Dear Adoptive Parents, It’s Not About You

Photo by Dimitri de Vries on Unsplash

Originally published on Age of Awareness.
An average of 135,000 children are adopted each year within the United States⁸. Adoption, which has existed in America for more than 150 years, is a messy process even in the best of circumstances, and nearly every child who is adopted has experienced trauma in one way or another³.

It comes as no surprise that adoption is a hot topic on the internet; hundreds of adoptive parents share stories about the children they have adopted — a practice that many adoptees feel is exploitive and a clear invasion of the child’s privacy.

A glaring example of this is the recent scandal involving Myka Stauffer, a vlogger whose YouTube channel focuses on parenting and family life. Her channel has over 700,000 subscribers and almost every video she has posted includes her kids⁵.

In the summer of 2016, Myka posted her first video about adoption to announce that she and her husband, James, wanted to adopt a child. She stated that they specifically want to adopt a child who has a medical condition because it is generally harder for them to get adopted. Myka posted videos continuously in the following months detailing their “adoption journey.” In one video, Myka tells her viewers that the boy they want to adopt has a brain tumor. Despite this, the Stauffers decided to adopt anyway and in October of 2017, the couple welcomed a two-and-a-half-year-old boy from China named Huxley into their family. Almost immediately, Huxley began appearing in videos with the other Stauffer children⁵.

The Stauffers’ story warmed hearts as viewers watched Huxley bond with his new family. It was inspiring for many people, and Myka’s channel saw a spike in subscribers as a result⁵.

In an article on Parade.com in 2019, it was revealed that the original information Myka and James were given concerning Huxley’s medical needs was incorrect; in addition to the brain tumor, Huxley had a stroke in utero, stage 3 autism, and sensory processing disorder². Unfortunately, misinformation in international adoptions is not an unheard-of problem due to a lack of enforced regulation⁴.

Huxley appeared on Myka’s channel consistently since his adoption in 2017. However, at the beginning of 2020, Huxley disappeared from the videos without warning. After months of Huxley’s absence from the channel, the couple finally gave an explanation. In a video posted just last week, they revealed their decision to dissolve the adoption. The reasons they give for their decision are centered around his medical needs and their lack of being able to give him the attention he needs⁵.

The Stauffers have made a living by broadcasting their life, their kids’ lives, and Huxley’s story. Throughout the process of Huxley’s adoption and during his time with the Stauffers, many of the videos on Myka’s channel were monetized, and Myka even collected donations from her viewers to pay for the adoption⁵.

The Stauffers exploited Huxley and his story for profit. Perhaps they did have good intentions when they adopted him — many adoptive parents do —but good intentions do not erase the damage the Stauffers have done to Huxley by failing to provide him with a stable home. Myka and her husband have inevitably exposed Huxley to trauma that he doesn’t understand, and they have most likely caused further damage to his already impaired cognitive development. A study done by the Urban Project suggests that children under the age of five who experience continued residential instability and family transitions are more likely to face problems with social adjustments and academic success and are more likely to have problem behaviors such as violent tendencies, tantrums, etc⁷.

The problem with adoptive parents like the Stauffers is that their public documentation of their child’s adoption takes the narrative away from the child and the adoption becomes about the parents. In the video the Stauffers posted last week, Myka says that she knows it isn’t about her, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Not once in the video does the couple acknowledge the damage they have caused to Huxley’s development¹. Instead of focusing on Huxley’s struggle, they focused on their struggle to raise Huxley, and, to make matters worse, they profited from it.

This is not an isolated incident; there are hundreds of adoptive parents who steal the narrative from their children. For instance, in 2018, an orphan advocacy group called the Archibald Project shared a post on their website titled, “Helpful Advice If You Don’t Like Your Adopted Child.” The anonymous author discussed the struggles that come with adopting a child who has experienced significant developmental problems stating that she has “struggled for years to bond, attach, and actually like my child.” She describes the child she adopted as unnerving and disruptive, saying, “we were exhausted and beat down and only had an ugly shadow of ourselves left to pour into this very fragile and insecure human⁴.” Again, a pattern of focusing on her struggles instead of her child’s emerges and the adopted child is once again cast in a negative light due to circumstances outside their control.

The adoptive parents of the internet like the Stauffers and the anonymous author on the Archibald Project are major problems for their own children and for the world of adoption. Being adopted is not an identity and being an adoptive parent is not a badge of honor; it is selfish to suggest or pretend otherwise.

Sources

[1] “An Update on Our Family.” Youtube, uploaded by Myka Stauffer, 26 May 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozthKDdSMZQ&t=4s.

[2] Galla, Brittany. “Myka Stauffer Opens Up About Adoption.” Parade, Parade, 29 May 2020, parade.com/918868/brittany_galla/international-adoption-special-needs-myka-stauffer/.

[3] “Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope With Trauma.” Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope With Trauma, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015.

[4] “Helpful Advice If You Don’t Like Your Adopted Child.” The Archibald Project, The Archibald Project, 14 Nov. 2018, http://www.thearchibaldproject.com/blog/advice-for-when-you-dont-like-your-adopted-child.

[5] McNeal, Stephanie. “A YouTuber Placed Her Adopted Autistic Son From China With A New Family — After Making Content With Him For Years.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 29 May 2020, http://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stephaniemcneal/myka-stauffer-huxley-announcement.

[6] mtown97. “Orphan Fever: The Dark Side of International Adoption .” UAB Institute for Human Rights Blog, 22 Jan. 2020, sites.uab.edu/humanrights/2018/03/13/orphan-fever-the-dark-side-of-international-adoption/.

[7] Sandstorm, Heather, and Sandra Huerta. “The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis.” Urban Institute, Urban Institute, Sept. 2013, http://www.urban.org/research/publication/negative-effects-instability-child-development-research-synthesis.

[8] “US Adoption Statistics.” Adoption Network, Adoption Network Law Center, adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics.

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EmyDeshotel

Emy Deshotel is a journalist and creative writer whose works have appeared in literary journals, magazines, and newspapers.

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