations at our house! I have learned how to care for and cut my boys hair, care for their dry skin needs, etc… I can’t imagine myself raising any other children and they are mine in every sense of the word! I applaud Hugh and his wife for their decision to adopt and to adopt outside their own race. While it’s not for everyone, thank God there are people out there that want a family and allow God to handpick their children for them. I feel truely blessed to have my boys and thank God daily He closed my womb to make room in my heart for the children I was put on this earth to mother!

destinycampbell84 on

I know you meant no harm but just to let you know all blacks don’t have dry skin. Skin type (dry, oily, etc.) Is not dependent on race. I’m AA with naturally oily skin. Again don’t mean to pick at something this small but I want to make sure u realize that everyone is different even people who belong to the same ethnic group.

Lorus on

Wow, this is getting so PC. Yes, they should have used “multi-cultural” instead of mixed-race. We all (I hope) got the jist of what point he was trying to make.

Rose on

Eva: I think RYO’s point was that not everyone who doesn’t want to adopt a child of another race is racists. Some are just intimidated about being able to do a good job of taking on the extra responsibilities involved. I don’t share that same feeling, but I do understand where a person might be coming from on that one. Some people are just intimidated by taking on a whole new set of stuff to learn about on top of all the other stuff a person has to learn about parenting.

I think it’s unfortunate when people are intimidated by stuff like that, because I think once they held that child in their arms they would love them so much that they would find a way to overcome that hurdle – but I do think it’s important to treat those concerns as valid, and not be so quick to vilify other people.

Ryo on

Rose is right about what I meant. There’s no way around it, adopting a child of a different race poses extra challenges in the beginning. I still fully plan on doing it – I never even thought about changing my mind – but I wanted to point out that it’s not “just racism” in every case. A lot of people have very valid concerns, especially when at first you run into all these essays questioning how healthy it really is for a child to be adopted by parents of another race. (I know most of that’s just garbage, but if anyone else can remember their early days looking into adoption, those essays are there and can be very scary things to read.)

Aya on

Lorus, I agree completely.Hugh,you are the only man my mother and I agree on🙂

illa on

“Lorus Says:
February 24th, 2009 at 8:48 pm
Wow, this is getting so PC. Yes, they should have used “multi-cultural” instead of mixed-race. We all (I hope) got the jist of what point he was trying to make.”

lorus, this is not about being PC–to use a very trite and often misused phrase–it is about being accurate. ‘Race’ is just an artificial construct, while ‘culture’ is not.

Maria on

Sara, no all children of all different races are cute. There isn’t a group of children that are the cutest because of their race.

Erica on

Hugh and Deborrah have a very healthy outlook on growing their family and now they’ve got two healthy, gorgeous children to show for it! It’s palpable how much love they all have for each other. Nice article.🙂

sara on

I fully agree with JK. Race is an outdated word with no significance today (used by Adolf Hitler etc).

Anna on

So now we are trying to outlaw the word race? It’s like what happened with black, coloured etc. Somehow people think it’s negative and than make up a new word for it. Than 50 years later the word gets changed again. It’s just a word. We all know what is meant by mixed-race. Is that really a discussion point?

Ana on

Same thing happened with Chicano, Hispanic, now Latino, I too, wonder what the word will be like in 50 years time.

Nuyorican on

I agree, people at least some people think the word Puerto Rican is negative and now they want to change it to Borinquen, just because that was the island’s first name.

Danyelle on

All arguments aside, Hugh and his wife have a beautiful family and seem like great parents!🙂

melania on

My husband and his 4 siblings are all adopted and all biracial or multiracial. It was true that in the 70s and 80s, it was difficult to place biracial children with families. That is why they were adopted by my in-laws (because they didn’t care about the ethnicity). As my husband and I have been working with a placement agency, they told us that it is still true that biracial children are the most difficult to place.

DJE on

My hubby and I have adopted 5 children of mixxed races. We love them with every ounce of our being and advocate for anyone interested in adoption to go to and think about adoption. It changed our lives and theirs for the better. Kudos to Hugh and his beautiful family!!

Lorena on

I’m argentine and I can say argentine 100%, my surname is argentine, but my mothers family is from Spain, Germany and Denmark and my father’s family is from Spain and Brazil, and I’m blonde with brown eyes…………oh yeah, I’m latina, whatever.

The argentine people is mostly white beacuse there’s a lot of european inmigrants, all called Gomez, Frachetti and Acunha, so there’s a lot of descendant from Sapin, Italy, France, Portugal and many more, many groups of German and denmar, Netherland people, we have lots of diferent religions but mostly catholic and more and more mixed color people.Since almost 15 years there’s a lot of chinese, korean and japanese and more and more come to time.Now there’s a great group of refugees from Nigeria an Senegal too.

Nice that Hugh had adopted children who need a home and comprehension, but don’t confuse the terms please.

Maya on

Merriam-Webster defines Hispanic as follows:
1: of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal
2: of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the United States ; especially : one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin

Notice the second definition, which I personally find sad because the word caters to people’s misconceptions that anyone who speaks Spanish in the U.S. is likely to be either Cuban, Mexican or Puerto Rican (which is obviously not true) and therefore, interchangeable; hence, Hispanic is a catch-all word, inducing and reinforcing laziness in the “non-Hispanic” person.

I am Puerto Rican and when people ask me whether I’m Hispanic I reply that I’m Puerto Rican, to be accurate, since Hispanic is not an accurate term as you saw above. It can mean anything and that bothers me.

BeckyPeabody on

I think that the misconception about Hispanic comes largely from the fact that many are brown skinned. Not all. But, enough, so that when a person says, they look “Hispanic”, a certain phyiscality comes to mind. And, as well, usually Hispanic is associated to “extreme” beauty.

Also, Hispanic males qualify for Affirmative Action. As well as Hispanic females–although they may doubly qualify on the basis of being a woman.

If there are a sizeable number of Hispanic whites in America, why are they permitted ‘Affirmative Action”?

Just a thought on

I guess they should have been more sensitive with the word choice but we all know what Hugh meant.

I think it shouldn’t matter where we come from, what culture or religion we are, the color of our skin, the language we speak, where out ancestors resided, we are all one in the same.

We should eliminate the word race, or ethnic. It shouldn’t matter. (Rhetorical question) Why must we have labels? If the point is to acknowledge our roots and be specific on our identities we can specify what country we are from, or what culture we were brought up in but in my book the word race should be elimiated. Why does it matter what really makes a white person “white” or a person of latin descent “latino”?

We are all one in the same. Our hearts hurt when we are sad, our faces smile when we are happy…all one in the same.

FC on

That guy they talked to obviously didn’t know they just wanted a family, didn’t matter what ethnicity the child was. Family is family, period. And I love Hugh and his views on adoption, and I love the family he has. I just want to steal Hugh away for a little bit every now and

Debbie on

I never noticed the children being of mixed races. I guess I’m just colored blind. Thank God for people like him and his wife for adopting children of mixed races.

Lou on

Debbie; i am glad i’m not the only one! x

Judith on

I didn’t know his children are adopted.. Good for you, Hugh and Deborah.. God Bless You Both!! Those children sure are lucky!!!

Ciara on

Ava looks mixed race, she looks like she’s part Indian, so I’m not surprised she’s half German half Mestizo.

Ps: Lorena if your “father’s family is from Spain and Brazil” then you do not have an Argentinean surname like you so claim.

Marina on

Hugh Jackman is indeed the PERFECT man, he is beautiful inside and out! If only men across the globe were even half as perfect, then we women would rarely have anything to complain about!! I wish we could clone him! Seriously!

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