Adoption is often seen as a happy ending for children in short-term care and couples who can’t conceive. However, the story of a prominent YouTuber, which is currently setting online comments boards alight, shows that the issue can be far more complicated than it may seem.
Myka Stauffer has been making videos about her life as a parent alongside her husband James for at least five years, sharing her cleaning routines, parenting tips and details about her pregnancies. She's gained over 700,000 followers on YouTube and more than 200,000 on Instagram. Over the years, five children featured on the channel: the three biological children that the Stauffers share, Myka's daughter from a previous relationship, and their adopted child Huxley.
Huxley, 4, was brought into the family in 2017 from China, after an adoption process that Myka documented on her YouTube channel. During this process, the couple decided they would adopt a child with special needs – a decision that, Myka later wrote, they'd initially resisted before "God softened our hearts". Myka reported that her adopted son suffered from autism and brain trauma.
Around a month ago, Stauffer’s fans started questioning why Huxley was no longer seen in videos. She and her husband James addressed the questions in an emotional video called “an update on our family”, which has since been viewed 4.7 million times.
“Once Huxley came home there were a lot more special needs that we weren’t aware of”, said James. He wasn’t specific on what he meant by this, and said that they were not going to go into detail in order to protect Huxley’s privacy. Myka also said that “95 per cent” of the challenges they’d had with Huxley had never been discussed in public.
The pair said they felt unable to meet his additional needs. “After multiple assessments, after multiple evaluations, medical professionals felt he needed a different fit with his medical needs, he needed more”, said Myka. The couple had been through a process of 'rehoming' Huxley, spending time with different families until they found “the perfect match”. Huxley was now living with a family who had more experience in dealing with children with complex needs, they said.
“There’s not an ounce of our body that doesn't love Huxley with all of our being”, said Myka. “Do I feel like a failure as a mom? 500 per cent.”
The Stauffers' announcement has led to a fierce backlash online, with people from both within and outside the YouTuber criticising their actions. Parents of adopted children, and those with special needs, have recorded videos documenting their anger and dismay; while Myka's social media profiles have been inundated with comments.
People who themselves had been adopted as children have also weighed in. “I'm a Chinese, transracial adoptee and adoptee advocate. I am furious”, wrote one woman on Twitter.
Others have taken issue with the fact that Myka profited from blogging about her life with Huxley: from adverts on YouTube videos and sponsored Instagram posts, which both featured Huxley over the years. As the furore has gained traction, brands have dropped Myka from their roster, including Kate Hudson's sportswear brand Fabletics. Hudson herself posted on Instagram: "she was terminated. Thank you for your awareness and care".
Myka responded to the backlash with an additional statement, which has now also been deleted. “We would never just give up on a child with special needs”, she wrote. “Multiple scary things happened inside the home towards our other children, and if these events happened with one of our biological kids, after all the help and after the behaviours we witnessed sadly we would have no other choice then [sic] to seek help and get their needs met.”
Adoption disruption in the UK
While the online fallout has appeared severe, the Stauffers' adoption disruption (the term used to describe when adoptions break down) has been met with sympathy from some quarters. SixBlindKids, a YouTube channel run by two American parents who make videos about their life with their adopted children, have discussed their experience with disruption - both adopting children from disruption, and having adopted children leave their home. “Sometimes, adoptions fail. And they fail more often than you would think. It may seem unthinkable, but it does happen, and most times, it works out for the best for all parties”, they wrote.
Indeed, adoption issues are more common than might be thought. According to 2017 figures from the BBC and Adoption UK, one in four adoptive families are “in crisis”, and two-thirds of adoptive parents experience violence or aggression from their children.
UK figures on disruption aren’t clear, but it’s thought that between 3.2 per cent and 20 per cent of adoptions end earlier than planned. A University of Bristol report says that violence towards the adoptive family was a factor in 86 per cent of disruptions.