I woke up to a message on FB with a link to this Buzzfeed article on Myka Stauffer. Prior to reading the article, I had no idea who she was. It is a reflection on how little I am connected to the world of influencers and their ilk. I read the article a few times. The immediate feelings are those of outrage and rightfully so. Right behind the outrage, there is a part of me that that holds back, reminds me that there are sides to every story, every clickbaity article that the public does not get to see or hear. It reminds me painfully of how much of our lives I share and yet how it is just glimpses and never the whole story.
I have let the article simmer in my head for a few hours now. I have no intention of checking out her YouTube channel or looking her up. Right off the bat, there are so many things that jump out at me so I am going to put them down here.
Never ever adopt unless you WANT to
What that means is that the one and the only reason anyone should ever adopt is that they want to parent. That need to parent should stem from a deep place from themselves. That need should be so unbearable that you are willing to do anything for this child, not just the process of becoming a parent but BEING a parent. It means you ALWAYS put the child at the center of your existence. It means you go above and beyond; you reach for help, you do everything in your means possible to make sure your child has a level playing field in terms of learning, play, social development. This is what you do as a parent (adoptive or otherwise).
Sometimes, it is possible that the child may need more than you can offer or cope with in terms of ability or resources. I am aware of children being a danger to themselves and other children in the home. Sometimes, just sometimes, you will need to make decisions to protect the rest of your family. Sometimes, these decisions may amount to seeking residential treatment for the child or finding other ways to work with the child’s issues. Notice I only say child, not an adoptive child? These things can happen with any kind of family.
Rehoming, however, only seems to come up in the context of adopted children. We rarely, if ever, hear of parents rehoming children because their needs are too much or because they are not the right family for the child. Parenting inherently is about putting another person’s needs before yours.
Is it hard? Absolutely! Are there days when you want to give up or wish you had never become a parent? Absolutely yes. Are there days when you jump with joy because your child did something they were struggling with all year? Yes again. The truth is none of us grow up thinking I want to go through life as a parent of a special needs child. Some of us are better equipped in terms of accepting the need for external help, being able to see things objectively, not taking things personally, being able to isolate behavior from the person, are naturally able to empathize. Some of us are not. Yet, we all strive. We do our best. We strategize, take help where we lack and hone skills where they exist. We evolve as parents as we parent our children.
Going back to my original thought, the only ever reason to adopt is because of an innate need to parent. If biology makes it happen, great. If adopting in the aftermath of infertility, grieve, take time to accept that path is closed, start afresh, and educate yourself. Adoption is not giving birth. You are a parent at the end of both processes, but they are not the same. Children who are adopted come to you traumatized. If as a parent you are not equipped or willing to learn how to work with trauma, the failing is on you, not the child.
In this case, just based on the article, I see no reason why the couple should have adopted much less made it a spectacle and then spectacularly fail at it.
The SAVIOR complex
“from Uganda or Ethiopia”
The other thing that hit me again as it does when I read viral stories of adoption is this strange feeling that the savior complex is part of the reason the adoption happens in the first place. I am saving this child from an uncertain future. I am saving this child from a poor country. I am saving this child from death. The reasons people tell themselves is rooted in the messages that the community around them sends. Adoption is painted as noble. (It is not. It is inherently selfish if done for the right reasons)
Any new person who hears the story of our children is quick to put us on a pedestal. You are noble. You and your husband are angels. These comments make me uncomfortable. They do not speak for the years of angst, the desperation, the need to parent. The children who came to us filled a need. They had no choice in being placed. The decisions were made for them by adults. Ten years after having adopted, there are so many things I see in a different light now.
Adoption the way it is done now is wrong. There is no right adoption. The only ever way it serves the child is when there is no surviving family of birth that can raise the child. Even in that case, adoption fills a need and it is dependent on the family adopting to be cognizant of the loss that pervades the whole process and the rest of their lives. This is not a one-time event. This is a decision will have lifelong repercussions for everyone involved. The sooner we, as a society wake up and realize this, the better it will be for our children.
Money is a dirty word. Nobody speaks about it openly. Much less so in terms of adoption. Yet, as adoptive parents, we take umbrage when we are asked “How much did your baby cost?”
I have seen fundraisers for adoption. Apparently, the Stauffers used their YT channel to fundraise for Huxley’s adoption and his therapy. I have seen GoFundMe set up to defray adoption costs. Each time I hear of something like that I squirm. It makes me uncomfortable. It has to do with my cultural background and upbringing. Debt is a dirty word much more so if it is for something that is not life-sustaining.
Adoption fundraisers play on the savior aspect. It plays on the nobleness that coats the action of adoption. It is seen as unselfish. Yet, I rarely see fundraisers or GoFundMes by parents struggling to parent. If they did, they would be termed selfish for wanting to have another baby when they are unable to support themselves. The double standard is glaring.
The adoption tax credit is something that comes up time and again during the adoption process. Agencies bring them up to justify their unspecified costs. “Oh! You can claim an adoption tax credit” they say breezily with an entitlement that is jarring. (Current adoption tax credit per child per year is $14,300, this includes failed adoptions).
The adoption lobby goes hand in hand with the demand for newborn babies and the supply chain that feeds it. It harks back to anti-abortion and religion. When you remove choice from the equation and adoption is shown as the alternative, you have an insidious system that plays on religious beliefs to funding a system that is downright evil.
There is so much I can say about this. There is so much at play. If the scales were tilted to make the adoption type credit to help families struggling with a pregnancy they are unable to support, the world will right itself.
Whose story is it?
Going back to the article, the Stauffers produced 27 videos chronicling their adoption and adoption updates. Now, that the child has been rehomed, whose story is it? Will they take the videos down? Will Huxley’s new parents ask that they are taken down? I know it is ironic that I talk about this as a personal blogger who shares her life with the world. There is a lesson here for me that I have to unpack and process.
What can we learn from this?
I only hope that as a result of this story going viral, the spotlight is on the odious process of rehoming and the adoption industry. I hope more people talk about why international adoptions are preferred to domestic (spoiler: no pesky birth families to contend with). I hope people question adoption fundraisers. I hope people talk about the trauma associated with adoption. I hope this raises awareness about how much preparation should go into becoming adoptive parents. I hope people intending to adopt listen to the voices that matter: adoptee voices.