The Stauffers 'rehomed' their adopted son after 3 years. A new docuseries explores the controversy.

The Stauffer family is the subject of a new docuseries,
The Stauffer family is the subject of a new docuseries, "An Update on Our Family." (Courtesy Vox Media) (Vox Media)

In 2020, family vloggers Myka and James Stauffer tearfully announced to their followers that their adopted child was now living with another family. The new three-part docuseries An Update on Our Family, which premiered at the Tribeca Festival in June, explores the events leading up to the announcement that the child was “rehomed,” the backlash that followed and the nuances of this sensitive issue.

Director Rachel Mason told Yahoo Entertainment that a 2020 New York Magazine feature about the Stauffers made her want to dig deeper. At the time, she didn’t know much about family channels on YouTube, but approached the creator ecosystem with “true fascination.”

“When I started to dive in, I felt like an anthropologist watching an unknown species from a very far distance with binoculars,” she said. “What was most important to me was to start getting closer, and to do so I wanted to meet the people actually operating in this world. … I wanted to understand their appeal and how they maintain their audiences.”

The Stauffer family began posting on YouTube as a family in 2014, sharing everything from products they enjoyed to tearful stories about miscarriages and parenting difficulties. By 2017, the Stauffers traveled with their three biological children to China to adopt Huxley, an autistic toddler. They posted frequently about his challenges, from the behavioral impact of his trauma from events leading up to the adoption to his medical prognosis. They showed his meltdowns and spoke openly about having a difficult time parenting him.

The Stauffers’ popularity grew as they posted about Huxley, and eventually they began getting sponsorships from brands, according to New York magazine. They had another biological child and began discussing the possibility of adopting another. Fans scrutinized them closely and eventually noticed that in one video Huxley’s car seat seemed to have disappeared from their car.

After three years of documenting Huxley’s adoption process, the Stauffers tearfully announced in a May 2020 YouTube video that they had decided to find a new home for the child. Myka said she felt like “a failure as a mom.”

"Once Huxley came home, there was a lot more special needs that we weren't aware of, and that we were not told," James said, explaining that Huxley was living with a “new mommy,” one with with medical training. "We've never wanted to be in this position. And we've been trying to get his needs met and help him out as much as possible. ... we truly love him."

The backlash was immediate and severe. They received numerous hateful comments, including death threats. Other creators went from encouraging them to insulting them, leading the Stauffers to shut down their channel. Some of those videos from other creators are featured in the documentary. Mason said she chose to include them because they create a “portrait of a culture” that the Stauffers were a part of.

“We see how brands encouraged their content, how fans cheered them on … then also started to have expectations,” she said. “Then [we see] how more people in the YouTube community started sleuthing and seeing things that disturbed them, which is how the whole story eventually became exposed.”

To do more than just rehash a terrible situation and the critical response to it, Mason felt she needed to hear from someone who had experience with the dissolution of an adoption to be able to properly tell the story. The docuseries team spoke with a mother who posted on Reddit that she “Myka Stauffer’d” her child.

“In her post, she felt the need to write ‘no death threats please,’ which I found to be one of the sadly consistent themes in general in the film — how conditioned people have become to getting the most hostile kinds of responses,” Mason said. “She was able to expose just how unthinkable it is for a family to grapple with that decision.”

Another voice Mason found essential in explaining the Stauffers’ story was Hannah Cho, a YouTuber who is also a transracial adoptee.

“[Cho] articulated how the YouTube community had carefully examined their channel in the months leading up to their video, and how their audience had consumed their content,” Mason said. “She helped to explain the story…with a kind of personal nuance that came from her own story.”

Ultimately, Mason doesn’t see the project as an exposé on the Stauffers or family vloggers — rather, the “reactionary and polarized” system that currently exists on the internet.

“Expectations [for creators] … are really high, and I fear that we have set ourselves up collectively to become more extreme in our behavior,” she said. “I hope that we find a way to become more humane through the telling of this story.”

Myka does not post on social media anymore, though James maintains a YouTube channel about cars called “Stauffer Garage.” Huxley no longer goes by that name. His new adoptive family chose not to participate in the docuseries. Since premiering at the Tribeca Festival, An Update on Our Family has not yet announced a general release date.