When parenting YouTuber Myka Stuaffer finally answered a question from fans about why her adopted son Huxley Stauffer was no longer appearing in her videos, many people were shocked to learn he is living with a new family.
In an emotional video posted last week, Stauffer and her husband, James Stauffer, explained that Huxley, who has autism and a sensory processing disorder, is now living with a "new mommy" in a "forever home."
The Stauffer family news was reported by many media outlets as "rehoming," the same term used for when a rescue animal is placed in a new home.
"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," said Lisa Cleary, author of "How to Survive a Breakup: When All of Your Friends are Birthing Their Second Child."
John DeGarmo, director of The Foster Care Institute and a foster care expert, said his initial reaction was, "Oh my goodness. Not again."
"I have experienced this in my own home. I had a child come to my home who was adopted by three different families," he told TODAY Parents.
When DeGarmo's daughter joined his family, he said "she had tremendous issues with trust and attachment."
"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," he said.
Cleary, who was adopted from Korea by an American couple when she was two months old, said the story makes her uneasy.
"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."
"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 told TODAY Parents. "That then adds a stigma to adopted children, such as to myself, that we’re 'different than' and perhaps 'less permanent than' biological children."
Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council For Adoption, said cases of "adoption dissolution," the official term for when an adoptive family gives up their child, are uncommon.
"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," he told TODAY Parents.
Adopted parents go through the same process of giving up their rights as a biological parent would when giving their child up for adoption, experts said. Families can place the child back in the foster care system or in some cases, they may have found a new family to assume legal responsibility for the child.
It's unclear how the Stauffers found a new home for Huxley, however in their video announcement, she said Huxley is in a new home with a mother who is better equipped to handle his medical needs.
"The last couple months have been like the hardest thing I could have ever imagined to going to choosing to do ... after pouring our guts and our heart into this little boy," Stauffer said in the video. "He is thriving, he is happy, he is doing really well, and his new mommy has medical professional training, and it is a very good fit."
Experts add that prospective adoptive parents, especially those who are considering adopting a child with special needs, need to reflect and make sure they have the support system in place they will need.
“They need to ask: Is this a good fit for the family? And is the family a good fit for the child? It works both ways," DeGarmo said. “Does the family have the resources and support they need to care for a child with special needs? Do they know there will be a time when there will be challenges? When a child is adopted, they often have questions of loyalty as well and feelings of loss and grief. Is the adoptive family prepared for that?"
While stories like this are difficult to hear, the Stauffer's experience is rare, but not the first. Johnson said it is important people remember that "the Stauffer story is not the face of adoption."
"The vast majority of them are loved unconditionally and thriving in their families and very few of them or their families are recognized in a public way."
"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," he said.
"There are over 2 million children currently in the U.S. who came to their families through domestic, intercountry and familial adoption. The vast majority of them are loved unconditionally and thriving in their families and very few of them or their families are recognized in a public way. Most Americans probably know someone who was adopted but only know them to be doing well and living productive lives."