The rehoming of the Stauffer’s adopted son has raised many ethical questions. Picture: istock
The rehoming of the Stauffer’s adopted son has raised many ethical questions. Picture: istock

Sorry influencers, you can’t just “rehome” adopted children

Remember back in 2017 when Girls creator and star, Lena Dunham rehomed her rescue dog Lamby and all the outrage and drama that subsequently followed? Aka - 'Lambygate'?

Well welcome to 2020, where everything is amped up 500 per cent, and instead of rehoming your pets, it's now children.

At least, that's the story for US social media influencer and former registered nurse Myka Stauffer and her husband James, who last week announced to their 700,000+ YouTube subscribers that their son, Huxley, who they adopted from China in 2017, is now with his "forever family," which evidently was not them.

Simply put, the couple, who share four biological children, rehomed their four-year-old son due to his autism and brain damage - conditions they were aware of prior to adopting him.

"After multiple assessments, after multiple evaluations, numerous medical professionals have felt that he needed a different fit in his medical needs … He needed more," Stauffer said in the YouTube video, adding, "Do I feel like a failure as a mum? 500 per cent."

Almost everyone would agree with her on this assessment, because the fact is Huxley is a human being and your child. And rehoming your son because it's too hard, isn't usually viewed as great parenting.

It's also worth nothing that the family only shared their decision to "rehome" their son after weeks of relentless questioning from followers as to where Huxley was.

James and Myka Stauffer with their four biological children and adopted son, Huxley (far right). Picture: Instagram
James and Myka Stauffer with their four biological children and adopted son, Huxley (far right). Picture: Instagram

The Stauffer's adoption of Huxley began in 2016 when the couple began documenting the international adoption process via their YouTube channel, stating that they wanted to grow their family in a "different way."

Subsequent videos provided more details, including that the boy they were adopting was a toddler with a "neurological" condition. The family then launched an appeal to their subscribers for monetary donations to help cover the costs of his additional needs.

Huxley's adoption journey culminated in a 2017 trip to China to bring him back to the US, the video of which has been viewed over 5.5 million times online.

Since then, the now four-year-old has been at the centre of many of Myka's vlogs, where she extensively shared details about him and identified herself as an 'additional needs adoption advocate'. Stauffer also provided interviews with multiple publications on the topic and earned paid partnerships with large US brands and advertising sponsorship on the back of her ability to sell her family's story.

Myka Stauffer with her son, Huxley, who has recently been “rehomed”. Picture: Instagram
Myka Stauffer with her son, Huxley, who has recently been “rehomed”. Picture: Instagram

Then, last year in September, she wrote in detail about the adoption experience and Huxley's progress, saying, "We were open to almost every special needs in the book … When we came home, we experienced a big surprise with inaccurate file information. Our son ended up having a stroke in utero, has level 3 autism, and sensory processing disorder. It took a lot of time to process and to readjust to his new diagnosis."

Despite this 'surprise', she concluded the story by saying, "I think international adoption is such a beautiful and special process that I will always cherish. Is there hardships and hiccups that you may not have faced being in the US? Totally. However, you're giving that child a future that would have never been possible." 

But fast forward eight months, to just last week, where the Stauffer family announced that they were no longer the right 'fit' for Huxley, and that they had 'rehomed' him to his "forever family."

Most would assume when the adoption process was completed in 2017, all parties involved, including Huxley, thought that the Stauffer's were his forever home and forever family. Isn't that the general gist of how parenting works?

Stauffer says Huxley (left) is thriving in his “forever home.” Picture: Instagram
Stauffer says Huxley (left) is thriving in his “forever home.” Picture: Instagram

Yet according to the Stauffers, international adoption, including the adoption of a child with additional needs and bringing them halfway across the world, does not mean that. Seemingly, it's just for while it suits them. While it benefits them. Until the 'additional needs adoption advocate' novelty wears off and the endorsements are no longer worth the effort.

Most people spend days, if not weeks and months considering what they can offer a pet before adopting an animal. And if we can put that level of consideration into a pet, you'd expect there to be even more consideration for a human child.

That when the Stauffers read of Huxley's "neurological condition" at the very beginning of the process, when they went through the complex and difficult process that is international adoption, when they flew their entire family to China to "bring him home", when they turned to their fans and asked for money, and when they said yes and signed yes, that they truly meant forever.

Because unlike Lamby the dog, Huxley is a human being. And yes, that is different.

While we now know that you can rehome a child that is legally yours, that doesn't make it right.

Myka, however, has justified her decision, saying that Huxley is "thriving, he is very happy, he is doing really well, and his new mommy has medical professional training and it is a very good fit. It's cool to see him transform."

The saddest thing about all of this, though, is that Huxley probably thought the same about his life with her.

Shona Hendley is a columnist for RendezView.com.au

Originally published as Sorry influencers, you can't just "rehome" adopted children



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