No Baby-Mama Drama for Brangelina

Adoption official debunks reports that couple's 2005 adoption of Zahara wasn't legal

By Gina Serpe Nov 15, 2007 5:10 PMTags

Don't believe everything you read, especially when it comes to Brangelina.

Despite recent reports to the contrary, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's 2005 adoption of daughter Zahara was "legal and irrevocable," the head of adoption agency Wide Horizons for Children said Thursday, calling bunk claims that the girl's birth family is seeking her return to Ethiopia.

"The controversy is media hype by unethical journalists exploiting the poverty of the grandmother," Tsegaye Berhe, the head of the agency that facilitated the A-list adoption, told Reuters.

Berhe spoke out to clarify the legitimacy of Jolie and Pitt's adoption in the wake of reports that members of two-year-old's family, including her presumed-dead birth mother, want Zahara back.

Mentewab Dawit Lebiso, a 24-year-old Ethiopian native, made the challenge, claiming to In Touch Weekly she was Zahara's birth mother. On the adoption papers filed two years ago, it indicated that Zahara's birth mother had died of AIDS and that the identity of her birth father was not known.

Both Lebiso and another woman claiming to be Zahara's aunt also said they didn't fully understand what it meant to put a child up for adoption and that they believed Jolie and Pitt would be bringing the child back for frequent family visits. Berhe said that even if their account were true, the stars would be under no obligation to keep in touch with the family.

"The court in Addis Ababa approved the adoption after studying the document her grandmother wrote...saying her daughter, the mother of Zahara, had died and she was too poor to bring her up," he said.

"The grandmother brought three witnesses to court who testified that Zahara's mother had died and that her father was unknown...The court also investigated the social status of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt before approving the adoption."

Berhe said the claims were drummed up by reporters attempting to create a story where there was none, saying they had likely paid poor relatives of Zahara's to raise the dispute.

For their part, a spokesperson for In Touch told E! Online the magazine stands by their story, saying they do not allege that the adoption was illegal, simply that Zahara is not an AIDS orphan, or an orphan at all. They maintain that Zahara's birth grandmother told authorities that Lebiso had run away, not passed away.

Jolie formally adopted Zahara as a single parent in July 2005, though Pitt accompanied her to pick up the child. In January 2006, a California court approved his request to legally adopt both Zahara and Maddox, whom Jolie brought home from Cambodia in 2002.

In May 2006, the couple welcomed their first biological child, Shiloh, and last March welcomed a fourth child into the mix, Pax, whom they adopted from Vietnam.