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Family: It’s About Love and Perseverance

Updated: Jan 17

By Melissa Lushington, "Don't Cut Corners...Unless It's Cake" Blog Series - Slice #21

Photo Credit: Media from Wix

In an article titled, Myka Stauffer says she was 'foolish' to adopt after placing son with new family, devastating news broke out over a year ago when then YouTuber Myka Stauffer and her ongoing YouTuber husband James Stauffer made a video about a controversial decision, they made regarding their autistic son Huxley who they adopted from China back in 2017. As stated by Reporter Alexander Kacala, “In an emotional video that has since been made private, Stauffer and her husband, James Stauffer, explained that Huxley, who has autism and a sensory processing disorder, is living with a "new mommy" in a "forever home."”.

In another article titled, Authorities are investigating 'well-being' of Huxley Stauffer, NBC News Reporter Gwen Aviles reported that Myka and James were unaware about the severity of Huxley’s special needs when she states, “The couple adopted Huxley from China in 2017 and said they were not aware the extent of his special needs when they brought him home.” For this reason, Myka Stauffer explained her reasoning for giving away her son when she states, "After multiple evaluations, numerous medical professionals have felt that he needed a different fit and that [with] his medical needs, he needed more.” Referring to the first article, Myka again apologized for her controversial decision in a post she made on Instagram by explaining she was a naive arrogant fool throughout the adoption process, and that she wished she was more prepared for what she was signing up for when she states, “…I was naïve, foolish, and arrogant. I wish so bad I would have been more prepared and done more. I wish the decision to disrupt never had to be made," Some people who looked at the apology were able to be reasonable, fair, and empathetic towards the couple. In an article titled, I can relate to Myka Stauffer, the woman who gave away her adoptive son, because I once made the same decision she did, Author Erika Celeste explains the difficulties in giving away a child when she states, “Giving up a child is one of the most painful, gut-wrenching decisions a parent ever has to make. It's not made quickly or lightly. It's a haunting, agonizing experience: weighing options, scrutinizing every angle, second-guessing, while being judged by family, friends, and strangers who have no idea what's really happening.” However, the majority lashed out in outrage over the couple’s decision as fans as well as sponsorship companies were distancing themselves from the Stauffer family. I am not one to throw stones and cast judgement, I do not think that Myka and James are cold-blooded evil monsters, I just think that they made bad decisions that involved an innocent child. However, there is backlash towards this couple for a reason and the reason is because they CHOSE to adopt a child from a foreign country, who they knew to have special needs, and despite the warnings that professionals told them about Huxley, they went ahead with the adoption anyway. They documented their entire experience with Huxley on video for YouTube viewers to see, and they gained viewers, sponsors, and money off Huxley as well. The fact that Huxley was given away because of the challenges of raising an autistic child is not something I agree with. Family is about unconditional love that helps you grow as an individual, and I am not the only one who feels this way.

In an article titled, Parents touched by adoption react to Myka Stauffer controversy: 'Not again' Author Lisa Cleary expressed her feelings about the Huxley situation when she states, "As an adoptee, the term 'rehoming' is offensive, because it’s traditionally used with rescue and shelter animals as if they weren't the initial right fit. In adoptions of children, the term can be associated with placing children in new homes and, if not researched, that can (and has) put children in danger," John DeGarmo who is the director of The Foster Care Institute and a foster care expert, looked at Huxley’s story and thought, "Oh my goodness. Not again.". As an adopted father himself, John revealed his personal experience when he adopted his daughter. He told TODAY Parents, "I have experienced this in my own home. I had a child come to my home who was adopted by three different families,". He continued by saying that after his daughter joined his family, "she had tremendous issues with trust and attachment." Then he explained the aftermath effects that the Stauffer family will likely experience after giving away Huxley when he states, "There is going to be tremendous consequences for all involved. For the parents, Huxley, their other four children. There are feelings of grief, trauma and anxiety," As someone who was adopted from Korea by an American couple when she was two months old, Lisa Cleary expressed more her uneasy feelings about the Huxley situation when she states, "I personally do not know the Stauffers, but what makes me uncomfortable is to wonder: would parents be just as likely to place for adoption their biological children who have special needs? I’d lean towards no," She continued on explaining to TODAY Parents the favoritism between biological children and adoptive children when she states, "That then adds a stigma to adopted children, such as to myself, that we’re 'different than' and perhaps 'less permanent than' biological children."President and CEO of the National Council For Adoption Chuck Johnson gave his thoughts on the Huxley situation as well saying that “adoption dissolution” (which is the proper term for when an adoptive family gives away a child) is uncommon when he states, "It’s one more setback for the innocent child and one more failure in a long line of failures to protect the child and accomplish his best interests. And, yes, it’s hard for those of us who champion adoption as a viable option for children for the inaccurate message it sends about children, about adoptive families, and about adoption," Finally, John DeGarmo explained that there are many adoptive parents who love their children unconditionally and would never give them away for anything in the world when he states, "Speaking as an adoptive father, I know most parents who have adopted children love them completely and would never consider giving up on them — yet this will be the takeaway by some if this is all they know about adoption," In an article titled, My Autistic Brother Made Me Who I Am, Commerce Editor/Writer from Hearst Magazines Digital Media Bianca Rodriguez wrote an article about her autistic brother Dominic and how he made her the person she is today. First, she explained the joy she felt when she met her brother for the first time when she states, “As I held him in my small, 8-year-old arms for the first time, I immediately felt bonded in a way only older siblings do; a love so deep it would be impossible to reach the bottom of my heart.” Next, she explained about Dominic’s autism diagnosis and how the family felt after the diagnosis when she states, “Dominic was diagnosed at two-and-a-half years old. While his diagnosis came as a shock, I accepted it and moved on. My parents, searching for blame, were bitter and lost for some time. It was like a light went out and we didn't have a replacement bulb.” Then she explained the challenges that Dominic gave her and her parents through the years when she states, “My brother’s tick, the thing that sets him off, started with us. It was, unfortunately, resulting in a growing number of violent outbursts when things in his environment weren’t the way he wanted them to be. As Dominic got older, he couldn’t control his strength or temper. Most of our arguments would start with food, then escalate. One time, on my watch, he nearly ate a full large pizza; when I came in to grab the last couple of slices, he dug his nails into my left hand, refusing to let go until I gave up the pizza. The scars are a reminder.” Then she talked about the decision that her family made that resulted in a similar yet different decision when she states, “The physical and emotional toll proved to be too much for my family. Four months ago, we decided to place my brother in a facility that specializes in caring for children with autism. It's located 40 minutes from my mother's house in California, and we can visit him whenever we want, as long as we give notice, but we are no longer able to provide him with the full-time care he deserves. Between four and seven aides monitor his surroundings 24/7 as they work to give him a life worth living.” What makes this decision different from the Stauffer family is that while Myka and James gave away Huxley to a new family, Bianca and her parents just placed Dominic in a facility that specializes in caring for children with autism. Still, the decision made about Dominic was not an easy one and Bianca expressed her feelings about it when she states, “I felt sick with grief. Before he left I tried and tried to tell him how much I loved him, that I wanted to give him everything. How could I be sure he understood me when he’s never been able to say one word to me?” Then she explained that families who do not live together, can remain close while being apart when she states, “No matter where he lives, Dominic is still my brother, the most important person in my life. I care for him so much that sometimes I don’t think I could possibly treasure anyone else more. Families live apart sometimes but remain close.” After the Myka controversy broke out, Bianca expressed how she can’t imagine families giving up or un-adopting their autistic child. She also explains that without Dominic, she never would have understood the true meaning of family and she would have been a much different person when she states, “I think the girl without Dominic would be irresponsible, impatient, insensitive, and unsupportive. Because of Dominic, I’ve learned that the word family means strength, and picking up the slack when others can't, and that there’s no cap on selflessness.” Finally, in an article titled, I considered 'rehoming' my child with autism like a famous YouTube family did, but could never go through with it, Disability Advocate and Avid Photographer Jamie Davis Smith explained that she experienced a similar situation and almost made the same decision with her autistic daughter Claire, but couldn’t go through with it in the end when she states, “Like the Stauffers, I struggled when my oldest, Claire, now 13, was born with multiple and severe disabilities. At times, when things got particularly stressful, I considered moving Claire into a residential facility, where she might be among people better equipped to handle her needs. But no matter how much easier it would've made our lives in some ways, I couldn't go through with it.”

In conclusion, Despite the circumstances that Huxley went through with the Stauffer family, he is in a better place now with a new family where he is happy and thriving well. As stated in an article titled, Happy at last: Adopted son dumped by influencer Myka Stauffer finds new home,“Huxley is now "happy" in his new home and his even calling his new mum "momma", according to documents cited by a new Buzzfeed report.” Even though Huxley is doing better with his life right now, I still want you all to learn a valuable lesson after reading this blog post: family is about love and perseverance, not convenience. It is a choice to be a parent, whether it’s through natural birth, adoption, or having a surrogate parent. With any child you receive, you never know what that child is going to be like. However, no matter the challenges that come your way, it is still a life-long commitment that you signed up for BY CHOICE. I may not be a parent, but I was a child once. I may have given my parents a headache at times, but I could not imagine them giving up on me and placing me with a new family simply because I was too much for them to handle. There is no such thing as a picture-perfect family, we all have been through many different challenges and struggles. What matters though, is when a family perseveres through every obstacle together with grit and determination. Families stay together through thick and thin, not when it’s convenient and most suitable. So, learn to embrace the reality that no one is perfect, but it’s our imperfections that make a family beautiful. As stated by Bianca Rodriguez, “The idea of a perfect family doesn't exist, no matter how intensely pop culture reinforces that narrative. Who wants perfect anyway? I think it’s really the imperfections that make things a masterpiece.”

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