The Most Hated Woman in America
This influencer documented every moment of her adopted son’s life — except the part where she quietly gave him away
Photo from Instagram // @MykaStauffer
The American Dream
A picture-perfect American family. Standing against a white wall, beaming. A smiling father and a pert blonde mother holding a baby. Then the children, in descending order. One, two, three. Four including the baby. They seem so happy — full of so much joy that it’s overflowing. This family has so much love to give.
But something is missing.
Where is Huxley?
Let’s go back a couple of years. Myka and James Stauffer first began documenting the process of adopting Huxley, a then two-year-old Chinese boy with special needs, in 2017. They spent the next three years sharing Huxley’s new life on their YouTube channel, The Stauffer Life. People were eager to celebrate Huxley’s journey and the Stauffer family’s reach began to grow substantially across multiple platforms. Today, Myka’s YouTube channel alone stands at almost 700,000 subscribers.
Myka’s most popular videos follow her as she cleans up after the five children or coos to the camera in “Real Newborn Nighttime Routine.” Another titled “What I Eat in a Day to Stay Healthy and Lean” has over a quarter-of-a-million views. Although The Stauffers were vlogging before they adopted Huxley, it was videos like Huxley’s first meeting with the family that propelled them to fame.
Screenshot from Myka Stauffer’s YouTube channel in 2017, shortly after adopting Huxley.
Do It For The ‘Gram
Huxley seemed to be largely nonverbal but was able to communicate his needs through sign language. Although Myka admitted Huxley’s needs were more demanding than she had anticipated, she praised Huxley’s progress. Myka announced in a 2017 video that regardless of Huxley’s medical condition, “We’re not gonna trade him in, we’re not gonna return him, he’s our boy.” Huxley even appeared in ads on Myka’s Instagram page — the pair was shown snuggling with a conspicuous bottle of Dreft detergent atop fresh white linens. Their new sponsored life pushed them into the upper level of lifestyle bloggers, complete with a Range Rover and high ceilings.
Suspicions were raised in early May of this year when subscribers of the family’s Youtube channel noticed that Huxley was no longer appearing in the family’s videos.
The concern for his whereabouts prompted a sheriff’s investigation as well as social media outcry, with many using the hashtag #whereishuxley to raise awareness. The lack of answers from the family caused rumors to swirl — and the rumors ranged all the way from neglect to child trafficking.
Naive Young Parents Or Fame-hungry Influencers Poised to Exploit?
The Stauffers stayed silent until late May, when in a tearful vlog post Myka and James admitted they had “rehomed” their adopted son Huxley after nearly three years together. At first, they cited behavior issues, stating that they were not told the scope of his special needs when they adopted him and they were not equipped to handle his outbursts. In addition, The Stauffers alleged Huxley was extremely aggressive towards their other children and his behavior made it impossible for them to employ the in-home care he needed. They claim they were silent about the issue to protect Huxley as he settled into his new placement.
The outcry is understandable. To an outsider, it appears that a white family exploited an “exotic” and orphaned child for profit. The Stauffers chose to adopt a child with special needs to get more likes on social media, yet abandoned him when he proved to be difficult; all the while attempting to quietly continue their new life of relative fame and luxury. Although several of the family’s sponsors have distanced themselves, repercussions seem minimal in comparison with the harm inflicted on Huxley.
But the family insists that life with Huxley was much different behind the scenes. In both written apologies and tearful confessions, the couple insists Myka did all she could to make the adoption work, but that ultimately they were ill-equipped and doomed to fail. James paints Myka as the martyr saint — her only flaw being that she was too eager to love. Myka adds that they originally were told Huxley had a brain tumor but were later informed he has severe autism and may never be potty-trained.
While some are accusing the family of fraud and abuse, The Stauffer family has its sympathizers too — including other parents who have given up their adopted children. They argue that the lack of support following adoption is a real issue — many times, the child’s traumas and medical conditions are not presented fully, or the child manifests new behavior problems as a result of past traumas, and the new family is unable to give the child the care they need.
Myka and James insist that Huxley is happy in his new “forever home.”
Looking at her Instagram now, it’s eerie. There’s no sign Huxley was ever there — just three smiling blonde children and a baby. The carefully curated squares, white teeth and blonde curls, white sofas and Chili’s ads, punctuated by a final iPhone note. An apology, fallen flat. A tombstone for her adopted son.
Her updated bio reads, “Mommy of 4.”