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5 million people watched a couple adopt their son, Huxley. Now they've given him to another family.

On February 17, U.S. YouTuber Myka Stauffer posted a picture to Instagram of her little boy, Huxley, who she shared with her husband, James, sitting on her lap.

“The last couple days have been hard,” she captioned the image. “I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. We have had a lot of meltdowns, and lots of behaviours that have had us on our knees begging God for guidance!

“I wish autism and adoption trauma had a manual to direct you through it all.”

After two years of updates about adopting Huxley from China, about his additional needs and his various therapies, that was it — that was the last image Stauffer posted of her four-year-old son.

In a video announcement on her YouTube channel this week, the Ohio woman explained why.

“He needed more”: Myka Stauffer on relinquishing her adopted son.

Video via YouTube

Stauffer told her more than 700,000 subscribers that she and her husband had decided to relinquish Huxley to another family.

“After multiple assessments, after multiple evaluations, numerous medical professionals have felt that he needed a different fit in his medical needs,” Stauffer said in the video. “He needed more.

“There’s not an ounce of our body that doesn’t want Huxley with all of our being. There wasn’t a minute that I didn’t try our hardest.

“Do I feel like a failure as a mum? 500 per cent.”

The couple said they wouldn’t elaborate on the specific factors that led to their decision, both for legal reasons and for the sake of Huxley’s privacy. But they added he was now with his “forever family”.

“He is thriving, he is very happy, he is doing really well, and his new mummy has medical professional training and it is a very good fit,” Stauffer added.

And with that, the backlash began.

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Learning the truth about Huxley.

Myka Stauffer has been vlogging on YouTube for five years, mostly about lifestyle topics and motherhood.

The former oncology nurse and her husband have four other children; one from a previous relationship of hers, and three together.

 

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A post shared by Myka Stauffer (@mykastauffer) on

In 2016, Stauffer began posting videos about beginning the international adoption process so they could grow their family “in a different way”.

Details followed about the boy they’d chosen from China — a toddler with a “neurological” condition.

A name was picked — Huxley — followed by appeals for $5 donations for his then-unspecified additional needs. Each donation, Stauffer told viewers, would be rewarded with a piece of a 1000-piece puzzle that, when completed, would form a picture of Huxley that she’d reveal to the world.

It all led up to a 2017 trip to China to bring Huxley back to the U.S., or as Stauffer titled the video, “Huxley’s EMOTIONAL Adoption VIDEO!! GOTCHA DAY China Adoption“. Some 5.5 million people have watched that clip.

Stauffer later wrote for Parade that she and her husband were told prior to Huxley’s adoption that he lived with brain damage and brain tumour, but that they only learned the full extent of his needs later on.

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“When we came home, we experienced a big surprise with inaccurate file information,” she wrote. “Our son ended up having a stroke in utero, has level 3 autism, and sensory processing disorder. It took a lot of time to process and to readjust to his new diagnosis.”

Over the past two years, Stauffer’s followers have watched as she vlogged extensively about Huxley’s progress.

In an update in September, she shared that while he was struggling with complicated instructions and could only speak a handful of words, he had “made so many gains” in language and communication, and had learned to express his needs through hand signs.

“Like he is a pet”: the response to the announcement.

Since adopting Huxley, Stauffer identified herself as an additional-needs-adoption advocate and gave interviews to multiple publications on the subject. She also earned paid partnerships with large American brands and advertising sponsorship on some of her videos.

Among the more than 20 clips in her ‘adoption series’ is at least one sponsored by a laundry detergent company.

That is now at the crux of much of the backlash against the Stauffers’ decision to give Huxley up.

“Imagine adopting a special needs child from China, naming him Huxley (a crime in itself), exploiting him for sponsorship money and monetised videos, and then ‘rehoming’ him when things got to [sic] hard. LIKE HE IS A PET AND NOT AN ACTUAL HUMAN CHILD,” one follower commented on the announcement video.

Another critic even started a Change.org petition demanding that Stauffer remove all sponsored content featuring Huxley from her YouTube channel. At the time of writing, it has more than 20,000 signatures.

Others have expressed sympathy for the couple.

“Part of me is angry that you gave up on him and did not commit to him like he was your biological child. If this was one of your blood children I don’t think you would have felt the same way,” one commenter wrote.

“Another part of me feels heartbroken for you and how I know what it feels like to fail as a mother when your child is special needs… at the end of the day this is your life and your family and you have to do what is best for them.”

Since making the announcement, Stauffer’s videos and Instagram posts have stopped, her pages have fallen silent.

In the comments section though, the debate rages on. Loudly.

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