Jean Smart Announces Adoption of Daughter Bonnie

01/07/2010 at 04:00 PM ET
Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage

In a Wednesday appearance on The Bonnie Hunt Show, Jean Smart revealed that her family grew by one in 2009, with the adoption of daughter Bonnie, now 18 months, from China. The actress made the trip in May alongside son Connor, 20, and husband Richard Gilliland, exclaiming,

“When I came back, there were four of us!”

The sizable age gap between her children hasn’t posed a problem, though the former 24 and Samantha Who? star admits that Connor was initially “more excited about the trip than the baby.”

Just a few days into the process, however, and Jean, 58, says her son was seeing things quite differently! “[Connor said] ‘This is incredible….I didn’t know I was going to feel this way…She’s amazing,'” Jean recalls.

Adding that brother and sister are “so smitten,” Jean went on to quip,

“We thought they were going to be closer in age when we first started this!”

Source: The Bonnie Hunt Show

Click below to watch a video of the appearance and see a photo of Bonnie.

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dfgdfgd on

I thought you couldn’t adopt in China if you were over 50.

Mrs. R. on

It’s wonderful that this has happened, so don’t get me wrong, but I was under the impression that China has strict rules about age limits for potential adoptive parents. I’m pretty sure 45 or 50 was the limit.

I’m curious about the whole thing, but of course know it’s none of my business to know the details of why.

Manal on

Perfect!!! i just love it when ppl adopt!<3 God bless

em on

How nice! I had been thinking though that China had age limits for parents adopting infants; has this changed?

Liliana on

Congrats to the family on what seems to have been a wonderful experience.

I’m not sure about exact age requirements but I know some countries allow applicants 50+ years older in situations where a special needs child is adopted.

Vicki on

You can only adopt over the age of 50 from China if the child has medical special needs…could be something as small as cleft palate or something bigger!

Sarah K. on

Liliana, I was going to say the same thing. There are fewer restrictions for people adopting older children or special needs children. It’s possible little Bonnie has special needs.

Either way, congratulations to the family on their new little baby!

debbie on

Good stuff, a precious baby girl found a new home and will have a fantastic life.
What joy a new baby brings.

kam on

I dont know a thing about the age requirements but is it possible that only one parent has to be 50 or under? Maybe her husband is under 50? Again, I dont know a thing about the requirements or her husband, just throwing it out there!

Chan on

Same also..i thought that there were age restrictions BUT they sound so happy:) congrats!

Lisa on

Her husband was also on Designing Women, he played J.D. the sports guy involved with Mary Jo. He is 59(born in 1950)

Hea on

I’m probably going to be screamed at and damned over this but I think 58 is too old to become a new parent. I am happy for them but I’m having a hard time looking past the age. It’s not just a number. Not if the child is a year old, adopted, maybe with (severe) special needs and their new parents are well on their way of becoming senior citizens. I don’t mean to offend, every child needs good parents and I’m not saying these people aren’t. I’m just stating my opinion.

christina on

Wow…this is a mixed bag for me. 58 is just too old for adopting a precious toddler. If there aren’t rules, there should be.

kasey on

Laws can be tweeked for children with special needs. If they weren’t, many more children would still be without families. Fact is, many young parents are not as willing to accept children with disabilities.

My aunt, at 50, adopted a two year old with down syndrome from China. A couple in their 30s were initially going to adopt her when she was less than a year old but decided they could not raise a child with special needs. It was a shame but thankfully, my aunt is able to provide her a loving and stable home like she deserves.

SAR on

How lovely. I like Jean Smart. It’s hard to believe her son is 19. I don’t think 58 is “too old” to adopt a baby, if you are in good health and can devote yourself to your child.

michelle on

I think the rules are 55 with a special needs child. But I am pretty sure they go by the age your application is approved in country, not by when you get a child and China currently has a 4 year waiting period so they were probably earlier 50s when they started the process.

Shelby on

Just a thought: think about all the grandparents who end up raising thier children’s children. Maybe not the “ideal” age, but if they’re in good health, why not?

Megan on

I can’t believe her son is 19 now. I remember when he was little and Jean said he wanted her to wear her red carpet dress to his school : D

Natasha on

We also don’t know how long ago the process started. Don’t these things take years? Maybe they decided to adopt over 5 years ago and it’s just happening now!

Ann on

Hea- I understand what you are saying. My inlaws are 59 and 62, we asked them to be our children’s guardians if something happens to us. We are worried about them being too old and they are as well. They are both really healthy now, but in 10 years they are going to be 69 and 72. My father-in-law’s father died at 73. So it’s something people really need to think about. 58 isn’t too old now, but 70 is really old to be the mom of a 5th grader.

french gigi on

awww, connor seems so proud. i love this!

Colleen on

Many grandparents in this country end up raising their grandchildren, they must be older, 50s and up I would assume. I’m sure those grandparents, who become parents again really, do a fantastic job. ANY time a child finds a loving home, I say “thank God”.

Amanda on

Yeah, because it’s much better for a child to languish in an orphanage or the state system for the rest of his/her life than to be adopted by a well-to-do American family, right? Who cares about the age? They will be able to provide a better life for that child than she would have been provided elsewhere

MW on

She did say “We thought they were going to be closer in age when we first started this!” If memory serves,I believe Jean is diabetic and has been from a young age. I recall reading in an interview that she had kidney problems while pregnant with her son,so I would imagine that a second child naturally wasn’t in the cards. I would think,based on this and the comment she made,that this is a process they started some time ago,maybe even prior to their 50’s? I know 58 isn’t exactly a spring chicken,but I really think if they can provide a good home for this child,then God bless them. It’s better than the alternative of spending a lifetime in an orphanage.

Erin on

Too old to adopt? No. I think the process is so strenuous that anyone putting themselves through it by definition are showing a patience and ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. I’m a lot more worried about teenagers and certain immature twentysomethings having babies (or adopting – See: Casey Johnson).

Sarah M. on

Every time a celeb adopts a child from a country other than the US, this topic is discussed. It’s getting rather old by now, IMO. MANY more celebs adopt from the US than from other countries. I can compile lists for adoptions from the US and from international countries so they can compared. The list for the US is far longer than the one for international countries. Aside from that, do only children in the US deserve to be adopted? Children from other countries should just languish in orphanages and have who knows how many different caregivers (no matter how good the caregivers are, it’s still too much for children to have as many as work in the orphanages) and get little to no one-on-one care.

Linda on

Yeah, since China is pretty strict and I’d like to believe Jean went through the official channels, this adoption has been many years in the proces. Otherwise they would never have been able to adopt a child so young. That said, I wonder why they did not assign an older child to her, age 5-10.

As for the ‘why no US baby’ discussion: quit that one please! US babies aren’t ‘worth more’ than babies from truly poor countries. I just find it strange the US apparently has so many babies up for adoption. Where I live, there is barely 5 babies up for national adoption per YEAR.

CelebBabyLover on

Natasha- Good point! She even said that, when they started the process, they thought the kids would be closer in age (in otherwords, Connor would be younger than he is now), which makes me think the adoption DID take awhile to go through!

In anycase, I applaud them for adopting, especially if Bonnie does have special needs. It takes a special person to adopt a child with special needs. Also, little Bonnie was no less deserving of a good home than a child from the U.S.

That being said, plenty of celebs HAVE adopted from the U.S. Sheryl Crow, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Lionel Richie, and Hugh Jackman and his wife (although they live in Australia, so they weren’t techincally adopting children from their own country) are just a few examples of celebs who have adopted from the U.S.

Mari on

I’m very close to 58 and while choosing to parent a toddler would not be my choice at this age, if I had to or wanted to, I could. And I’d not only do a great job, I would have every expectation that I could continue to do a great job until that child was a young adult and beyond.

I think that some of these comments – as if ill health lurks around the corner for Jean and her husband simply because they are in their later 50’s – are ridiculous.

Many congratulations to Jean and Richard on their new daughter, and to Connor, on his new sister, Bonnie.

Sarah M. on

I didn’t mean to submit my comment yet. Here’s a list:

US adoptions: Diane Keaton, Edie Falco, Hugh Jackman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kate Jackson, Rosie O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman & Tom Cruise , Calista Flockhart, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pheiffer, Sheryl Crow, Kirk Cameron & Chelsea Noble, Maury Povich & Connie Chung, Patty Duke, Joely Fisher, Nia Vardalos, Willie Garson, etc.

International adoptions: Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker,Katherine Heigl & Josh Kelley, Madonna, Meg Ryan, John McCain, Laura Innes, Mia Farrow, Joan Fontaine, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.

I could go on, but it’s pretty even as far as I can tell.

Rant over.

Ashleigh on

A child without a family is now part of one. Why does it matter that they didn’t adopt from the U.S.? In a wonderful story with a happy ending. It amazes me that people can still focus on the negative.

Benita, I assume since you are casting judgement on others, you have or are in the process of adopting a child from the United States.

dfgdfgd on

Benita, many many celebs adopt from the US (Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Calista Flockhart, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nia Vardalos, Lauren Holly, among many others).

You may not realize it, but there are far more people in the US looking to adopt than there are American infants available for adoption. So it could be they wanted to adopt an infant where adoptive parents are NEEDED (i.e., China).

As far as adopting older children in the US, Jean Smart and her husband may not have qualified for that. Even with adopting older children through foster care, there are lots of restrictions and they are very selective as far as whom they allow to adopt.

I hope this has cleared things up for you.

Hea on

Ann – Exactly. Time flies and it flies fast.

There are never guarantees regarding health. It can change in an instant at any age. But at 58, a lot of my relatives and family friends have been healthy, working and socially active people. At say, 65 and over which is the age where you retire in Sweden and my own parents age, a lot of them are still social and healthy but too many are experiencing arthritis, heart- and vascular problems, some have had heart attacks and a few have had one or more strokes… Four have cancer. And they were all very healthy people just a few years ago, leading healthy lifestyles.

I just think it’s important to realize that even if you have a youthful mind, your body is still pretty much your age. I understand that China agreed to this and I’m sure everything is going to work out perfectly well for this family. I would just expect people to be past the “I want a baby”-stage at this stage of their life but babies are hard to resist.😉

eternalcanadian on

“China was the No. 1 source country in 2009 — but U.S. adoptions from there dropped to 3,001, compared with 3,909 in 2008. China has been steadily cutting back the numbers of healthy, well-adjusted orphans being made available for adoptions; a majority of Chinese children now available to U.S. adoptive families have special physical or emotional needs.” (

With both Jean and Richard at the cusp of 60 years old, a mileston that eliminates them from the normal adoption pool (the age limit is 50 plus you can’t be single, gay, obese, or poor), my bet is the child has “special physical or emotional needs” which makes the adoption even more precious as there are hundreds of thousands of such children around the world that likely will never know a loving chosen family. Kudos to Jean and Richard!

fuzibuni on

so, i guess most of you guys would leave the baby at the orphanage in this situation?

Maria Luisa on

I’m happy a little girl now has a loving home and family, especially if she has special needs that can now be attended to. Congratulations to this family.

Jessicad on

I’m more surprised that she’s 58 than anything. look at her, she looks amazing!!! The important thing is that the child has a home and a family now, life is not a guarantee, anything can happen at any age. Congrats to this family!

Hea on

fuzibunny – My guess is that most of us guys would not be thinking about adopting at that age at all. It’s not about leaving the baby at the orphanage and turning your back if you’re not there looking in the first place.

If I went to an orphanage in China, I would have to leave every baby behind. Even if I wanted to take them all in and could do just that. I could love and cherish them until the day I die. But I wouldn’t be allowed because there are laws and rules and they are there for a reason. Some of those reasons are stupid and some of them aren’t.

dickie on

Linda, the US has so many children available for adoption due to our large population (we are probably a lot more populous than your country) and the unfortunate circumstance that drugs, poor education and lack of education regarding birth control contribute to the rising number of children who find themselves neglected and without homes.

The same reasons that make these children available for adoption are typically the same reasons that people opt not to adopt them -they are children born or raised in crisis and the general population may have preconceived ideas about them. Most of these celebrities are doing private adoptions, but the costs are prohibitive to most Americans.

Hea on

dickie – Do you know if the US allows for international adoption of their children?

Anna on

Hea, yes the US allows for international adoption. Some celebs in my country (the Netherlands) have adopted from the US. They said it was easier as they did private adoption so not as many rules.

Hea on

I tried to find decent reading material about adopting from the states but it seems that it’s not something that happens in Sweden.

Samantha on

Hi, here’s the interview of Jean talking about the adoption on the Bonnie Hunt show. She named the baby Bonnie after Bonnie Hunt.

She said the process took a long time.

Andrea on

As far as the age issue, if this was a non-special needs adoption from China, it means that their dossier was sent over years ago (the standard process is taking many years now). The adoptive parents’ ages are “frozen” at the time the China Center of Adoption Affairs logs in the dossier. So they could have started this process when she was 53 or 54, but received their child match 3+ years later.

The new restrictions for adoptive parents took effect in May, 2007 for all dossiers sent after that point. Parents can be 30-49 at dossier log-in for a standard process referral, and 30-54 at log-in for a special needs referral.

Adoptive Mommy on

To all the US adoption comments. I had a family adoption that I literally had to fight tooth and nail to get completed despite glowing reviews from all presiding individuals involved that took almost 2 years to accomplish. And this was a special needs child born drug-addicted and neglected with shaken-baby syndrome. Please know that if I hadn’t been a family member, or the child hadn’t been special needs, the process would have taken much longer with him in foster care for the duration. It is almost harder to go through the waiting in this country knowing they are but a few miles away, and you are not allowed to take them home and love them than if they were several thousand miles away. Just one perspective.

trina on

As for the comments about there being “so many children needing adoption in the US,” we were on the state waiting list for US adoption for 16 years! We applied for a child of any race up to age 10. We were told that most of the children in foster care were tied up there because their parents refused to relinquish rights. We were told that the remaining adoptable children were minorities and that the law prohibited caucasians from adopting US minority children. We could not afford a private agency adoption from the US, as the cost was more than our home. This is why so many people go overseas to adopt. After 16 years on the waiting list, the law changed to allow interracial US adoption. By then, I was nearly 50 and had already adopted from overseas. Overseas adoption costs less and isn’t discriminatory regarding race.

mp on

MW is right about Jean’s diabetes and her problems during her pregnancy with Connor (I remember her pregnancy being written into Designing Women, because the baby she gave birth to on the show had the same name as my daughter — Olivia — which was unusual at that time). Richard recalled a few years later that they’d been advised to abort because of health dangers to Jean. Given what they’ve been through, I can’t fault them for adopting at an advanced age — and as others have noted, Jean’s comments indicate they started the process a long time ago. I’m glad this little girl has a loving home!

CelebBabyLover on

Hea- Anna is correct. Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborah, who are Australian, adopted their two children (Oscar and Ava), from the U.S.🙂

Desha on

My God people, a baby has what it seems a new loving and caring home and all you can think of is Jean’s too old. For one, it’s not as if she was adopted by some financially poor, uneducated people. Things that Jean may not be able to do, I’m sure the nanny can. Just for the record one of my babysitters is 63, and she is quite capable.

Hea on

CelebBabyLover – Ah, okay.🙂 Didn’t know that. Are they American citizens?

brannon on

Who cares where children are adopted from so long as they’re adopted? A child is a child.

kathryn on

I think it’s wonderful — have always liked Jean AND Richard (he was Mary Ellen’s second husband on “The Waltons,” too). And I have to say that, as an older parent and an aide at a rural school in the South, there are a lot of U.S. children in various dire situations who are being raised by their grandparents, other family members or foster parents. Most unwed mothers are keeping their babies — perhaps many of these children wouldn’t be better off being adopted….

Kudos to those people OF ANY AGE who adopt, love and/or otherwise care for special-needs children of all ages.

kathryn on

Sorry — modified that sentence and didn’t check it: “…perhaps many of these children WOULD be better off being adopted….”

Sarah M. on

Hea (#51) – I believe they are US citizens. They were more open to adopting mixed race children (of which Oscar and Ava are) than most people seem to be and there aren’t many children that are open for adoption in Australia. So they adopted from the US.

A child is a child, no matter where they’re from. All of them deserve to be adopted.

Elizabeth on

I think older parents often make better parents than younger parents. I know at 26 I don’t want to have a baby until much later.

joy21 on

58! Yikes, my parents were much younger when they became grandparents.

I guess some of you all think nature was wrong in the design that younger women have children and older women have grandchildren.

Gigohead on

What i don’t understand is why did they wait so long to adopt? I do remember when her son was born. I would imagine that Jean could have adopted easily welcomed more children to grow up alongside her son. I doubt that any agency would have had any issues with her health since she was still young with a young son. No agency would have thought she was at risk for not rearing another child. Perhaps the empty nest syndrome caught up with her and she wanted a new child. It’s understandable but wow! to do it over again at 58 is crazy! I did it again at 39! after a 10 year break! It’s exhausting.

I wish her family best of luck with the new baby.

mimmey on


Nature has worked great for you! It looks like your younger parents instilled in you a great sense of judgment and narrow-mindedness. I assume that you too are a young parent or will be a young parent too, and can instill those same kinds of small-minded viewpoints onto your children. Good luck to you.

CelebBabyLover on

joy21- I don’t think anyone is saying that. All people are saying is that older people can make just as good parents as younger people. In fact, some people are better parents at 40 or older than others are in their 20s!

I said a similar thing on the recent post about J-Lo’s thoughts on IVF: There is no one size fits all solution to having kids. What’s right for one person may not be right for another person.

Julie on

China is very strict about adoption rules. I am sure that they throroughly checked the details of Jean and her husband before letting them adopt their daughter. That being said, I do not think 58 is too old if the mother is full of love/drive/time and has the financial means. A child who has no family is better off with an older set of parents than no parents at all. Perhaps instead of looking at the negative, we should look at the positive in this situation. I wish Jean and her family the best of luck!🙂

JM on

trina, thank you for sharing your story, very interesting and i am so sorry you had such a hard time trying to adopt. i never knew there used to be (and to some extent still are) so many strict rules about adopting from the US (i’m not from the US). i often wonder what people are thinking when they say that it’s a shame someone has adopted from abroad rather their own country. what is this mentality that seems to go “let’s take care of our own before we take care of anyone else’s” i don’t get it. a child is a child and if any child is given a loving home and loving parents are given a wonderful child to raise then surely where that child is from just isn’t an issue? i wish these people would answer the question: what makes US babies more important to adopt than Chinese babies (or from anywhere else)?

LPW on

Jean will be almost 80 when Bonnie leaves for college — assuming Jean is still alive. It is easy to embrace foreign adoption but perhaps better to embrace reality.

dfgdfgd on

I agree with everyone that says older parents can actually be more mature and responsible than younger parents, but even if Jean were 20 years younger she would still be older than the average parent!

CelebBabyLover on

Gigohead- She indicated that the adoption process took a long time, so perhaps they started the process several years ago?

LM on

As the child of older parents, I’d just like to point out that yes, while older parents tend to be mature, it doesn’t change the reality that more likely than not, those parents just aren’t going to be around as long to see their child grow up. I’m not saying 58 is old, it really isn’t, but it’s not the age now that’s a factor. No matter how you slice it, she’ll be almost 80 when this child is in college, assuming she is still alive.

Growing up, everyone assumed my parents were my grandparents. I love my parents dearly (so please no comments about being ungrateful, etc.) but I wished the had the same energy as I saw in other parents. I lost my mother when I was 13 and helped my dad recover from cancer in my early 20’s. Simply put, having an older parent often forces the child to grow up very quickly beyond their years. I’m not saying this is the case all the time, and I understand that anything can happen to anyone in an instant. While I absolutely love and adore my parents, choosing to have a child at an older age is selfish and is done without thinking of how that may impact the child.

NW Mamma on

Jean mentioned that her son’s age was going to be closer to the adopitive daughter, so maybe she started this process many years ago.
Congrats to the entire family for welcoming a new life into it.

willa on

Regarding the age limit issue, international adoption policies are surprisingly fluid when there’s wealth and fame involved. A friend just adopted from China and was advised to bring a certain amount of cash to “expedite” the process. It is also true that if the baby has any kind of special needs, the government is more lenient in its adoption policies.
Regarding the whole U.S. vs International adoption, this is a very tired and ignorant argument. Some people just have to say something nasty.

Snow... on

IMO— whether or not parents can provide for, have patience with and LOVE their children, adopted or not, is MUCH more important than parental age, etc.! Congrats to Jean and her family!

mimmey on

This is for Joy21–

I read over my comment to you, and I just want to say I am sorry for my rudeness. I read over my words and am ashamed that I was disrespectful. I wanted to delete it as soon as I read it, but couldn’t. I was just having a very bad day and I took it out on a stranger in a comment thread of all places. I had never left a comment anywhere before–this will be my last comment.

I get that this is only the internet and you are a stranger and all, but it’s been bothering me that I was mean. Anyway, I apologize.

lynn on

I’m in the process of adopting from China and we have been waiting for 4 plus yrs. It takes 6-7 yrs now from start to finish. In China ALL adoptions go through one agency. You cannot be famous/rich and get a child earlier. Maybe in another country, but not China. Yes, a donation to help the orphanages is required, but it’s not a payoff to get a child sooner. Everyone must wait for their “match” then you travel. You don’t go over and choose a child.

Every child is a child of GOD, and location does not make one child more worthy than another. So tired of the ignorance/rude comments. It is no ones business how a family decides to adopt. It is personal. Why some to post a negative comment? Waste of your time really.

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