“He puts his hands behind his head and says, ‘I don’t have daughters’,” recalls Sandra, who was at dinner with friends when the topic of a new addition to the family came up.
“And we agreed as well that he didn’t have daughters, and then he said, ‘but I’m gonna have a baby soon. I don’t know its name yet, but it’s coming’.”
Later on, while discussing the possibility that he might end up with a brother or sister, Louis, who Sandra adopted in 2010, “did specify that he wanted a sibling that has some brown skin.”
Fast-forward to today, and little Louis’ dream has finally come true with the arrival of three-year-old Laila (pronounced Lila), the foster toddler that Sandra, 51, has officially adopted.
Sandra made the announcement in the latest edition of People magazine, which features a beautiful series of portraits taken by her photographer-model boyfriend Bryan Randall.
Despite the magazine spread, Sandra says her main aim is to protect her daughter from the prying eye of the public and the media. None of the photos in the magazine show Laila’s face because of the strict laws around identifying foster children.
“You feel it’s very much like witness protection,” she says. “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.”
During the fostering and adoption process, Sandra says that child protection services (CPS) visited to check in.
“There was an afternoon when we were outside and Louis saw their car pull up and he ran next to Laila and asked the CPS workers why they were there,” she says.
“They replied that they were there to see if Laila was okay. He replied, ‘You’re not going to take her away, are you?’ And at that moment, I knew I could stop worrying about whether I had found the right match. It was obvious I had.”
The Blind Side star adds: “When I look at Laila, there’s no doubt in my mind that she was supposed to be here. I can tell you absolutely, the exact right children came to me at the exact right time.”
While the siblings are now inseparable, it did take time and patience for Laila to feel safe in her new family, says Sandra.
“I knew she was scared, and all I wanted was for her to know Louis and I weren’t going anywhere,” she said, adding that her daughter has brought “pink and glitter in the house mixed with Lego and Batman”.
“My family is blended and diverse, nutty, and loving and understanding,” she says. “That’s a family.”
Other celebrities to adopt foster children include Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Mary-Louise Parker and Nicole Kidman.