The XX Factor

Angelina Jolie Can Adopt From Syria. You Can’t.

Who knows what to believe when it comes to celebrity “journalism,” but it’s apparently been confirmed that Angelina Jolie will adopt a child from Syri a -something described on the website of the U.S. embassy in Damascus as “a difficult process and often an impossible one.” In many countries, celebrity status probably has little effect on adoption matters, but in a country where adoption is “essentially illegal,” the perverse effect is that anything pretty much goes-if you’ve got the required currency. Cash, glamour, celebrity, or all of the above clearly come into play.

In countries that are large players in international adoption, like China, Korea, and Kazahkstan, hard and fast rules apply, designed to protect both the child and the adoptive parent. Placing children through an elaborate system is meant to prevent corruption, kidnapping, and blackmail, and although there have been notorious failures, in general it works. In countries where adoption is handled privately, there’s far more room for almost any kind of trouble you can imagine, but if you can get past the initial barriers to entry, there are advantages-if you’re Angelina. Most countries place some limit on the number of children in a family. None would allow only one parent in a married couple [correction: or partnership] to adopt a child, as the Daily Mail reports is happening here, and all also require substantial investigation into whether a family is ready in various ways to adopt-although it’s hard to imagine a social worker refusing to endorse Jolie.

In other words, Jolie may not be qualified to adopt in the standard way, particularly if it’s true that her partner [husband] isn’t on board. So one possible objection to this adoption is clearly correct: It’s not fair. But it’s hard to argue that a child would be better off in an orphanage than as part of the Jolie clan, or that she won’t grow up better off. An orphaned Syrian girl has few educational opportunities in her future and very limited social options. I also find it hard to argue that the addition of another mouth to feed is going to change much for the family, other than in the way any sibling does. They’re a large, unusual clan at either six or seven, and whether they’re being raised by nannies or by Jolie and Pitt, their life is what it is. If Jolie wanted to have another baby, she could. If she feels like she can cope with another child-and with her partner’s [husband’s] unease, if that part of the story is true-then man, good luck to her. I have four kids under 8, and I couldn’t do five, but I’d never say there aren’t plenty of people out there better at this than me.

Correction: The original post implied, incorrectly, that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were married. The author–while noting that no less a source than Star Magazine steered her wrong–regrets the error.