Small Sacrifices

A friend commented on a music video I posted to Facebook inspired by today’s full moon, known as the Wolf Moon, this – Unfortunately, that song always reminds me of the woman who shot her kids to be with a married man. This song was said to be one of her favorites. Yikes !! Talk about unintended consequences . . .

It does appear that my friend was at least correct that a natural mother (not the first time as the news goes in general) shot her own children and then made up a story to cover for the deed – She claimed she was carjacked on a rural road near Springfield by a strange man who shot her and the children. Upon arrival at the hospital, the oldest child, Cheryl who was age 7, was already dead. The youngest, Danny age 3 was paralyzed from the waist down. The second child, Christie age 8 had suffered a disabling stroke. The mother had been shot in the left forearm.

In 1973, she had married a man she met in high school. Her first child was born in 1974. The next in 1976 and the youngest in 1979. However the couple divorced in 1980 because the husband suspected the youngest child was not his but the product of an extramarital affair of his wife’s. The prosecution argued that the mother had shot her children, so she could continue her affair with a married man who did not want children.

Sometimes, a parent really is not fit to raise their children. In prison, the woman was diagnosed with narcissistic, histrionic, antisocial personality disorders and labeled a “deviant sociopath”. And the judge intends that he dies not intend for the mother to ever be released from prison in her lifetime. The two surviving children went on to live with the lead prosecutor and his wife, who adopted them in 1986. Prior to her arrest, the mother became pregnant with a fourth child. She gave birth to a girl, who was seized by the State of Oregon and adopted. That girl has appeared on national television saying that she regards her mother as “a monster.”

A Belief That Enables

When you make a decision, you make that decision consciously for only 5% maximum, the rest of your decision (95%) is controlled by your subconscious mind. The decision to adopt a child is conscious but there are subconscious factors below that which are influencing or will influence your experience as an adoptive parent. Some couples adopt for the same reason some couples decide to have a biological child – in order to save a marriage by bonding it with a child. Of course, the couples who adopt generally have other factors – most especially an experience with infertility and failed attempts at using reproductive medical assistance to have a child biologically. In other words, many adoptions actually start out on shaky ground to begin with.

So today, I came across something else that is more than a little bit disturbing. I hasten to add a trigger warning at this point for anyone for whom child abuse discussions might be too emotionally upsetting to continue. Having done my due diligence in this regard – you can proceed reading or leave this blog warned and saved the painful recollections.

It is sometimes asked – Why did they adopt just to abuse them. There is an assumption that adoptive parents wouldn’t abuse their adopted children because they went to so much effort to adopt them. All parents are capable of some degree of abuse – even with a great deal of love and often from ignorance or poor examples growing up. Therefore, it is dangerous to put any adoptive parent on a pedestal because sometimes adoptees are abused. It is a sad fact – and sad anytime any child is severely abused by any adult person for that matter. When the abuse starts… the people around them often say: well, those kids are very troubled and acting out. The adoptive parents are doing the best they can. Who can really blame them for doing what they have to do in order to control that child ?

One reason that it doesn’t shock or confuse me that some adoptive parents might harm their adoptees is that I have become aware of how common a trait of narcissism is among adoptive parents. Wanting a child doesn’t mean you’re going to treat them well. Adoption is inherently a selfish act – regardless of what you believe is motivating you. An adoptive parent may expect their adopted child to be compliant with any of their expectations or demands. That parent may lash out at their adoptee when they don’t meet those. Adoptive parents are not exempt from having anger issues and abusive tendencies.

Sometimes this abuse doesn’t begin immediately but when that cute baby becomes a rebellious teen. One adoptee shared her example – my adoptive mother actually said to me when I was 7 yrs old – “We wanted a baby, and you’re not a baby anymore.” That is how she explained they were going to adopt a baby boy.

Abuse is about possession and control. And in a weird, twisted kind of logic many abusers don’t actually think are they abusive. An abusive narcissistic parent may think they are a really good one. Being abusive goes against the savior narrative that so many adoptive parents have accepted as their reason for adopting. Adoption seems to be a process that attracts people who need to feel good about themselves. And once they’ve completed the adoption, they feel effectively immune from criticism because, after all, it was such a “selfless” act to rescue a child in need.

People adopt simply because they want kids. However, they may not actually have any idea of how to raise those children, once they have achieved that primary goal. These kinds of adoptive parents may have difficulty accepting that the child they adopted is an individually separate person with ideas of their own, desires, wants, and needs that do not necessary mirror the adoptive parent. In fact, often don’t While nurturing plays a role in the kind of person we each become – adoptee reunions with their birth parents after they reach maturity often prove – there is more to the genetic influences than many in the adoption industry want society to believe.

Another example comes from an adoptee with an emotionally immature mother – “She wasn’t able to have children and I think she thought a child would fix her. I was adopted at birth. I believe she thought I’d be a mini version of her but when I had my own emotions and interests, she couldn’t handle it. In came the weird emotional games.” It is way too common for adoptive parents to adopt a baby as a way to fix their own issues. It never works that way.

The abuse somehow feeds into these adoptive parents’ need to feel like they are doing something good. They are a “strong” parent and showing these troubled kids “tough love.” And then, there’s always the go-to excuse so many adoptees have hard – They should be grateful. They could have it so much worse. Never say to an adoptee sharing their experience something like – Just because you were abused by your adoptive parents, that’s why you hate adoption. Or sorry you had a bad experience. An experience sounds like a short term event. Adoption is lifelong.

Dismissing any adoptees’ discontent and trauma is victim blaming, also called gaslighting. It is an attempt to control the adoptees’ story in order not to break their happy, little “adoption is rainbows and butterflies” illusion.

A Deep Evolutionary, Hormonal Need

A couple of questions were asked of adoptive parents in an all things adoption group I belong to –

Does being an adoptive parent feel the way you thought it would before you adopted ?

Does it fulfill your needs ?

In fairness, the question could be asked of biological/genetic parents as well. So it was that this thoughtful woman attracted my attention with her response –

She says directly that she is not an adoptive parent. She is a grandmother and the mother of 3 adult biological children with some post-divorce estrangement issues. She is the child of narcissistic parents from whom she picked up narcissistic habits that she’s now trying to recognize and eradicate within herself.

She describes herself as “a middle-aged woman coming to terms with my own flaws, strengths, and failures of both commission and omission. The questions shown above are phrased like arrows —bound to pierce anyone who truly is open to them.” She goes on to admit that these are great questions— and horrible questions, too. For sure, necessary— probably for ANY parent, but especially for adoptive parents.

She says honestly, “At each and every stage of motherhood I could have answered Yes and No to the first question. PARENTHOOD overall does not always feel AT ALL the way we think it will, before we experience it. And parenthood itself has plenty of rosy myths associated with it— but obviously NOT the sanctity and saviorism that gilds our culture’s concept of adoption and adoptive parenthood.”

She notes that – “The second question is intended to be an unsettling question— even for biological parents. We’ve got a huge biological imperative to bear children, as a species, so there’s a deep evolutionary, hormonal sense of “need” to procreate for which I don’t think we should be shamed. Many humans get pregnant by accident, or without much thought given to the repercussions of sex.”

Once a living, breathing child exists, that person is NOT AT ALL here to fulfill the parent’s needs. And it doesn’t take very long for that one to be recognized. Even so, we do not always realize that. During the toughest years of parenting, most parents barely have time to breathe, much less analyze the psychological, ethical, and moral framework that their parenting rests upon— and there is always a framework, whether the parent knows it or not.

These penetrating questions are relevant to ALL parents, at any stage of parenting. We all live as the protagonists of our own lives, and thus are prone to centering our stories upon ourselves. Sometimes it’s okay to center yourself in a story. Yet, that is NOT true in terms of your children or perhaps more accurately, they are going to center their own stories on their own lives. This is the great web of interpersonal interconnectivity that binds us all.

So okay, maybe there is no huge profound wisdom in this blog today. Even so, these are really deep questions that are WORTH sitting with, even if they cause some discomfort when thinking about our own answers to them. It is not surprising if they feel hugely uncomfortable when you read them. You may even feel that you have somehow failed as a parent. We are all too self-centered, even when we think we are being self-sacrificing for our children.

Never Belonged There

From an adoptee –

I haven’t been “woke” for very long when it comes to adoption. Things have always felt wrong or at least, at times, on and off, weird about it. But when you’ve always been told getting adopted is a “gift” and a “blessing” and you’re “lucky” but you don’t feel that, it’s complicated isn’t it ?

I started speaking up about how I felt a little bit as I got older, especially to people not in my adoptive family who act like I should be grateful that my parents “saved” me. Well, no, I don’t feel like I was. I’m told I should just basically eat shit politely with a spoon and fork and say thank you (my adoptive family has a narcissistic dynamic like I’m learning so many adoptive families do. Guess who’s the scapegoat?).

Anyway, it wasn’t until the last few years, when I realized there were communities and groups for adoptees like me. Then, I really started to learn just how messed up the whole adoption and foster care thing is. Now, I’m almost 39 and I still haven’t really unpacked any of my trauma. I have so many health issues including anxiety and high blood pressure and these are becoming critical. I know I really need to seek therapy.

I’ve never quite felt like I belonged anywhere, certainly not within my adoptive family, and it’s so hard for me to make friends. It’s hard when you’ve been told your whole life that you are just too much, because your personality is so different than that of your family. It always felt like I was walking a couple feet above everyone else. I’ve always felt like I lived in a different, parallel world. Books like Harry Potter really resonated with me, the ones where the main characters are living life feeling all alone like they don’t fit in, when suddenly they discover the other, secret world in which they actually belong but somehow unknowingly were taken away from, and they actually do belong somewhere! I have probably used books like that to dissociate from my adoptive reality a bit. I have preferred books in a series so that I could live in that other world as long as I could. I would always feel devastated and grieved when the story ended.

I recently found my birth family, only two weeks ago. I have been talking to my birth mother and I’ve talked to my birth father, too. My birth mother has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and only a very limited amount of time left to live.

I realize now what I never realized before – how angry I am. I put off finding her because when I was a child, my adoptive (narcissistic) mother would sob and make me promise I wouldn’t look for my original mother. And to be honest, these last few years, I didn’t know if I could handle emotionally not fitting in with another family. But now that I’ve found her, she seems wonderful so far and yet now I have only a very limited amount of time left with her. Not only that, I will have to watch her die a horrible death.

Even though I should be and actually am grateful I found her before it’s too late, that is offset by just how devastated and angry I am. And my birth father, During our first conversation, my birth father wanted to know if my adoptive family was wonderful. How am I supposed to respond to that? I think I said something along the lines of “uh, uh, yeah, I guess” and thankfully my kids interrupted. My birth mother hasn’t broached the subject, I think she suspects it was not wonderful for me..

Altruistic ?

The definition of altruism is showing a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish. This story is not disinterested and one could even question whether it is truly selfless – though that part is closer to the truth. It sort of creeps me out.

“My sister and her husband have agreed to get pregnant with the sole intention of letting my husband and I adopt. They are getting pregnant FOR us. They currently have 5 children. And after 8 years of trying to have our own children, and losing 5 to miscarriages and our twins to stillbirth, they have agreed to have a child for us. It will be my sisters and brother-in-laws biological child.”

With the world already overpopulated, it may be time to leave behind the idea that every couple should become parents ? This is intentionally creating an adoptee. A human being to re-distribute. It’s gross. No one requires children to breathe!!! Kids are people not commodities! Within adoption circles, it has been proven time and again that humans are selfish and narcissistic. Children are not things to be created because someone else can’t have their own. Imagine you are the only kid in a passel of 6 who is not living with their biological mom and dad. How would that make you feel?

One adoptee answered the above question with this – As an adoptee, I cannot even fathom how much worse it would have been to have my biological parents right there raising other children but rejecting me.

Regardless of family connections, adoption is never good for the baby. There are neurological connections that are formed in the womb. When the baby is separated from the natural mother, it interrupts the development of the child and creates trauma that can lead to mental illnesses.

How much can go wrong in this???? Uncle Dad? Aunt Mom? Sibling cousins? Why just me? What happens to the family relationship when/if mom or dad realizes that they love this baby because it is theirs and want to back out? That has happened before in similar situations.

Who Is Really To Blame ?

Most infants develop secure emotional attachments to their caregivers at an early age. This is often not the case for adoptees. Many infants show a healthy anxiety when their caregiver is absent, and they show relief when they’re reunited. Adoptees often do not respond that way and are labeled as having a disorder.

Some infants are not able to develop attachment disorders because they have been separated from the mother who gave birth to them. These babies are unable to bond with their adoptive parents and they struggle to develop any type of emotional attachment throughout their lives.

As they get older, they are often told that they are not grateful enough for having been adopted. Saying they have a disorder seems gentler than admitting they have trauma.

That first separation is where an adoptee first experiences a “CONFUSION” … and it takes hold of the rest of their lives.. if some adoptees have supportive adoptive parents, that’s better than not having that. Too many adoptive parents are seriously narcistic. Yet they somehow make it through adoption screening. If the truth were known, many of these “parents” should never have been allowed anywhere near children. One thinks, maybe when God made them infertile, God actually knew what she was doing. Some adoptive parents are tyrannical and rant and reprimand these children. They didn’t adopt a child for the child’s well-being but for their own gratification. Nothing an adoptee goes through as an adopted child is actually normal. No one should expect normal under the circumstances of an unnatural arrangement.

And where the adoptive parents were good, an adoptee can admit that. Know that they loved the adoptee but always felt like they didn’t belong in that family. The guilt is feeling like these “good people” deserved someone who loved them, the way they loved the adoptee. Guilt is a horrible weight to carry.

Often the original parents, or even more often the single mother, and the adoptee are experiencing a situation where, because our society doesn’t support families so they can stay together, there may not have been a lot of choices. And for the adoptee, they had no choice in the situation. Facing facts, they truth is that there are those who are profiting financially from this suffering that both mother and child have inflicted on them.

In the case of a single mother, if there had been “parents”, it may be that most newborn-adoptions would never have occurred. In the case of my maternal grandmother, she was married but for reasons I will never know, my mom’s father was nowhere to be found in the moment my grandmother needed him to be there for her the most.

Some adoptees were told as they grew up that they were a challenging baby, hard to console and sickly. Some adoptive parents then blame the birthmother and even make off hand remarks about the possibly she was using “substances”, or blaming the doctor for not recognizing whatever may have been a source of being sickly, like perhaps a milk intolerance. In times past, the adoption agency often handed a baby over to the adoptive parents several months old, 4.5 or 6 or 8 months old, without any written instructions about the baby’s routines.

An adoptee is left to deal with the fall-out. There is nothing they can do to change the past but it makes me incredibly sad to think about a baby, only looking for comfort and finding nothing but frustrated, ill prepared parents. This has a huge impact on that child’s life; and the impact can still have both bad and good effects. Like being able to survive less than ideal circumstances is a form of resilience.

A Lie Or Pretend

Someone in my all things adoption group wrote – I think it’s important to recognize that adoption for all parties is literally living a lie or playing pretend. I know my mom who was adopted felt this. She had her DNA tested at Ancestry and was in the middle of creating family trees when it really hit her. Both my mom and my dad were adopted and she realized none of it was real. I now know who the real grandparents are and I do intend to complete each of my parents’ family trees, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

One woman responded – When people get so hung up on I’m real and start lecturing their kid on it I want to laugh. They look like the fool…yeah you’re real but you aren’t “the mother”. Yeah I’m the mother but I’m not raising my kid. Reality, people.

Another woman shared – It is both at different times, yes. It’s also filled with excuses and justifications for the truth. Why can’t we JUST be real about it. Addressing that I really wasn’t “chosen” by my adoptive parents didn’t send me in a tailspin. I was next on the list that fit their criteria. That’s just fact. Could have easily been some other blonde, blue-eyed toddler they ended up raising. I don’t see why anyone would think that’s hurtful. Do adoptive parents really think we don’t know we were given away and them being our parents is a crapshoot? It’s kind of obvious, yet they go through all kinds of gyrations to fluff up the simple facts.

People act like adoptees are oblivious or incapable of handling the truth. Adoptees crave the truth, it’s all they ever want. Honesty. That’s it. Of course, adoptees already know the truth and adoptive parents just need to acknowledge what the adoptee already knows.

Acknowledge and validate. The two most important things to remember.

Someone else needed to add more complex context.

There are children being raised by extended relatives or adopted after a Termination of Parental Rights (assuming good reason). Do you tell these children they are living a lie? Or do you tell them that this is not the first choice, but it is what we have and we can try to make it work. Denying the trauma is living a lie, but I don’t think the family formed afterwards necessarily is. I don’t think every family formed outside of biological relationships is living a lie or pretending.

And sadly, not every family is good for the children born into it. Here’s one such story – I was raised by a very narcissistic mother and a very hands off father except when my mother manipulated him into abusing my brother and I (including putting me in foster care for being suicidal and self harming). I don’t feel towards them the way a child should parents. I lost the woman I actually considered a mom at 12. I personally feel like being a parent is more than giving birth and doing the bare necessities for a child. My parents may have given me everything I could have needed and let me play sports and go to camps, but they severely neglected my emotionally and mentally. I found my family elsewhere in other people. Them not being blood doesn’t invalidate my experience. I personally don’t agree with infant adoption or foster to adopt, but some people who give birth, really should just not be parents.

If You Can’t Do This, Why Can You Do This ?

It is well known that simply being adopted is a risk for mental illness impacts like depression, anxiety and suicide. What is less often discussed is whether or not people with a history of mental illness should adopt. Adoptees deserve the best possible care and that means anyone who has had a history of mental health illnesses shouldn’t be adopting. You can’t own a gun, if you suffer from mental health illnesses. You can’t work certain jobs. Your restricted from other things. So WHY should you be allowed to raise someone else’s children ?

Understandably, many adults with a history of psychiatric illness prefer to adopt rather than have biological children. They may have concerns about psychiatric destabilization during pregnancy or that they may pass some genetic factor onto their unborn child. Certainly, if they are currently under medication, there is a concern about the impact of that pharmaceutical on the unborn child.

Child adoption laws vary from state to state. Although some licensed adoption agencies sympathize with potential adoptive parents with a history of mental illness, the law usually considers the following factors:
• the potential adopter’s emotional ties to the child
• their parenting skills
• emotional needs of the child
• the potential adopter’s desire to maintain continuity of the child’s care
• permanence of the family unit of the proposed home
• the physical, moral, and mental fitness of the potential parent.

Interestingly, an adoptee put forth this perspective – my adopted mother has always been open about her struggles with mental health (and the therapy and meds she uses to manage them) which in turn made *me* feel safe in coming to her with my struggles and she supported me as I sought therapy and medication as well. Mental illness isn’t some character flaw, it’s no one’s fault, and it shouldn’t be an excluding factor in and of itself. Plenty of biological parents have these issues as well. As long as a person is taking care of their mental health, whether it’s therapy or medications, and isn’t dangerous to themselves or others, it’s no one’s business and it isn’t relevant.

And this one offers an even broader perspective –  I’m an adoptee, and an adoptive parent. I’m also a therapist. I also have a managed anxiety disorder. I think asking people to have their mental illness well managed is one thing — and requiring psychiatric approval (from their therapist or whomever is overseeing their care), and there’s certainly diagnosis’ that should be precluded (likely anything progressive or personality wise). But most people could fit in to a mental health diagnosis at one point or another in their life. How people manage that mental illness and cope with it is the bigger picture.

One woman wrote – I do not think mental health illness = abuse but I do think abuse= mental health illness. I think you must be mentally ill, if you are abusing children.

One woman admitted –  I had no idea how my depression would be exacerbated by raising a family — and a adoptive one at that. Rather than restrictions, I think that there should be a medical screening process to ensure health (was this part of it? I don’t recall). Let a doctor decide limitations if need be. And I believe that there should be a foster parent mental health class that really discusses what it takes, the triggers, pitfalls etc. My own mental health was the thing I was the least prepared for. That said, I am receiving LOTS of support as are my children. We are ok and sometimes thriving, despite world events. But it took a while for us to get here. And I’m divorcing as part of this, because my soon to be-ex wasn’t mentally healthy enough to do this. It’s a lot.

And there was this from personal experience – My adoptive mom had a medicine cabinet full for all her needs. Depression, anxiety, sleep, ADHD, a few for physical like thyroid and I’m not sure what else but know it was about a dozen pills a day. My adoptive mom should’ve never been allowed to adopt me. She’s a batshit crazy narcissist. She needed all of us kids to have meds too – so I was flying high being treated for ADHD despite not needing it. She was a nurse who worked for our family doctor, so getting us diagnosed with anything was quite simple. To clarify I don’t think her being a shit parent was due to her possibly having depression or anxiety, honestly I’m not sure she even had those types of issues but she had something that made her think she needed meds for everything and that we did too. She should’ve never been able to adopt me.

In disputing that abusing is a sign of mental illness, one commenter add this – Nancy Erickson, an attorney and consultant on domestic violence legal issues, researched this very topic some years ago. “I found that about half of abusers appeared to have no mental disorders. The other half had various mental disorders, including but not limited to psychopathy, narcissism, PTSD, depression and bipolar disorder.” However, she adds, “Domestic abuse is a behavior, not a symptom of a mental illness.” While there is certainly an overlap, it is not always a guarantee, and it’s dangerous to make that assumption.

Another one pointed out – not all mental health diagnosis’ are created equal and many are managed well with medications. Also many people have mental illness and have not been diagnosed. Would people be forced to get a psychological evaluation ? And often among couples one partner has no diagnosis’ and so, a child can still be parented well.

One adoptive parent wrote – I absolutely agree with the idea that hopeful adoptive parents should be held to higher standards. I’m not sure how that would play out with mental illness but I do think hopeful adoptive parents with mental illness should have clear treatment plans and a consistent history of following through with their treatment plans. They should also be able to demonstrate the length of time they have been in stable mental health.

Unbelievable But

From the PostSecret App comes the story of a woman hired to be a baby-sitter. When the baby-sitter sees the adopted daughter’s photo, she realizes it is the same photo she gave to the adoptive parents when she gave up the baby to adoption. Now what ?

One woman says, as an adoptive mom I’d be more worried about the original mother finding the situation emotionally hard, if she doesn’t say anything about her true relationship. What a thing to go through alone! That being said, if I was her I’d probably it a secret and run with it, so that I could see my child. If they didn’t know who she is, it obviously isn’t an open adoption.

Another says, there was such a torrent of ignorant comments on that post. It was hard to follow or know is where to post thoughts of my own. So mostly, I just liked the adoptees’ posts and tried to support them. I did comment where it felt helpful. You adoptees are super brave – and it was great to see so many voices out there giving the alternative narrative in some of the threads. (It had been mentioned that many commenters said to adoptees “sorry you had a bad childhood but most adoptees had good ones.”)

One adoptee said – “I think she should’ve excused herself and then, explained to them why. Plus let them know she won’t bother them, etc.” When asked to explain her comment, she admitted that she is ALSO a birth mom. “As a birth mom I would feel guilty and would need to say something and hope everything worked out and the adoptive parents were accepting or at least not angry. As an adoptee, if I found out my birth mom was purposely deceptive (knowing and not saying something is deceptive), my opinion of her would not be great. And my experience as an adoptee wasn’t great – lived with a very narcissistic adoptive mom. So I just think honesty would go along further than lying in this case.

Another adoptee said – She should just make herself known. As an adoptee I would give anything to know who my birth parents are.

Another adoptive mom said –  I think this is such an incredible opportunity that sadly is likely to turn into a disaster. I would give anything to have my son’s real mom that involved in his life. What an amazing gift! I just wish we could get the adoptive parents in this group to realize how valuable this would be.

Another woman points out – there is a good chance because of the trauma that the birth mom went through, she may be mentally unstable. What if some idiot is telling her to keep quiet and be happy you get to see the child? What if she decides one day she can’t take this situation anymore and wants more and try’s to kidnap the child? This is quite an unpredictable situation.

Another adoptee says honestly, I would have loved for my mom to have come into my life as a child. I always missed her.

One more, and I’ll close today’s blog –

I am the daughter of an adoptee. I have an aunt who is also an adoptee. My grandma (mom’s adoptive mom) raised me and was also a foster parent. My first reaction was ‘awwww how sweet and perfect’… and then, once I thought a bit, ‘I really hope that mom has support, that has got to be such a roller coaster of emotions’… then ‘wait a minute that means it was a closed adoption *sigh*’… and then just best wishes that she’s able to disclose her identity to the adoptive parents and that they are supportive and that everything will work out, even though I’m guessing that might be a fairytale… 


Un-Adopted

The Stauffer Family minus Huxley

The video began like so many others. YouTubers Myka and James Stauffer, in the glow of camera-friendly lighting, staring into the lens. But this time, instead of energetically updating their roughly 1 million subscribers (over 700,000 on Myka’s YouTube channel and over 300,000 on the family’s vlog, The Stauffer Life) on their “kiddos” or Myka’s “mommy morning routine” or vegan-meal ideas, the couple had somber expressions.

“This is by far the hardest video James and I have ever publicly had to make,” said Myka. Wearing white shirts that matched the linens on the bed where they sat, the Stauffers revealed that they had placed Huxley, their then almost 5-year-old autistic son from China — whose adoption process and life they had documented for more than three years — with “his now new forever family.” Myka and James tearfully explained that the extent of Huxley’s needs had not been clear when they’d adopted him, that it was never supposed to happen this way, and that they loved him.

In the kindest light, Myka, now 33, and James, 35, were painted as well-meaning but naïve parents who had gotten in over their heads; in the harshest, they were fame-hungry narcissists who’d exploited a child for clicks and profit only to discard him when caring for him proved too difficult.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, anywhere from one percent to 5 percent of the more than 100,000 adoptions in the U.S. each year are legally terminated in what’s called a “dissolution”. The Stauffers’ decision to relinquish custody of Huxley could be called rare but it is not uncommon in adoptionland.

Myka said she’d long wanted to adopt; at one point, she and James talked about having six or seven children, with multiple adoptions, and were specifically interested in a child from Africa. James was more reluctant, she said, and after several conversations, she finally pleaded, “Can you please, please in your heart just consider adoption? Just really genuinely think about it, because it’s really important to me.” He ultimately agreed, and, later in 2016, the couple posted a video announcing their plans to adopt and their intent to take viewers along with them on their “journey.”

Sharing information about a child’s adoption before he or she is in the home is frowned upon by adoption experts.  Not only can publicizing an adoption jeopardize it, but it’s often seen as playing into the stereotype of white families swooping in to “save” foreign children.

International adoptions to the U.S. have dropped to a fraction of what they were a decade and a half ago, as many countries, including China, have revised their protocols. (For the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. Department of State reported just 2,971 adoptions to the US from other countries, down from almost 23,000 adoptions in 2004.) China still accounts for more adoptions to the US than any other country, but now almost all adoptees from China to the US are toddler age or older, and many have existing health conditions. If the Stauffers adopted from China, they would almost certainly be choosing a child with special needs.

Myka and James asked viewers to invest not only time in Huxley’s adoption story but money.  In October 2017, Myka and James, along with their three biological children, traveled to China to pick up Huxley. The accompanying video, which they called Huxley’s “Gotcha Day” — a term popular on YouTube but criticized by the adoption community — racked up more than 5.5 million views. Myka and James dedicated it “to all the orphans around the world” and set the video to “You Set My World on Fire,” by Sweden’s Loving Caliber, an acoustic track with the lyrics “Just tell me you’ll stay or take me away / I want you for myself every single day.”

Since adopting Huxley, Myka and James’s online success had grown substantially. Total earnings are difficult to estimate, but the Stauffers earned from $4,100 to $66,700 from their three channels in April and May 2020, according to analytics site Social Blade, a number that does not include revenue from sponsorships. Myka had hired a manager to handle all the direct marketing from companies that wanted to work with her.

The Stauffers began to consider a way out that was never part of the “journey” they had expected to experience, much less share. When they finally broke their silence in late May, they said they had initially kept quiet because they didn’t want to jeopardize Huxley’s transition to his new family. In their video, Myka said that Huxley was thriving in his new home, that he was happy, and that “his new mommy has medical-professional training and is a very good fit.” But the optics of their situation were fraught. In the middle of a pandemic and a national reckoning over racial injustice, when the president and multiple other right-wing leaders repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” or “Wuhan flu,” Myka and James were a privileged white couple who’d given away their Chinese son.

Other adoptive parents have described situations that seem to echo the Stauffers’ sense of hopelessness. In her memoir The Best of Us, author Joyce Maynard describes adopting two girls from Ethiopia and then, just over a year later, placing them with another family whose mother she met during the adoption process. “With an ignorance that staggers me now — ignorance, and some arrogance, no doubt — I had believed my love would be there like an eternal flame, and that this love of mine could fix whatever had been broken in my daughters’ lives.” When this proved not to be the case, that the road to attachment would be a long one, she describes it as “the most profound sense of despair I had ever known.”

One of the biggest misconceptions is that dissolutions happen because the child is bad. Nine times out of ten, it is NOT the child’s behavior. It seems like it’s the child’s behavior, but it’s the child’s behavior triggering something in the family.  The most common reason for dissolution is that the parents feel incompetent to manage the child’s behaviors.

These are just excerpts.  You can read the entire story here – Why Did These YouTubers Give Away Their Son?  I had encountered the story previously but I didn’t know it in depth.  It is a cautionary tale about international adoptions as well as chasing after lucrative clicks and sponsorships.  It is a double edged sword waiting to cut the next victim.