A Bad Influence(r)

Nina Munro gives her opinion on the Myka Stauffer adoption controversy  

Written by: Nina Munro

I press play. Almost immediately, a whiney American voice greets me. She’s crying, he’s crying. So far, I think the video is of influencers announcing their divorce as they seem so concerned with themselves. The video, entitled “An update on our family”, tells the tale of an adoption-gone-wrong. 

Three years ago, influencers Myka and James Stauffer adopted a young boy from China. They were aware that he had additional support needs, later diagnosed as autism. The boy’s name is Huxley, and he is now four years old. The adoption process was filmed for their YouTube audience, with the family’s video of them meeting Huxley reaching more than 5.5 million views on YouTube at the time. Their family life has always been in the limelight, with pregnancy journeys, detailed updates on Huxley’s development and interviews carried out by Stauffer on the topic of caring for children with disabilities. 

Looking back on Myka’s videos from before the adoption, she outright discusses his diagnosis. She claims that her heart ‘stopped’ when she found out, and that it ‘felt like tears were running down her cheeks’ when James agreed to adopt Huxley. Her last video including Huxley was extremely positive, discussing the number of signs Huxley could make, and how well he was doing. However, on Tuesday 26th May, the couple revealed that they had ‘rehomed’ Huxley as a result of the difficulties they had found raising him. Before this announcement Huxley had notedly been missing from their social media posts and YouTube videos since late 2019. Now one search of Myka Stauffer on YouTube no longer takes you to her channel and hundreds of videos, but instead provides several hits on videos slamming Myka for her decision, one even labels her as a narcissist. 

Allegedly, the Stauffer family sought to adopt a child who had additional support needs but would not be ‘too difficult’ to care for. Unbelievably, Myka reportedly asked a Facebook group “what special needs are considered minor or relatively easy to manage that most people wouldn’t consider easy?”. The ignorance of the Stauffers can, therefore, be seen from the beginning, and in my opinion, they should never have been allowed to adopt Huxley in the first place. It is quite clear that the Stauffers could not cope with Huxley’s disability, and frankly should never have considered adopting a child with a disability if they were not fully prepared to support him long-term. 

The video itself is problematic, three minutes into the video and Myka has mostly spoken about herself: the struggle in making her decision, and how much she had tried to help Huxley. Surely, the important part would be talking about how Huxley is now safe, protected, and well? Not their struggles which they seem to have alleviated anyway, by giving up the child. She blames her decision on an unspoken thing that Huxley did in the home, which she will not mention due to the need to protect his privacy. However, the lack of explanation surrounding her decision has caused more anger on social media forums. Perhaps, she held back on revealing the real situation as she does not want the backlash for not having much of a reason at all. 

Stauffer discusses how she never showed their struggles, in an attempt to protect Huxley’s privacy. This highlights a key problem with the influencer lifestyle. Everything must seem perfect, nothing can ever go wrong. If she had posted about her struggles openly, Myka could have used her platform to help thousands of parents across the world in similar situations. Instead, she used her platform to act out this perfect lifestyle of a perfect family, guided by the perfect mother character she played – which frankly does not exist. Part of me even wonders whether giving Huxley up was a way to protect this ‘perfect’ status, as his behaviour supposedly threatened to disrupt their family life. Myka in the video lets us know that Huxley is now in a new home, with a ‘new mommy’ who has professional experience in caring for children with additional needs. However, there are multiple reports that Huxley has been fostered not readopted. This has no guarantee of ‘forever’, a guarantee he should have had with the Stauffers. 

What is terrifying about this situation, is the large platform Myka has, and the influence this decision could have on other families with adopted children, or children with additional-support needs, or even parents looking to adopt. If Huxley had been one of Myka’s biological children, would she have acted differently? This case has the potential to seriously impact other families’ decisions, the worry is that this could dispel couples from adopting children with additional-support needs. This would increase the number of children placed in foster care, which is arguably a more turbulent and damaging environment due to the constant change and lack of permanence.  

While I absolutely condemn the decision Myka and James took to adopt in the first place, my main concern is Huxley’s safety. One can only hope that he is safe and will be cared for in the way that he needs. At the end of the day, Myka and James are no longer his parents, and therefore as angry as we may be (and rightly so), the crux of what matters is Huxley.

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