September 15, 2009 /

Elton John is following a long line of pop stars, Hollywood celebrities and politicians seeking to adopt a child -- and he is not the first to find his private life a problem.

Many controversial comments were made about fellow megastar Madonna's adoption of two children in Malawi. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and other Hollywood names have also made headlines by adding orphans from impoverished countries to their families.

US actress Mia Farrow adopted 10 of her 14 children in countries ranging from India to South Korea and Vietnam.

The question everyone asks is whether the move is sincere or exploitation.

Sir Elton's declaration that he wanted to adopt a 14 month old boy, Lev, that he saw during a visit to a Ukrainian orphanage has already hit trouble in the East European country.

The government's family ministry said he could not adopt because the singer is not married -- and Ukraine will not recognise his homosexual marriage to longtime partner David Furnish.

Madonna also at first hit resistance to her adoption in Malawi this year of three-year-old Mercy, to become a little sister to David Banda who came from the same impoverished country.

The singer was blocked by a law that she had to spend at least 18 months in Malawi, while also facing criticism from rights groups and the girl's surviving family.

Lawyers for Malawi's Human Rights Commission and Eye of the Child charity at first opposed Madonna. "The courts should make inter-country adoptions an option of last resort," Jones Gulumba, lawyer for Eye of the Child, told one court hearing.

But in June the Malawi Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of Madonna, who also built a community centre and set up a charity in Malawi to help orphaned children.

Likewise, Jolie is a forceful envoy for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and some reports say she and Pitt would like to adopt another child to add to Pax, who came from Vietnam in 2007, Zahara who came from Ethiopia in 2005 and Maddox who Jolie adopted from Cambodia with her former partner Billy Bob Thornton.

Jolie and Pitt also have three children of their own, Shiloh, who was born in Namibia in 2005, and twins Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Leon, born in July, 2008 in France.

"They're the greatest little people I've ever met, and they give me so much joy," Jolie said of her adopted kids.

Today's stars are not the first to build up a brood of children among the world's most fortunate.

In the early 20th century, American singer and dancer Josephine Baker adopted 12 children -- from countries ranging from Finland to Japan, Ivory Coast and Colombia -- in part as part of a protest for the black civil rights movement.

She called them her "Rainbow Tribe" and for a while lived with them in a French chateau.

Walt Disney, founder of the Disney film empire, and legendary film producer and director Cecil B. DeMille both had adopted children. Harpo Marx, part of the Marx Brothers comedy act, adopted four children with his wife.

President Ronald Reagan adopted a son Michael in 1945 when he was an actor married to Jane Wyman.

And so the list goes on from Ewan McGregor, the Scottish actor, who adopted a Mongolian girl in 2006, to Johnny Hallyday, the French rocker, now in his 60s, who with his wife Laeticia has adopted two Vietnamese girls.

Meg Ryan, the US actress, adopted a 14-month-old girl from China in 2007 who she first named Charlotte and then named Daisy.

Many commentators are cynical about Hollywood's motives in making such moves, but Ryan told People magazine, "I never felt like I was on a rescue mission or anything like that. I just really wanted a baby; I was on a mission to connect with somebody, and Daisy and I got to meet each other in this way at this time. We are so compatible."