I can relate to Myka Stauffer, the woman who gave away her adoptive son, because I once made the same decision she did
On Mother's Day this year, James and Myka Stauffer released a tearful YouTube video admitting that the family had decided to "rehome" Huxley to better tailor him to his special needs.
At the end of May, the internet blew up when social media influencer Myka Stauffer announced that she had "rehomed" her 5-year-old adoptive son Huxley, who was born in China, after adopting him three years ago.
Stauffer and her husband James said the family was unaware of the depth of Huxley's behavioral and developmental problems when they first adopted him and had taken him in with another family.
Many fans hit the Stauffers, accusing them of adopting Huxley just to expand their YouTube brand and make money.
But rehoming occurs more often than you think. The author Erika Celeste reports on her experience with the complicated process of child rehabilitation.
You can find more stories on the Insider homepage.
Earlier this year, the internet exploded when social media influencer Myka Stauffer announced that she had "rehomed" her 5-year-old adoptive son Huxley, who was born in China.
Stauffer and her husband James documented Huxley's adoption in 2017 on their family's website and on The Stauffer Life YouTube channel, as well as on another channel called Myka Stauffer. Over the years, her YouTube presence grew with her family - the Stauffer had four biological children in addition to their adopted son.
Over the years, Myka and James have tried to take care of Huxley, a child they say is "severely retarded". Myka Stauffer reported in videos and articles like the one she wrote for The Bump in 2017 that made it clear to her "Huxley wasn't the one who needed to change - it was me."
Documenting this change and its challenges with Huxley and the family's "adoption journey" earned them press, sponsorship deals and followers - more than 700,000 of them.
On Mother's Day this year, the Stauffers released a tearful YouTube video titled "Where is Huxley," addressing the concerns of followers that the 5-year-old hadn't been featured in their videos for a while. In tears, Myka Stauffer admitted that the family had decided to "take Huxley" to better tailor him to his special needs.
"When Huxley came home, there were a lot more special needs that we didn't know," said James Stauffer in the video. Myka then assured viewers that the adoption agency they were working with could house him with a family that "literally fit perfectly".
Mika and James Stauffer responded to fans' concerns about their adoptive son Huxley in a YouTube video that has since been deleted and titled "Where is Huxley".
While some fans were compassionate after the announcement, others were outraged. The family's social media comments were on fire. "She must be in jail for fraud, fraud, abuse, neglect and exit from prison," wrote one angry follower, while another encouraged others to stop taking Stauffers' views. "This family is disgusting. Everyone who is still subject to these monsters must really take a close look!"
Giving up a child is one of the most painful decisions a parent will ever have to make. It is not quick or easy. It's an immersive, excruciating experience: weighing options, questioning every nook and cranny, while being judged by family, friends, and strangers who have no idea what's really happening.
I know because my family went through it.
Some international adoption agencies are accused of hiding children's physical and mental problems from potential adopters
In 2015, my husband and I lost a foster child that we had raised for 22 months and that we believed we could adopt. But in the eleventh hour he was reunited with his mother. It is almost impossible to raise a baby, to teach it to walk, speak and feed without falling in love.
Losing him was like death.
We vowed never to do nursing internships again, just kids before adoption. Most states have a special program whereby foster parents can only be paired with children who are already free for adoption.
Shiann came to us as the first internship in autumn. The 8-year-old was small for her age with big brown eyes, a button nose and a smile that illuminated the room. Not only was she cute, she also had a very cute personality. I really wanted her to be my girl forever.
Changing a child's name is something that prohibits childcare until a child is legally adopted, but Shiann, now 12, told us that she was called Lexi by one family and another by Annie.
"I thought that allowing them to change my first name meant that they wanted to keep and adopt me," said Shiann.
Not knowing a child's maiden name is a big deal, but in the big adoption scheme it's just the tip of the information iceberg.
In the case of the Stauffer, there were probably international barriers that may have contributed to their lack of information about Huxley's condition.
"With international adoptions, we sometimes find that in many countries no in-depth research or background checks are required, so adopting families may not know about uterine abuse or drug abuse or multiple movements between orphanages," said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said Insider.
A culture of rotating social workers, lost records, and missing or deceased birth parents are just a few of the many complicated reasons why there may be gaps in children's social and medical history.
In some cases, there are allegations that the lack of information from foreign adoption organizations is a calculated strategy to free authorities from wards with complicated physical or mental health problems from complicated care procedures and financial responsibilities.
There have been dozens of complaints about these misrepresentations. In 2016, Robert and Amy Meeker filed a lawsuit against an adoption agency claiming that they grossly misrepresented the health problems of a Chinese child they adopted. The child was suffering from a variety of health problems, including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and scoliosis, which would significantly shorten his life, and the Meekers argued that he should have been placed in an "end-of-life family" that was willing and willing and was able to provide end-of-life care and a child's funeral. "And in 2019, an Indiana family sued a Chinese adoption agency, claiming they lied about their adoptive child's age and withheld their history of sexual abuse.
"Adoption interviews often describe certain trauma or behavior in a way that is not always honest," said a foster father about the adoption process.
The US is doing a better job of keeping records and sharing information, but experts say there can still be problems.
"Unfortunately, there are also state and federal laws that prohibit some of the information that is useful for understanding a child's background," said Sharon Pierce, president and CEO of The Villages, Indiana’s largest nonprofit family service agency.
These problems can increase when families try to adopt older children.
"It's not just that children are being abused, it's terrible enough," said Soronen. "But the trauma lasts a lifetime and often has physiological effects on this child's brain that can manifest themselves in difficult behaviors."
Some of these behaviors include PTSD, which is diagnosed twice as often in foster and adoptive children as US war veterans, and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), a range of problems where children have poor social boundaries. In some cases, they can hug each other indiscriminately or sit on the lap of strangers, which the ignorant public thinks is cute or charming. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, they can be distracting, disobedient, and defiant.
Because children had to take care of themselves before adoption and are ultimately only children who often do not know how to express themselves appropriately, some can lie, steal, fight, break things or start fires as coping mechanisms.
"People need support, wisdom, advice, and additional help to address these difficult behaviors," Adam Pertman, president and CEO of the National Center for Adoption and Persistence (NCAP) told Insider. "Without this help, parents and social workers are stressed and take the quickest way out of the situation."
"Unfortunately, this sometimes means that social workers look at the short-term goal instead of the big picture and find the quick home instead of the best home forever," said Pierce.
The Stauffer said they knew that Huxley had developmental problems, but said they only found out about his diagnosis of autism and the severity of his developmental delays in the United States.
On February 16, Myka Stauffer expressed her frustration in one of her last Instagram posts about Huxley. "We have had many breakdowns and many behaviors have brought us on our knees to ask God for guidance. We rarely show the behaviors or the hard things on social media and YouTube because we do our best to respect our son's privacy and dignity. We have hard days, many of them. I wish autism and adoption trauma have a manual that will guide you through everything. "
The majority of people who end adoptions aren't angry - it's a lot more complicated
Nursing and adoptive father Tim Mullins has seen it many times.
"Adoption interviews often describe certain trauma or behavior in a way that isn't always honest," said Mullens. "Then behaviors begin to manifest, as always, and the adoptive family has no idea why the child is doing this."
Typically, "honeymoons" for children before adoption for a few weeks or even months in a new home before unleashing their emotions with a variety of behaviors, adoption experts say. They will behave well before testing the limits of their new adoptive parents. They are skeptical that their new family ties will be permanent.
According to the Center for Advanced Studies of Child Welfare, behavioral problems are mentioned as the main reason for the interruption of internships. However, the center says that children may also be placed in multiple homes because they do not get along with other children in the home. the child has become a danger to himself or others; or if their mental or physical health needs go beyond the capabilities of the adoptive parents. Sometimes it's just a matter of chemistry.
"Behaviors" are not quick tantrums or writing on the walls with a permanent marker. They are much more complex. One of the behaviors that some adoptive parents describe is that they never sleep longer than two or three hours so that parents never get a full night's sleep. Steal or break things; or managing an older child with a toddler’s mentality, but a larger body that can open and get into things that a toddler cannot.
"The majority of people who end adoptions are not evil beings who are mad at their children for not doing their homework. The problem is that parents have no service or support and feel desperate," said Pertman.
Nobody keeps a record of how often adoptive parents quit their parental rights. State child relief organizations, however, are required to keep data about American children from adoption (legally entitled to adopt) that have been placed in multiple homes.
Pertman said that rehabilitation of children due to behavioral problems is not a common problem, but a small and consistent one.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, around 125,000 adopted children are admitted each year.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, approximately 125,000 children who are eligible for adoption were mated with a new home not once or twice, but three or more times. And this number only reflects children in the care system, not those who are adopted internationally or privately. Programs such as Second Chance Adoption, an initiative from the Wasatch International Adoption program, were created to specifically facilitate the safe and legal re-election of children.
For many of these children, the emotional scars of multiple adoption can be catastrophic, no matter how good the program sounds.
"Children are expected to leave everything they know," said Pierce. "We can all relate to this experience of losing with Covid-19 and order at home to a lesser extent if we couldn't live our lives the way we always had."
With every new internship for a foster child, the chances of adoption decrease
Maybe it was too early for Shiann to come into our lives. Part of me felt like betraying the child we had lost. Another part was afraid of being hurt again, as if I had been with the baby. Yes, we had a promise that it would be ours, but I had heard that promise before, just to tear my heart out.
At the same time, foster mother Heather Vance, whom I met through an online support group for care and adoption, found that I had Shiann. Heather knew Shiann from church on her previous internship and had even watched her for a short time. We started with instant messaging.
"I know I shouldn't, but I have to ask, how is Shiann? Are you adopting her? I love this little girl so much and I'm devastated by what happened. I just want to make sure she's happy "wrote Heather.
In a 2017 article, Stauffer said, "Huxley wasn't the one who needed to change - it was me."
I asked what was wrong with me. How could Heather connect with Shiann immediately and I didn't feel the same connection? How did she know after a short time that she loved her when I didn't know what I was feeling? Why did it seem like everyone in my support groups had such wonderful experiences and a happy life when I was so scared, frustrated and inappropriate?
"Rarely do people publish their daily struggles on their social media accounts, also because we are driven by society to showcase the best parts of our lives and not our struggles," said Dr. Kristen Fuller in a December 2017 article by Psychology Today.
"I think that applies not only to adoptive families, but to all families," said Pierce. "We want to show our best face on social media to the world. It takes strength to ask for help, and we all need to encourage our foster and adoptive families to ask about it."
Because in my experience foster and adoptive parents want to prove themselves so worthy, they go overboard and show the wonderful things and hide the not so big parts of life. In reality, we also need to see the other side so that we can learn from each other and how we can do it.
I have thought a lot. Shiann should be my girl forever. How could i go away I just couldn't do that to her.
Children who are housed in more than one home face a greater number of social, emotional and academic problems and suffer from low self-esteem, grief, depression and anger. Not to mention that the Casey Foundation reports with every new internship that the chances of adoption decrease.
How could I tell Shiann that we weren't home forever or faced her case manager who trusted her? What would our friends and family think or say? I drowned and there were no good answers.
I hoped it would get better over time, so I hesitated.
But things have not changed.
I finally decided that I wanted more parents: being a good parent means doing the best for your child, even if it's not easy or the best for you. Love gives what is needed. In my case, it meant not being Shiann's mother.
Fortunately, I knew exactly who her mother should be: Heather.
Before I called the case manager, I contacted Heather and we made a concerted effort to ensure that Shiann landed where it belonged.
"I was talking to Shiann when she came back," Heather said. "I remember telling her that I'm not sure I'm her eternal mother, but let's just get to know each other."
Heather had also suffered a loss recently. The twins she had cared for for over a year had recently been returned to her father. As a single woman, she wasn't sure if Shiann would be better in a two-parent household, but none of that mattered to Shiann.
"I knew she was perfect for me," Shiann said to me recently. "I was sad when I wasn't allowed to stay with her for the first time. But when I got back, I knew she would be my mother."
On November 22, 2016, Shiann Emma Vance Heather's legal daughter.
"God had a plan and we should find each other," Heather said. "She is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am grateful to be her mother."
The rehoming process needs better monitoring
"Most of the news that posts the news is people who do it themselves," said NCAP's Pertman. "Maybe the rehomed family is a good one, but that could only be an untrained family judgment. There must be structure and advice so that the transfer works legally, ethically and morally in the best interests of the children."
Even with older children like Huxley adopting privately, new parents need to do a home study and background check to make sure they fit well. Part of the controversy surrounding Huxley's new option is that it is unclear whether his parents followed the legal protocol. Citing the desire to protect Huxley's privacy, the Stauffer didn't go into detail about where the 5-year-old now lives.
Since Heather adopted her, I've seen Shiann grow from a distance to a beautiful young lady.
There have been times when I saw a contribution from Heather and Shiann who are attacking mother-daughter selfies and I regret a little what could have been. But mostly I'm very happy that they found each other.
Furthermore, if Shiann had stayed with me, there is a good chance that my husband and I would not have adopted 5-year-old Christopher. He'd been to ten nursing homes in two years, including a few adoptive homes.
Life wasn't perfect. Christopher has some behavior problems, but something about him clicked only for us.
Angry followers of Myka Stauffer have launched a petition from Change.org asking YouTube to demonstrate Huxley-related content.
"Do I feel like a failure as a mother? Like 500% '
"After multiple reviews, after multiple reviews, many medical professionals feel that he needs a different adjustment to his medical needs, he needs more," Myka said in her video, in which she revealed Huxley's rehoming.
The video has since been removed from Stauffer's YouTube page, but the family story is still going on. Some fans have come together to defend the family and applauded them for making such a painful decision public. A small industry of armchair experts has emerged to diagnose Stauffer as a narcissist and opportunist. Still others say that the Stauffers used Huxley to gain followers and lucrative partnerships with brands like Fabletics and Glossier. At the end of May, a Change.org petition was circulated asking YouTube to remove all monetized videos using Huxley.
"We request that your videos with Huxley and / or content related to Huxley be immediately exposed and removed from the platform," the petition said. "This boy has suffered enough; it shouldn't be public and no longer improve her income." More than 150,000 people signed, and by early June, the Stauffers had set all Huxley-related content private to effectively demonstrate it.
This did not prevent Stauffer from losing fans and brand stores. Several large sponsors have ended their partnerships with her. And while Huxley's videos and pictures were removed from Stauffer's social media accounts, his photo remains on The Stauffer Life's website under "The Team".
While videos with Huxley were removed from the family's public YouTube account, Huxley's photo is still on the Stauffer Life website and is still included in a large family portrait that can be found on the website's homepage.
"The past few months have been the most difficult I could have imagined," said Myka Stauffer. "Do I feel like a failure as a mother? 500%."
YouTube is, of course, full of happy adoption stories - videos documenting a happy family expanding their brood. But few families have uncovered the more difficult part of their travels. The Stauffer reminds us that YouTube usually only reveals the shiny, disinfected parts.
The decision to adopt a child with special needs is a great unknown. Most families that adopt have very big hearts. You have the best of intentions. They see young children with pain and significant needs and think, "We are big enough and strong enough to do this."
Unfortunately, sometimes they have to admit that the adoption just doesn't work.
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