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Popular YouTubers Under Fire After 'Giving Up' Adopted Autistic Son

Update June 25, 2020: On Wednesday, June 24, Myka Stauffer issued an apology on Instagram:

“I want to first off apologize for the uproar and take full responsibility for all of the hurt that I have caused. This decision has caused so many people heartbreak and I’m sorry for letting down so many women that looked up to me as a mother. I’m sorry for the confusion and pain I have caused, and I am sorry for not being able to tell more of my story from the beginning…. I apologize for being so naive when I started the adoption process, I was not selective or fully equipped or prepared.”

She said in order to complete the adoption process she “received one day of watching at home online video training,” and that she felt she needed more training.

“I can’t say I wish this never happened because I’m still glad Huxley is here and getting all the help he needs.”

She also addressed a major criticism of her and her husband: that they were profiting off of YouTube videos made about and with their adopted son, Huxley. 

To debunk a couple complete rumors, we did not adopt a child to gain wealth. While we did receive a small portion of money from videos featuring Huxley and his journey, every penny and much more went back into his care. Getting Huxley the care and services he needed was very expensive and we made sure he got every service, and resource we could possibly find.

You can read her full apology here.

On Tuesday, YouTube vloggers and social media influencers, Myka and James Stauffer, posted a video announcing they were choosing to no longer parent their adopted son, Huxley, a boy they adopted from China in 2017, due to unspecified “behaviors.” According to them, an adoption agency had already found Huxley a new home.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Stauffers run a popular YouTube channel with over 715,000 subscribers. While they’ve created content about their other four children, highlighting pregnancy journeys, morning routines and fitness tips, their popularity grew during the process of adopting Huxley, who was 2 years old at the time.

His “Gotcha Day” video has over 5.5 million views, and they’ve created 27 separate videos about his adoption journey. Leading up to his adoption, they ran a fundraiser (From Buzzfeed News: “[Myka] said every person who donated $5 would unlock a different piece of a 1,000-piece puzzle, which would, at the end, be a photo of Huxley”), and he was integral part of various sponsorships they’ve received.

In other words, the Stauffers benefited financially from Huxley. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, their decision to “discard” a child because of his needs has been met with pushback.

Thankfully, the Stauffers were vague about the specific behaviors that led them to give Huxley a new home, citing privacy concerns, but had previously opened up about his various “special needs” and autism diagnosis. Myka had even written about the topic for various parenting magazines, including one entitled, “What Adopting My Autistic Son Has Taught Me.” According to BuzzFeed news, “She has also positioned herself as an advocate for international adoption in several national news outlets.”

First, let’s recognize that when you choose to put your family in the public eye, you are agreeing to strangers having an inside look into your family. Along with this comes praise and criticism, but also the pressure to be accountable for your actions.

As an adoptive mother of a disabled child — one who was also adopted internationally — I understand the challenges of international adoption. Listen, adoption is not for the faint of heart, it is brutal, and it takes years to build a strong foundation for a child who likely has abandonment issues and who, in some cases, experienced abuse. Many kids have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are sometimes diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) — but make no mistake, the “RAD” diagnosis is a result, or symptom, of trauma. And trauma affects everyone in the family. This is something most adoptive families are intimately familiar with.

My main concern is that the narrative the Stauffers presented is one-sided. We know how they felt, but what about Huxley? If the Stauffers were having difficulty, imagine the stress and trauma Huxley was experiencing. As we know, behavior is communication, and just because a child is home, it does not mean that the trauma goes away. Huxley’s behaviors could have been a result of sensory overwhelm or autism, but those behaviors could have been exacerbated because of trauma. Huxley has only been home for two years, and trust and connection to a new family can take years to build.

We have to remember that, for children who are adopted internationally, the experience itself is traumatic. Imagine a stranger, someone who doesn’t speak your language, someone who doesn’t eat the same foods you do, someone who may not even look like you, has taken you away from what is familiar — even if familiar was a neglectful and abusive institution. Not only that, but this stranger has now placed an innumerable amount of expectations on you. The expectations to become a son or daughter in a strange land to strange people, and to somehow “fit in.” Never mind the loss they have experienced, first to their birth family, then of their home and customs. That is a lot to place on a child.

No wonder so many children struggle to adjust and connect.

I say this as someone who, I must confess, was unaware of the unconscious expectations I had for my daughter, and as someone who believed my “love” would conquer all. I was naïve.

Adoption was hard for me and my family, yes, but it was much harder for my daughter. The first five years were painful, but I will go down swinging and flighting for a child who had no choice in the matter (she didn’t choose to be adopted by me). I promised her forever, I promised her love and I promised her family.

Disruption is, sadly, not uncommon. Being a part of the adoption community means I have watched too many children not find their “forever home” with their original adoptive families. I have friends who have adopted children who were previously adopted by a different family. It is devastating for all involved, but never as traumatic as it is for the child.

If Huxley had abandonment issues and struggled to “fit in” with his family, how will he do in his next placement? It is possible he will question how long until the new family also decided he is “too much.” There are many accounts from adoptees and former foster children that lets us know these are real struggles for kids in these situations. And perhaps Huxley will do better with the new family, as can be the case when potential trauma triggers from the first family are out of the picture.

None of this takes away the fact that Huxley will grow up, and some day he may watch every single video posted about him. He will know that his first family benefited financially from posting videos and pictures that he never consented to. And on top of that, he will have to deal with the consequences of his pain being made public for views and followers.

It saddens me that Huxley will know his first family didn’t want him because he is autistic and they couldn’t “cope.” I hope he is surrounded by people that remind him he is worthy — because he is. He isn’t flawed, he didn’t do anything wrong and he doesn’t need to be different.

I hope he finds acceptance, patience and understanding. I hope he finds what “forever” truly means.

Screenshot via Myka Stauffer’s YouTube channel