I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.

I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.
Melissa Guida-Richards was adopted from Colombia and her parents were told that she was healthy.Melissa Guida-Richards
  • When Melissa Guida-Richards learned that Myka Stauffer, a famous YouTuber, "rehomed" her adopted son with autism, the writer was distraught.
  • As an international adoptee with disabilities, she saw a lot of herself in the boy who was given to another US family.
  • Guida-Richards argues that, too often, adoptive parents are "guided by God" and not by an understanding of the challenges that come with adoption.
  • The mother of two wants more oversight in international adoptions to prevent children from being placed in inappropriate settings.

When Myka Stauffer, a mother with a sizable social media following, announced in late May that she decided to "rehome'' her adopted son, Huxley, from China with autism due to his behavior issues, I was distraught. But unlike her more than 700,000 fans, many of whom gave money to the cause, I didn't feel betrayed by the family. I felt sad because I realized that very well could've been me.

Like the Stauffers, my parents weren't given the whole story regarding my medical issues when they adopted me from Colombia. In fact, I came with a clean bill of health.

Yet, throughout my childhood, I was in-and-out of hospitals and was diagnosed with a plethora of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, microscopic colitis, chronic debilitating migraines, endometriosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. There were doctor's appointments, blood tests, surgeries, and a pill box bigger than my 90-year-old grandmother's.

My parents — high school dropouts and immigrants who started with nothing — struggled to understand my various doctors' instructions and why I wasn't the healthy child the orphanage had promised I was.

But, unlike the famous YouTube family, my parents weren't "guided by God" when they decided to adopt me. They also didn't record and publicize the international adoption process to hundreds of thousands of followers to monetize the experience.


I'm an international adoptee with a host of medical issues and this weighed on my parents

I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.
I was diagnosed with a number of medical conditions throughout my childhood, which I know was a challengeGetty

I know my mom and dad endured many hardships due to my conditions. They often expressed frustration about my illnesses, and questioned why I needed so much medication and so many surgeries. But they did their best to take care of me, with their limited resources, doting over me when I had to miss weeks of school or undergo another procedure.

They were driven simply by love and a want to be parents, which was enough to sustain them, even during the most difficult times, and kept them from abandoning me.

When adoptive parents go into the process with the idea that they are fulfilling some sort of decree from God to save children from orphanages, they are assuming a white savior mentality. They elevate themselves to the role of disciples in order to provide children with a "happily ever after," without considering what they will need to do to allow for an adopted child to become healthy

They aren't accounting for the many traumas and unknowns in adoption that parents can't easily deal with, even if God is "on their side." For example, adopted children may be at a greater risk of developing mental health disorders, including depression, and separation anxiety. Children who are adopted internationally could have higher rates of fetal alcohol syndrome and autism, among other conditions, Ronald Federici, a clinical neuropsychologist, told CNN in 2010.


When the Stauffers first explored adopting a child, they wanted a "simple" one, Myka Stauffer said in an interview with Parade last year. But then they learned that Chinese adoption laws only allow US couples to adopt children with special needs.

Myka Stauffer, a YouTuber, said God encouraged her to adopt a child with autism

I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.
Myka Stauffer/ YouTube

Eventually, Stauffer said, she and her husband let the idea soak in, and "God softened our hearts." The fact that she said God had convinced her to adopt a child with special needs, makes me wonder if they truly wanted — or were prepared to— parent a child with disabilities. She went on to state how her son's "sad little face" in pictures made her unable to walk away, and that she had to pay a nonrefundable fee just to see the file.

It's common knowledge that adoptions, particularly international adoptions, are expensive. Domestic adoptions range from $20,000 to $35,000 and international start at $15,000, and can go up to $50,000. Divulging the specific amount she and her husband spent to bring their son to the US was another way for Stauffer to show her followers how selfless she was.

"My child is not returnable," Stauffer said in one of the videos documenting the adoption journey in 2017. In a follow up post, she told viewers that a neurologist suggested that Huxley's medical diagnosis was more severe than the one that was originally reported to her family.


The doctor seemed to discourage her from continuing with the adoption process. But she said that the advice "went in one ear and out the other." The diagnosis did not scare her. Their love was unconditional.

In the same video, she also plugged the fundraising she was doing for the adoption costs.

The Stauffers vowed to provide their adopted son with a lifelong home

"We're not going to trade him in. We're not going to return him." Stauffer vowed to her viewers at the time. Those words cut through my heart recently right before I clicked on their latest update where James, the father, went on to explain that, "there were a lot more special needs than we were aware of."

When it came down to it, there were too many struggles for the Stauffer family to handle. They're proof that a "calling from God" isn't always enough when your child has needs that keep you up at night, and has meltdowns that can last for hours, or services that can take over your daily lives.

It's well documented that many adoptions don't have happy endings.


I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.
A woman in Haiti displays images of children who were adopted.Getty

In the US, between 10% to 25% of adoptions are disrupted, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Disruptions refer to when an adoption is ended and the child is returned to foster care or new adoptive parents before it becomes legally finalized.

There are fewer cases like the Stauffers'.

Very few adoptions come to an end after they're finalized

About 1% to 5% percent are dissolved. This occurs after a finalized adoption, when the child's relationship with their adoptive family is legally severed, and the child is then placed in foster care or with new adoptive parents. Typically, the largest contributing factors are a lack of information to locate services and the cost of those services.

Adoption is often seen as a selfless act, where adults give orphans a "better-life," the way many celebrities have, including, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna.


I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.
Singer Madonna (R) and son David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie attend the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The truth is, a lot of adoptions, particularly international adoptions, occur because the child's biological parents lack financial support. That's when adoption agencies swoop in.

Currently, somewhere between 1 and 2 US million couples are waiting to adopt children and about 100,000 children in foster care are eligible for adoption. But over half the children are six and older. This is an issue since many parents would prefer to adopt infants. Fewer adoptable babies are available in the US since the teen pregnancy rate has declined, and many parents, as a result, turn to international adoptions.

In 60% of private adoptions in the US, the children adopted were around a month old, and 26% of foster children adopted in 2018 were nine and older.

More than 100,000 US children are waiting to adopted, but many parents want to adopt babies

That there are more adoptive parents available than children needing homes in the US shows that adoption is not just about a selfless desire to help. It's often about finding a desired child with certain qualifications, and not just any child who may need a home.


I was adopted outside of the US and have disabilities. I'm tired of the savior narrative among white adoptive parents.

This desire is so strong that a number of countries put new restrictions in place to help prevent child-trafficking, abusive practices, and to advocate for heritage rights.

Those limits didn't protect Huxley, though.

The Stauffers used Huxley's story to build their platform, and when their adopted child became too much, they tried to make him just go away. He disappeared for months from the family's social media posts and videos and it wasn't until their followers confronted them that they told the truth.

The system failed Huxley and the Stauffers by allowing this child to be adopted into a family that wasn't equipped to handle his needs long term. Too often, with international adoptions, there's not enough oversight or support available.


In the end, the Stauffers' giving up Huxley may have been for the best, but this likely isn't an isolated case. Adoption agencies should better prepare and support adoptive families and expectant mothers before and after with education and services so there would be less cases like his. If that were the norm, perhaps Huxley would've been placed with the right family the first time around.