In her latest movie, The Unforgivable, Sandra Bullock plays a woman who is forced to confront the reality of life beyond a 20-year prison sentence. And while Bullock herself doesn’t have real-life experience with handling such a markedly challenging transition in her own life, she hopes the film will help spark conversation about a topic that is close to her heart: adoption through the foster care system.
Serving as a guest on the December 1 episode of Red Table Talk, Bullock spoke candidly about her experiences adopting her son, Louis, 11, when he was just three months old and her daughter Laila, 9, who had been through three different foster cares before the actress fostered and then adopted her at the age of three in 2015.
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Bullock shared that she had “an extraordinary experience through the foster care system” and now has “the most glorious child to show for what exists within that system.” But she called the experience “incredibly hard,” shedding light on the anxieties she felt throughout the adoption process with Laila in particular.
“People don’t know about [the foster care system] because it’s a difficult thing to talk about,” she told Red Table Talk co-hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. “It gets deep and it gets dark.”
“When I first went through the process myself, you have to prove that you are a capable parent and you’re in the judgment cage,” she explained. “I got halfway through it and I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ It was an out of body experience.” Of the challenging questions asked of prospective adoptive parents, she said, “You’re thinking, ‘If I don’t answer this right, I’m not fit.’”
The Oscar winner also opened up about what it was like navigating her children’s prior traumas. Sometimes, she shared, “I wouldn’t be able to find [Laila]. She’d be in the closet with all her clothes on, on a book shelf, hiding, she’d always be ready to leave,” she said. “She’s always telling me she’s leaving. Sometimes was it hilarious, because she was just all power and she says, ‘I’m leaving you’ and I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to be right behind you. So just know you can leave, but I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.’”
Bullock learned to “love by leaning in and hugging and holding, and letting them know that they are not going anywhere.” She added, “all you want to do is love, but sometimes, your love is not gonna cut it.”
She also acknowledged the “existential anxiety” she feels knowing that her children, both of whom are Black, will eventually “leave the home.” Sharing that she has candid conversations with both her children about racism, she added, “I let them teach me, tell me what they need to know. I thought I was educated and woke, I thought I had it all. And guess what, I wasn’t.”
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