Karen Bartling describes a time before she and husband Joe disrupted their adoption as "like living a nightmare"

By Jen Juneau
June 02, 2020 03:42 PM
Advertisement

A family who adopted six blind children is speaking out amid the controversial case of YouTuber Myka Stauffer, who recently placed her son Huxley in a new home over two years after his adoption from China.

In the video posted Thursday by Karen and Joe Bartling, who run a blog and YouTube channel called SixBlindKids, the spouses reveal that they adopted some of their own children after those kids initially went through adoption disruptions.

"It happens more often than people think," he says, adding that "social workers are not trained to assist through that process" and that parents are often left to their own devices in wondering how to "get support" after the "honeymoon phase" of bringing home a new child — especially one with special needs like Huxley, who turned 5 on Monday.

"The reality of what happens with your family, you friends, your church supports ... whatever you think is in place to help you through this, they're gone," adds Karen, with Joe chiming in, "they disappear, as soon as little Johnny starts yelling and screaming or having a meltdown, or disrupting a church service and things like that."

"So the agency's not helping, your normal support systems are not helping, and yet the desperation to a family comes in ... that doubt comes in that that child may or may not be a good fit [for the family]," he says. "And that's a heart-wrenching kind of situation."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Karen and Joe Bartling

Joe and Karen have become parents to children who have gone through adoption disruptions — but they have also been on the other side, in placing two children with another family who they felt was a better fit before their adoptions were finalized.

"We're very uncomfortable ever coming out and speaking about any other people in particular, especially someone that we don't know, have never met, not invested in their story, don't know anything about them. But the one thing that we do know a little bit about is adoption," Karen says.

She recalls that the couple felt "way deep in over our heads" after one 8-year-old girl was placed in their home, saying they had "professional after professional coming to us with another bad report and another bad report, and the behaviors were off the charts ... [we] felt that we were not the right people to parent this child."

"We had no idea the extent of her needs and didn't understand what was going on, let alone how to parent this child. ... Everything was just chaotic. Everything was turned upside down, [with] the dynamics and the relationships and everything. It was like living a nightmare," Karen adds of the "heart-wrenching" decision to place the little girl into another home seven weeks after she joined their household but before her adoption was finalized.

RELATED VIDEO: YouTuber Myka Stauffer Reveals She Rehomed Her Son Who Has Autism 2 Years After She Adopted Him

Myka — a mom of four and popular blogger/vlogger with over 1 million combined subscribers across both her YouTube channels — and husband James revealed in a tearful video last week that Huxley, who was diagnosed with autism following his adoption, had "a lot more special needs that we weren't aware of, and that we were not told."

"There's not an ounce of our body that doesn't love Huxley with all of our being," Myka said in part during the video, through tears. "There wasn't a minute that I didn't try our hardest and I think what Jim is trying to say is that after multiple assessments, after multiple evaluations, numerous medical professionals have felt that he needed a different fit and that his medical needs, he needed more."

The Stauffers' story has been met with a mix of responses, ranging from supportive to critical. (Many companies have vowed not to work with Myka, 33, anymore going forward.)

"So disgusting. If her biological kid gets diagnosed with autism will she abandon that kid too?" one Twitter user wrote while another said, "This is sickening. @MykaStauffer you should be ashamed and disgusted with yourself."

On the other side, "This is heartbreaking for me, I can't stop crying," said a commenter on the Stauffers' May 26 video. "I knew something was not right when I didn't see Huxley. I am a adoptive mother of a dissolution adoption my son is from China. My baby was 8 years old and had special needs his adoptive family couldn't give him the care he needed and made the most heartbreaking decision in their life. This is hard for both families and especially a child they loved so dear to their heart!"

Myka and James Stauffer with kids
Myka Stauffer/instagram

For Karen and Joe, they believe no one, especially those who have not been through a similar situation as the Stauffers, should judge their decision, especially considering they don't know all the details.

"We're seeing a lot of things about this family out there, a lot of shaming and [judgment], things that are not [sitting] very well with me. I've seen videos that are made by third parties, other YouTubers, who are shaming this family because they 'gave their kid back' and 'This is not a dog,' " says Karen.

While she "understand(s) where those feelings are coming from," Karen thinks making a video about it is "beyond inappropriate because unless and until you have gone through the process yourself and adopted a child and lived through these situations, you have no earthly idea what you're talking about."

"You can't judge someone's parenting based on a decision that they made, because disruption in adoption does happen, and it happens a lot," adds the mother of six.

The Bartlings started a nonprofit organization, the Amazing Families Foundation, to provide support to families caring for members with special needs. For more information, visit amazingfamilies.org.