How Sandra Bullock Kept Daughter Laila’s Adoption a Secret – and Why It Felt Like ‘Witness Protection’

12/02/2015 at 08:00 AM ET

Oscar winner Sandra Bullock opens up for the first time about fostering and adopting her 3½-year-old daughter, Laila. Subscribe now for instant access to the exclusive interview, plus the adorable family photos of Laila and brother Louis, or pick up PEOPLE on newsstands Friday!

When Sandra Bullock embarked on the process of adopting her daughter, 3½-year-old Laila, she had a key concern: protecting the little girl’s privacy.

“You feel it’s very much like witness protection,” the star, 51, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story.

Bullock, who fostered Laila (pronounced Lila) before adopting her, feared that the process would be jeopardized by the intense spotlight of her stardom — a fear that proved especially scary during an emergency room visit before the adoption was complete.

Sandra Bullock Adopts Daughter Laila PEOPLE Exclusive Cover
Cover Photograph by Bryan Randall/Getty Images


“Unbeknownst to me, a photographer had followed us and taken a photo of us in line,” says the actress, who adopted 5-year-old son Louis in 2010.

“The next day, I learned that a photo of her was being shopped around for sale to every outlet around the world. I had promised and legally agreed to protect her from something like this, and here I was chasing down lawyers — having them begging them to keep her safe.”

For the Oscar winner, the incident — and the threat of exposure — also highlights the need to create the safest, most secure home environment possible.

“Most foster children are in foster care because they were taken from their birth homes under tragic circumstances — and the last thing I wanted was to bring more harm to her because of the nature of my job,” she says.

To learn more about adoption and fostering in the U.S., go to adoptuskids.org and kids-alliance.org.

— J.D. Heyman

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Showing 73 comments

JIng on

Sandra is just awesome. I love that she doesn’t feel se needs to “buy” babies and instead went through with fostering to adopt. Much happiness to the expanded family!

Mandi on

It’s sad these paps are allowed to still STALK celebs! There has to be some kind of law as these are people to and should be-able to move around like any other HUMAN!

Erin on

Congratulations to this lovely little family – I am so glad Louis has a sibling! It is obvious Sandra is a warm and loving mother. We HAVE to get laws on the books protecting these little ones especially in the most vulnerable locations like school and medical facilities. I wish these two children a lifetime of feeling secure and loved!

Lia on

What a great lady. She is the kind of celebrity I always enjoy reading about. Congratulations to her, and to her beautiful children.

Meme on

How about adopting a child in the U.S.?

Janey on

@meme: The child is from the US. Why would you think otherwise especially when it says so in the article?

Lily on

@meme, she DID! She fostered the little girl first & then adopted her. Please read the article.

Figg on

@Meme – she did. Louis was born in New Orleans and if this little girl was in the US foster system, then she is American too.

imeantit on

Blessings to this beautiful family. I so admire her for choir to adopt from the foster system as there as so many children who need the love and stability of a permanent home. She is one of the few celebrities that seem to be truly grounded in authenticity. Best wishes to them.

Sue on

@Meme How about reading the article?

runningbacongirl on

I just love Sandra. She seems like an amazing, wonderful mom! I wish her and her family the best!

My Two Cents on

This is to Meme who asked, “How about adopting a child in the U.S.?”
Do you not understand that we live in a WORLD??? We don’t just live in the United States. There are little children all over the world who need families. Broaden your horizons.

lunaticlarry on

@Meme non-caucasian automatically means adopted outside the US? Apparently reading comprehension automatically means you don’t have it.

Callie on

Another black baby born in the ghetto adopted, nice……

Anonymous on

Love, love, love Sandra. Hands down the most down to earth person in Hollywood. Congrats to her and her adorable family. May they have many happy and healthy years together.

Tonya on

@ Brenda, what makes you think this baby was born in the ghetto? It’s a child have some respect for a child that now has a family. Sandra has done another great thing, it doesn’t matter the color of the child’s skin. Its a freaking child. Maybe someone should adopt you and take you out the ghetto. If you even know what that word means….or you only know “ghetto” from what you’ve read on the media…you turd

Jenn on

Why do white celebrities only adopt black, Asian, etc. children? Are there no white children who need love?

Anonymous on

Brenda, hat iswrog withyou?

synny on

I met Sandra when she was filming Forces of Nature near my home. I had no idea the pretty brunette that I struck up a conversation with was Sandra until I walked off and it dawned on me. She is as down to earth as they come. These actors are the same as you and me. Yes some have super egos but the smart ones, like Sandra, are still grounded with the knowledge that they aren’t that different than the rest of us. God bless that beautiful little family. She’s inspirational!

drgrady on

Congrats to her on her daughter!

dancer92136 on

True CLASS act.

Tati on

One of the most down to earth celebs in Hollywood. I love her. And as to the troll who wonders why she didn’t adopt from the U.S.? Not only are both kids from the here but its no one’s business about where you decide to adopt another HUMAN BEING. You can’t save everyone. But she is helping where she can.

Kestrel on

Ok, how lucky is this kid? A black little girl (not a baby) in a state with an enormously disproportionate amount of black kids in their foster system and she gets Sandra freaking Bullock. Foster care isn’t pre-adoption. There’s still the matter of a parental release which isn’t always guaranteed. I imagine that having your kid grown up with her, in a home with a brother, well off enough to provide all the things you’d want your kid to have that you can’t possibly give her – namely a decent education – would help to influence the parents who are overwhelmingly poor with some sort of criminal background.
Congrats, Sandra. Maybe more people will take your lead.

Cass on

What is wrong with you Anonymous, are you drunk? lol

Lisa on

@Jenn, @Meme, and @Brenda; Are you okay? Do you need a hug? Some water? A fluffy pillow and a blanket? What made any of those hateful comments necessary? You’ really have nothing to offer but negativity? I’m sorry life is so hard for you all right now, sending you positive energy and love!! I am so happy for Sandra and her beautiful family. It’s a good day anytime a child in need finds a home.

really on

It’s great what she does but why not adopt from the U.S? There are so many children here who need a family.

Twinkle on

So she then decides to put her on the front of a magazine?

Kate Middleman on

Sandra Bullock is ACES. She is the coolest. These children may not have started out as lucky in life but hey will live the rest of their lives that way. This is really lovely.

God bless the child on

For the people asking why did she adopt another black baby? Well aside from the fact that more people want white children where as black children (minorities) are least requested (sadly), maybe she doesn’t care what the race of he child is! Maybe she is a sweet, nurturing woman who can offer the world to a child and wants the opportunity to do so. She seems to be a good mother and that’s all that matters. Then I read on, and one twit assumes that the child must not be American based on race…all I could do was shake my head at that comment. Both Sandra Bullock’s children are American, Black Americans.

Porki on

Twinkle her back is turned to the camera. Secondly she cant prevent paps from taking her pic. It makes sense when dhe was fostering the child to keep her identity private. I can think of many reasobs why the state and Sandra would protect her identity until the adoption was finalized

Tanya on

Are people really that stupid??? Hoe about adopting in this country?? What part about Foster system makes you think she’s from another country??? News flash- America has black people too. But even if she did go to another country, a child is a child wherever it is born & needs love. Also the reason most celebs probably adopt outside their race is because there are a lot of couples who won’t & a lot of couples on wait lists for white babies & a lot of minority children waiting for homes. Also if you read the story, she fostered first which meant she took the race of the child they needed her to take.

Bella on

What i don’t understand is that being an actor is a job. Just like nursing is a job, or being a plumber is a job, yet the world could care less about them. How i see it is that those who are actors chose that, because it was something they wanted to do career wise, and they should be allowed to do so, without a media circus following their every move. I wish Sandra all the best. Her children are especially cute😛

Hans on

White people adopt black, white and Asian kids all around the world. When the choice of a Mexican kid its given to them, they get a dog instead.

goodtxgirl on

So incredibly happy for her. The children are so cute!

cj on

It should be illegal to take pictures of minors and post them without consent of parents! There parents are fair game but the kids should no be.

ll on

Wonderful……..
Yeahhhh Louie and Laila

ll on

Wonderful……..
Yeahhhh Louie and Laila…..

Anonymous on

Not a fan of Bullock!

Susan on

Sandra you are a wonderful person. Your daughter is so lucky to have you.

charlotte on

There isn’t a thing in the world I don’t love about her! Congratulations on adding to her family. She is what most of Hollywood should aspire to be!! Kudos.

arabrabbra on

There are so many children in foster care! So thankful she is raising awareness and also that she adopted a toddler and didn’t wait for an infant. Of course I don’t know how long she fostered her. Regardless, beautiful family!! CONGRATS!!!!

Mr. Mike on

Congratulations! Before you know it, they will be resenting her for her ‘White privilege’, and she’ll encourage them to do so. Hollywood is infested with self-destructive oikophobes.

Anonymous on

I admire her for what she does to try and protect the privacy of her family. I know it must be horrible having people literally stalking your every move. Congrats to you Ms. Bullock

Anonymous on

So happy for her!

Alia on

What a wonderful woman! My worry for her is that someday their parents will recognize the kid (either daughter or son) and try to make contact with them. I’m just assuming that that’s one of the reasons many people choose to adopt from abroad. Like look at Rosie’s daughter who’s now gone back to her biological mom (I’m sure Sandra will raise her kids much better, though, but still). If the parents are abroad, it makes it much less likely that this will happen. I hope that Sandra has a long and happy life!

Pam on

Very happy for her on the new addition.

goodie on

keep on keepin on mama!

bany on

great job Sandra you are the best, hopefully this will encourage others to give all the children in foster care homes.

Leah on

How great to adopt within the U. S. It’s nice to see….so many celebs go outside the U.S. to adopt. Sandra looked in her own backyard and found two adorable children who needed her!! What a great Christmas this will be for this family!

SoSad on

Brenda,
You are nasty! I hope you have no children, EVER!

Adilisha on

Congrats! May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family!

BT on

God bless her.

mom2oms on

How amazing this woman is! She adopted her son and kept him from the spotlight as much as possible in order to not only keep him safe, but to give him as normal of a life as possible. She chose her career, he did not. And, for her to be stalked of all places, but an ER. That photographer was also breaking federal privacy laws and whatever outlet he/she works for knows it. We fostered and it was so hard trying to keep the child(ren) protected and safe, especially in the area in which they were removed. I can only imagine the heartache and panic she was feeling after discovering there were pictures and the NEED to ensure they were NOT published. Shame on all of you who are jumping to conclusions. She has the money to be able to adopt privately and from any country with ease. However, she chose the HARD way to do it. She provided safe and secure home/shelter for a child in need. And, let me tell all of you – FOSTERING is NOT easy. God bless you and your children.

Wasup on

There are far fewer white children in the system. Maybe they use birth control (& saddly abortion)instead of having babies with mysoginist weed smoking wanna be rappers with no high school diplomas and criminal records….maybe they don’t count on the system to be their baby daddy until a new daddy comes around, abuses the kid that isn’t his (boop, into the foster system you go)& climbs on to impregnate, & here we go again. Maybe. Good on ya Sandra, for dipping in to the American cycle of antisocialization, to help how you could.

guest on

Angelina Jo-liar are you listening you had the gut to buy all your adoptees and changed their names brutally.

cds on

In reading the comments — the questions as to why didn’t Sandra adopt a child from the U.S. Do people not know that Louisiana is in the U.S.? Then again, people still don’t know that Hawaii is in the U.S. I guess these same folks didn’t pay attention in elementary school when it came to their history lessons.

Hans on

I love it when I’m right! Nobody disagrees with mein comment. I’m that good

Me on

The stupid is strong in this comments section….reading not a strong ability y many it seems. Should we type a list of all 50 states so some one may learn them…oh and Wtf does it matter what race the child is, it’s a child out of the system isn’t that what we are supposed to be striving for????

Gramma2three on

@ Twinkle~Because she feels the time is right and besides, she’s still protecting the little girl by not showing her face.

Janet on

Jenn, I am sure there are plenty of white children in need of families. How many have you adopted? I thought not.

Momto6 on

Over 20 years ago before Angelina adopted My son joined our family through adoption. We had 3 healthy daughters and wanted a son. Three years later we brought home another son. Never feeling our family was complete, seven years later we added another daughter.
This adoption journey has been the most difficult and the most rewarding task we will take on in my lifetime.
I applaud Sandra and other celebrities who have embraced and advocate for children who joined their family through adoption.
I CAN tell you it’s the same fierce love you have for a child born into a family.

Kate on

really,

SHE DID. PLEASE TAKE A FREAKING GEOGRAPHY CLASS, ALL OF YOU WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND THE LOUISIANA IS A STATE IN THE UNITED STATES!!! Maybe you’re a New Yorker or Californian and are confused, because when you look at a map you just see California and New York and you weren’t aware that the rest of the states are in your country, too?! IDIOTS.

TGree on

It is such a wonderful thing to open one’s heart and go down the road and adopt a child. What isn’t is the fact that the commercial plays on the page is by J&J an African American child getting a bath, co-incidence? I wonder. So I went to another people article link on Kylie Jenner and that commercial is for Josh Wine. Interesting, very interesting.

Anonymous on

why doesn’t anyone adopt a white or a mexican baby

Wendell on

Its amazing how people like Sandra can show love without conditions and people like Brenda in the comments below can show nothing but hate and contemp. I wish Sandra and her family all the happiness in the world and I wish Brenda would just seek professional help.

Tony on

BFD, what is the big deal for rich celebrity to adopt a poor child. Why didn’t she adopt one of her own race? I forgot, there was none and they were in demand if there were.

Jen on

@wasup, that’s simply not true. The percentage of children in the foster system in the US who are white and who are black is actually pretty close…both somewhere in the 40% range. Far less Hispanic and Asian children though.

However, black children do tend to remain in care longer and once freed for adoption (that being the legal term), often wait longer for permanent adoptive homes.

Gannie on

I wish Sandra would adopt ME. I would be a wonderful Grandma for these two beautiful children.

Andrea on

Hats off to Ms.Bullock! We are a foster to adopt home and plan to adopt “our daughter” next year. As foster parents, we have to sign a confidentiality agreement that we will not post pictures of our kids on newspapers or on social media. It’s so hard to keep the child you love a “secret” when you want to shout it from the hilltops how much you love them. That’s so awesome Sandra chose foster to adopt rather than paying to hand-pick a child. Fostering to adopt is risky as the child could possibly be returned to the bio family. I wish Sandra and her kids the best and encourage anyone who has room in their hearts and home to become a foster parent!

icky on

Wow. Look at all the negative comments. It’s amazing that people don’t realize that this child is American. I bet she’s from Louisiana, just like her big brother. When it comes to love, race should not be a factor. What does the color of your skin have to do with the ability to love and nurture a child? And by the way, those that need a geography lesson (especially the ones that sell on e-bay), Alaska is part of the United States.

Anonymous on

Obviously no one reads. SHE DID ADOPT IN THE US! As a matter of fact her daughter was adopted from Louisiana, the same state her son was. READ THE ARTICLE BEFORE YOU START SLAMMING PEOPLE!

AnneMarie87 on

What an amazingly intelligent woman. Imagine how difficult it must have been to keep her daughter a secret all that time? Wonderful news!

Beth on

How many names does she have??? 14?? Oh no. She has has a glam mom instead