The Truth About Angelina Jolie's Son Maddox's Adoption

As you may already know, helping the people (and especially the children) of Cambodia is a major passion of Angelina Jolie's. She even adopted her first child, the now 19-year-old Maddox, from the country in 2002. But what if the adoption wasn't as completely above board as we thought? What if Jolie herself had been duped by shady practices? That's what filmmaker Elizabeth Jacobs aims to find out in a new documentary.

Jacobs, who is 21, was adopted from Cambodia in the same period of time as Maddox, and she told The Sun that she has uncovered some troubling discrepancies in her own adoption process — though her parents had no idea of anything wrong at the time. And it has to do with the potentially unethical adoption practices of a certain adoption "facilitator" named Lauryn Galindo. According to The Sun, at least half of all adoptions from Cambodia to the United States went through Galindo and her sister Lynn Devin's agency Seattle International Adoptions between 1997 and 2001, including Maddox.

Here's what we found out.

Angelina Jolie says she met Mad at an orphanage

In 2004, Lauryn Galindo was sentenced to 18 months in prison for running an adoption scam, according to ABC News. Many of the hundreds of Cambodian children Galindo placed for adoption with American parents weren't orphans or abandoned at all; they were basically stolen from their parents who thought their children were being sent to boarding school or that they would be paid thousands of dollars by Americans to adopt them.

The question is whether Maddox Jolie-Pitt was one of those children who was stolen from his parents. Officials looking into the adoption have said that Maddox was indeed a real orphan when his mother, Angelina Jolie, adopted him. "I would never rob a mother of her child," she has said, per The Sun. "In 2001, I was in a school programme in Samlout ... and as clear as day I thought: 'My son is here.' A few months later, I met baby Mad at an orphanage," she told Vogue India in 2020. "I can't explain it and am not one to believe in messages or superstition. But it was just real and clear."

That said, Cambodian welfare workers at the time believed that Maddox may have been sold by his impoverished mother for $100. "I'm sure that this child was not a real orphan and was not abandoned," Kek Galibru, head of the human rights agency Licadho, said at the time, via Sydney Morning Herald. In her film, titled "The Stolen Children," Elizabeth Jacobs is determined to find out.

Angelina Jolie doesn't 'know much of Maddox's birth parents'

Angelina Jolie previously opened up about the adoption process and how her connection to Cambodia brought her to motherhood. "Cambodia was the country that made me aware of refugees," said the actor to Vogue India in 2020. "It made me engage in foreign affairs in a way I never had, and join UNHCR. Above all, it made me a mom."

According to the Daily Mail, Jolie's focus on Cambodia at the time of her son's adoption became a focal point in her art, with the actor directing "First They Killed My Father." The film told the story of the "genocide of 1.7 million Cambodians" in the 1970s "during communist dictator Pol Pot's regime."

Jolie revealed, "This country means a great deal to me, this country has been through so much. This war affected every single individual here, and I wanted to understand myself." The actor continued, "I don't know much of Maddox's birth parents, but I believe they would have gone through this war." Although Jolie did not have much knowledge of Maddox's birth family, she remains determined that he build a connection to his home country.

Angelina Jolie wants to honor the roots of her adopted children

After the adoption of her first child Maddox in 2002, Angeline Jolie went through the process twice more with her daughter Zahara in 2005 and son Pax in 2007. The mother of six later welcomed three biological children — Shiloh, Knox, and Vivienne — with ex-husband Brad Pitt.

"Each is a beautiful way of becoming family," the actor told Vogue India, while opening up about adoption. "What is important is to speak with openness about all of it and to share. 'Adoption' and 'orphanage' are positive words in our home. With my adopted children, I can't speak of pregnancy, but I speak with much detail and love about the journey to find them and what it was like to look in their eyes for the first time."

The actor gave fans insight into her parenting style, too, revealing that she works to make sure each of her children's cultures remains part of their lives. "When they are from another race and foreign land, that mystery, that gift, is so full," continued Jolie. "For them, they must never lose touch with where they came from. They have roots that you do not. Honour them. Learn from them. It's the most amazing journey to share. They are not entering your world, you are entering each other's worlds."

Despite allegations of how her eldest son Maddox came into her world, tha actor is adamant she is "very blessed to have been allowed to be their mom," adding, "I am grateful every day."