Recently, the Stauffer family has come under the media’s attention and scrutiny after they announced on their YouTube channel that they had rehomed their adopted son from China; a process in which a child is adopted by a different family because the initial adoption has been deemed as failed. Thousands of comments on social media flooded in with people expressing their rage and disappointment, taken aback by shock as they tried to process how a family could adopt a child only to let them go a few years later.
Rehoming is not an isolated incident to the Stauffer family. There are organizations and social media pages such as Second Chance Adoptions dedicated to finding children their new forever homes. Their photos and stories are displayed like a want ad; people like a child’s photo to show their interest. It is a dehumanizing operation, a stark similarity to perusing an adoption website for animals.
I will preface by saying, I believe there are rare circumstances in which rehoming is necessary. However, it is never the child’s fault; never something they have or have not done. The responsibility in the rehoming process always falls on the adoptive parents.
Apart from those limited cases, rehoming is synonymous with giving up. It is a tragic practice within the adoption world that perpetuates irreversible trauma for the adoptee. It reiterates to the child that they are unwanted, unlovable and a burden.
Rehoming occurs when adoptive parents have placed expectations on the adoptee, both conscious and subconscious, that they have the inability to meet. Behavior problems, attachment trouble, trauma reactions, unforeseen medical issues; all these can manifest differently than the adoptive parent my have presumed.
When these expectations are not met, some decide to rehome their child. The language used during this process sugar coats what is actually happening, making it seem that the child’s best interest is in mind, that the decision is mutual amongst the adopter and adoptee.
“We cannot provide everything that this child deserves.”
“We have done everything we can and have agreed a new home will be better.”
The reality is the parents feel discouraged or stuck, that there is no other way out than to find a different family for the child: they have given up.
In sharing their experience so publicly, the Stauffer family has brought to light something that has been happening to adoptees for a long time. Every child, regardless of circumstance, deserves a family that will not walk away when things get hard. We should not be your regret or your mistake. Adoptees are human beings, not commodities to just dispose of.
I do not think the rehoming practice will disappear, but I do have hope that the number of children who experience this yearly could go down. Extended trauma education for adoptive parents as well as continued learning after an adoption is finalized should be required. Forums that involve adoptees and former foster youth should be regarded as priority. Adopters and adoptees need to be supported as a whole, rather than separating the child as the problem.
Adoption is hard. It is complicated. It can be beautiful and full of hope, but it always begins with loss and trauma. Children don’t come with a handbook for navigating through the unknowns and it can be scary and frustrating trying to figure it all out. It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to feel hopeless, but it is not okay to give up.
Do not let go of us.