As an adoptive parent, I know children are for life – not just for YouTube

We have entered our 11th week of sleepless nights, having gone into ‘shielding mode’ with our children at the very start of lockdown.  

Our youngest son needs overnight care and careful supervision. His special needs means he has a tendency to stop breathing, so it is vital for us to keep a close eye on him, every minute of the day and night.  

During ‘normal’ times, we would have wonderful NHS carers to support us, but to protect our children we opted to cease carers entering our home, and do the 24 hour care ourselves.

Perhaps as a result of sleep deprivation, the story of Myka Stauffer, a YouTuber from the USA, giving up her adopted son left me feeling angry, and deeply, deeply sad.

We are a family of two dads and four awesome, adopted kids, three of them with varying levels of special needs. We adopted our children with full knowledge of their needs and a clear understanding of our lifelong commitment that would be required in order to give them the home, the love and the family they would need and deserve.

There are a few things that really trouble me about Myka’s story. 

You don’t give up an adopted child. You might give up a beloved pet when you just can’t cope anymore with them weeing on the carpets. 

When deciding that you can’t have a child as part of your family any longer, you make the decision to rip their world apart, causing anxiety, distress and confusion.

Adopting a child is a tough, tough thing to do. Parenting full-stop is difficult. Becoming a parent of an adopted child should never be entered into lightly. The assessments and procedures for selection that accompany adoption in the UK are stringent, invasive and rigorous – and quite rightly so.

What adoption isn’t, is a fairy tale ending, with children skipping into the sunset with their new parent or parents, ending years of abuse or trauma or neglect or misery.  

Adoption is a life-long journey and will inevitably include times of immense joy and pleasure, but equally, pain and uncertainty.

We adopted our kids knowing about their additional needs, but even if we hadn’t I can’t even bring myself to think about expelling them from our family. We are theirs and they are ours for life. 

What concerns me about Myka, and her equally social-media savvy husband, James, is their decision to publicly celebrate the adoption of little Huxley and benefit (or cash in) on the sponsored advertising and growth in her following – and then to equally dwell in their own trauma and misery of making the decision to give up their son.

It’s as if the dream of adoption, the idea of ‘saving’ a Chinese orphan, served a purpose to project their image as the all-loving, all-giving American family (check out their perfectly coordinated blue and white, wholesome, informal family Instagram portrait). 

In a statement, their lawyer said the couple are loving parents and ‘would do anything for their children’, and that this the ‘right and loving thing to do for this child.’

Yet it seems to me that their thirst for fame, for approval, for love and acceptance, has led Myka to make the story all about her – and not about little Huxley, who had formed attachments and had been part of this family for over two years.  

Crying into the camera, pained and full of anguish. Come on Myka. If you are that distraught, make it a personal tragedy – not a public one. It begs the questions: was she more upset about Huxley or having to tell the world, including her followers and sponsors? 

Like the YouTubers who said he needed to be with a family who knew how to care for him, there will be those that argue that finding a new home would benefit him in the longer term, after moving to a family that could cope with their disabilities and high levels of need.

I’m not so sure that those expressing this viewpoint have a clear understanding of the trauma and challenges that weigh heavily on the shoulders of every adopted child. When there are difficulties, you dig deeper, try harder, keep going.

If Myka feels a little better, knowing that Huxley is now in a better place, then I hope she and her husband can live with themselves.  

Let’s just hope one of her biological children doesn’t develop additional needs as they grow and develop. I’d hate to think of these Instagram parents having to make this very difficult decision again.  

But that would never happen, would it?

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