What to know about adoption after Myka Stauffer’s story

Parenting influencer Myka Stauffer’s recent video, in which she and her husband announced that they had placed their adopted son in a new home, sparked intense backlash online from critics accusing her of “exploiting” and “throwing away” her son. The deluge of online dialogue and the intense media coverage of the situation has some adoption experts like Dr. John DeGarmo worried. Stories like the Stauffers’ may discourage parents from adopting or encourage others not to take the adoption process seriously. Adoption is a rewarding process and serious responsibility, DeGarmo says, so potential parents need to keep in mind the realities of adoption: from the oftentimes lengthy and difficult adoption process to challenges of adjustment. Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In May, parenting vlogger Myka Stauffer posted a video to her YouTube channel in which she and her husband revealed that they had placed their son Huxley, who they adopted from China in 2017 and frequently featured in monetized content, in a new home.After years of attempted interventions to address Huxley’s developmental disabilities, the Stauffers said, medical professionals suggested that the toddler “needed more” than they could offer in their home. Stauffer told viewers she felt as though she’d “failed as a mom,” but was happy to report that Huxley was adjusting well to his new circumstances. “He 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,” she said. 

The video sparked swift backlash from viewers who accused Stauffer of “throwing away” her child, “exploiting” Huxley in monetized videos and Instagram posts, and “giving up” when her son’s autism required serious interventions. After being contacted by several outraged commenters, Stauffer’s former brand partners like Fabletics and Danimals stated that they had no future plans to work with the Stauffer family. After receiving several inquiries regarding Huxley’s welfare, The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office told BuzzFeed News that it was working with “several other agencies” to investigate the situation. Amid the extensive media coverage of the family’s situation and dialogue online about the Stauffers’ ethics and parenting abilities, adoption experts like Dr. John DeGarmo, the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute, feel that there needs to be a larger discussion about the realities of foster care and adoption.

“My first reaction to the video was ‘oh, this is not good,'” DeGarmo, who has had over 60 foster children in his home and adopted three children, told Insider. “I worried that others would reconsider adoption in a negative fashion, or assume that [Myka Stauffer’s] experience is the norm. Or maybe they might take the responsibilities of adoption less seriously because they thought they could just do what she did.”The dialogue surrounding adoption and foster care, he explained, can often be riddled with myths and oversimplifications. As a result, those considering the adoption process could be unprepared.Here’s what DeGarmo says people should remember about adoption in light of the incident. A situation like the Stauffers’ is rare, but adoption dissolutions do happen.

Huxley lived with the Stauffers (and appeared in their videos) for nearly 3 years before he was placed with a new family.

Myka Stauffer/YouTube

Approximately 125,000 adoptions happen in the United States every year. Between one and five percent of these adoptions, DeGarmo says, will result in dissolution, meaning that the family places the child back into the system. 

A new placement typically happens earlier on in the process than in the Stauffers’ situation, as Huxley lived in their home for well over two years before being placed with a different family, but situations arise in which children are put back into the system after years with one family. “It’s an awfully long time, but it’s not unheard of,” DeGarmo said of Huxley’s second adoption, noting that a 17-year-old had been placed in his home after being adopted by three different families over the course of nine years. Post-adoption depression is a possibility for both parents and children.”Post-adoption depression is pretty common for adopted families,” DeGarmo said, noting that the condition affects as many as 65% of mothers who adopt. In some cases, depression arises when parents feel that they have not bonded with a child as quickly as they would have liked to. In other cases, parents may experience depression if they find that they aren’t fully prepared to address the challenges and needs of the children they bring into their homes (from treating medical conditions to navigating social adjustments). Other parents face post-adoption depression in instances where they haven’t fully worked through their own traumas prior to adoption, such as the grief of experiencing infertility. 

Children are likely to experience post-adoption depression, DeGarmo says, as they struggle to process unresolved grief that often accompanies adoption. “Adoption can be a loss for children. It’s sometimes a loss of their biological family members, and for children who are older when they’re adopted, that grief can be even stronger,” he explained. “So there may be some circumstances where they’re struggling with their own grief — maybe they feel that they betrayed their biological family members — and that can really affect the attachment and the bonding that should happen when a child is adopted.”Those attachment issues, he says, can contribute to parents’ post-adoption depression as well. Adoption can be a difficult process, particularly when adopting from foster care. 

Dr. John Degarmo and his family. He has had over 60 foster children in his home and formally adopted three children.

John DeGarmo

“Honestly, one of the biggest myths is that many kids are actually available for adoption and that foster care to adoption is an easy process,” DeGarmo explained.

Children within the foster care system are not always eligible for adoption — in 2010, DeGarmo said a recent Medium post, only 107,000 out of 560,000 children placed in foster care became eligible for adoption. Only 53,000 of those children were adopted that year (with over half being adopted by foster parents and the remainder being adopted by family members). The process of adopting from foster care also takes time — nearly 60% of children in foster wait two or more years before being adopted, DeGarmo says. Centering the child’s needs is crucial in any successful adoption.

John DeGarmo and his family.

John DeGarmo

Ultimately, DeGarmo says, the child is at the center of the entire adoptions process — and a successful transition requires keeping the child’s need at the heart of all decision-making.”Every effort should be made to ensure that the child receives the support, love, and resources [they] need,” he wrote.

This includes, he explained, procuring the necessary professional help and therapy to address any challenges the child might be facing, adjusting expectations and not expecting treatment and intervention to resolve every problem, and understanding that “simply loving” a child will not necessarily ease the challenges of adjustment. Most importantly, DeGarmo writes, adoptive families need to embrace the fact that their families may not look and operate exactly like other families. These differences, in fact, should be celebrated. Read more:A parenting YouTuber faced backlash for ‘rehoming’ her adopted son with autism after monetizing his videos. This is how the story unfolded.

The case of the YouTubers who ‘rehomed’ their adoptive child with autism is being investigated by the authoritiesI considered ‘rehoming’ my child with autism like a famous YouTube family did, but could never go through with it

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