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Sandra Bullock reveals her daughter hid food, dealt with trauma after foster care

"I saw triggers happening on a daily basis," the actor said.
/ Source: TODAY

Sandra Bullock is opening up about what it was like to adopt a young, traumatized child from foster care.

In the latest episode of the Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk," Bullock spoke about caring for her 8-year-old daughter, Laila, whom she adopted in 2015. Laila had been in three separate foster care systems by the time she was 2 1/2 — and the toll it took on her was apparent from the very beginning.

"I had my kids in my [walk-in] closet with their little beds because I was so afraid to not have them super close to me," Bullock explained. "And I would walk in and I wouldn't be able to find her. She'd be in the closet, with all her clothes on, she'd be on a book shelf, she'd be hiding and she'd always be ready to leave. She was always telling me she was leaving."

Bullock said that sometimes it was funny when her daughter announced she'd be departing home, because "she's all power," but it was also an exercise in establishing a new sense of normalcy for her child.

"She'd say, 'I’m leaving you.' And I’m like, 'OK, I’m going to be right behind you. So just know that you can leave but I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere,'" Bullock said.

There are an estimated 424,000 young people in foster homes across the country, according to the nonprofit organization iFoster. Children who enter the foster care system have increased rates of childhood trauma, and researchers believe at least 20% of abused children in foster care experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I saw triggers happening on a daily basis," Bullock said.

Bullock shared that sometimes she couldn't help but take Laila's behavior personally — but she soon began to understand that her daughter's survival instincts were at play.

"Laila would hide food. It's survival. Absolute survival. Her spirit and just who she is has pushed [her] forward beyond the triggers and the fears," Bullock said. "They’ll come up for the rest of her life, there will be fears that she has, but she knows that wherever she chooses to go to school, I'm moving there. That's the joke in the house. You guys need to pick the same college if you go, the same city to live in, because I'm gonna be living there."

Bullock said that while being a parent is far from easy, she always knew she'd be a mom. She also knew that she wouldn't become a mom at a young age.

"I am so glad the universe had me wait," the 57-year-old actor said.

Still, it wasn't easy — Bullock shared that she had to take classes on how to parent a child dealing with trauma, and she had to be evaluated before being allowed to foster or adopt.

"[Foster care] is a system that exists and people don't know about it because it's a difficult thing to talk about," she explained. "It gets deep and it gets dark. When I first went into the process myself, you have to prove that you're a capable parent — you're in the judgment cage. And I got halfway through it and I said, 'I can't do this.'"

Bullock shared that she had what she described as an "out of body experience," where "they literally sit you down and they ask you, 'So what do you think is the worst kind of abuse? What is the worst kind of drug and alcohol?'" Bullock said she didn't know what to say — they're all bad.

"You're just going, 'If I don't answer this right, I'm not fit,'" she added.

Bullock adopted her son, Louis, in early 2010 when he was just days old. "When Louis came into my life he was put into my arm at 10 days [old], and I just knew ... this was my path," she said. She then adopted Laila five years later. And while she couldn't have possibly known she'd one day be Louis and Laila's mom, she said she doesn't believe it's a coincidence.

"The sweetest part of it is that I found out about both babies when I was in the exact same place — I was in the place where my mother was buried," Bullock explained. "It makes me very emotional, but I feel beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother brought me these children."