Eeka McLeod’s journey to build a family began when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of adopting a child. While in graduate school, she became a licensed foster parent and began caring for children. In her time as a foster parent, Eeka cared for 18 children and eventually adopted three: Eli, Evan, and Ella. She has devoted her life to helping meet their unique needs while expressing their individuality. Eli has cerebral palsy, while Evan and Ella are on the autism spectrum. The self-described “family of misfits” made their name on social media during the pandemic with unapologetic, hilarious content that shed light on the triumphs and challenges of daily life. On TikTok, they have over 116 million likes and 2.4 million followers, on Instagram they have over 100,000 followers, and on YouTube they have over 2.6 million views and over 50,000 subscribers.
Hello Eeka, tell us about yourself?
I am a single, adoptive mom to three disabled children. I was a foster parent for approximately five years, fostering a total of 18 children in that time. I identify as queer and am asexual and bi-romantic. I have two Masters degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling. I am also a living kidney donor and donated my kidney to a foster child in Texas in 2015. As a single mom, I don’t have a lot of time for myself, but when I do I love to go out to eat with friends.
Could you describe your adoption journey to us? What prompted you to pursue adoption?
I have known since I was a young child that I wanted to adopt. When other little girls were playing pretend pregnancy and marriage games, I was playing adoption. I graduated college and moved on to graduate school quickly after that. While I was in my first semester of graduate school, I obtained my foster care license and began fostering children. Eli was my 10th placement and my first forever child. He was 4 months old when I accepted his placement and he’s such a joy! Evan came to me at 5 days old and is my most energetic kiddo! Ella is my youngest and came to me when she was a newborn. She is Evan’s biological sister and by far my most determined, motivated kiddo. We are a family of misfits who were lucky enough to find one another.
Is adoption something you would recommend after your experience? In your opinion, what advice would you give parents considering adoption?
Adoption is an incredibly difficult journey. I don’t think people realize the mental and emotional toll it takes on you. My advice to people is that if they truly feel called to adopt, then do it. Ensure you have a phenomenal support system in place and be ready to cry a lot. Adoption is often flouted as this beautiful experience, but the reality isn’t quite so pretty. Adoption begins with loss and adopted children often feel that loss their whole lives. There’s so much more that goes into being adopted and being an adoptive parent than most people understand.
How was the experience of foster parenting? Will you do that again?
Fostering was an eye-opening journey. I enjoyed it at times and, like anyone, I struggled at other times. The hellos are so exciting and the goodbyes hurt. I wanted to foster since I was a teen and am so glad I fulfilled that goal. I haven’t forgotten a single child that came into my home and left. They each took a piece of my heart with them. My fostering journey is over, and I likely won’t do it again. I am focusing on my three children and by the time they are of age, I will be so much older. I’d love to spend that time traveling and sleeping…I’m exhausted!
How did you react/feel when you found out that Evan and Ella are on the autism spectrum?
To be honest, with Evan it was incredibly difficult. He already had one major diagnosis (microcephaly) and receiving another one was something I honestly was not prepared for. That being said, his autism journey has been a lot of fun at times. Autism is what makes Evan so charismatic and bright! I was more prepared for Ella’s diagnosis. Ella and Evan couldn’t be more different so seeing how each of them navigates the world is both fascinating and joyful.
Parents of children with autism are facing so many challenges, what advice would you give them?
Cry when you need to, never be afraid to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments, and your struggles in no way negate how amazing your child is. Parents of autistic kids feel guilty or are made to feel guilty for talking about how hard the journey can be for us. We are human. I think it’s healthy to talk to someone about the highs and the lows of being a parent of a child with autism. I feel less alone when I know others are going through similar situations and learn so much from other parents.
Your son Evan has become a social media sensation for his love of wearing long dresses and colourful hairstyles. What was it like putting Evan’s video on social media for the first time? Was there ever a concern that there would be a negative reaction?
Evan is definitely the most colorful in our family. He’s the star and we are all more than happy to let him take that role. When Evan first began wearing dresses, I was a little worried, but we didn’t have a large following so I didn’t think much about it. It’s always been my motto to post what brings me joy and seeing his smiling face in all his fancy outfits fills my heart. Once our following grew (and quickly), the hate came pouring in. I try not to give it my time or attention. Leaving a hate comment about a happy, healthy, loved child says far more about the writer than us.
Do you think there is a double standard among people? I mean, if a girl wears a men’s t-shirt or pants it is completely fine, but if a boy wears something which is gender-specific then it’s a big no-no. Why is that?
There is most definitely a double standard! As much as people want to believe our society is so educated because of all the access to so much technology, the truth is society hasn’t changed much when it comes to backward thinking. The old-school stereotypes for males and females still very much exist for many. These are the people who are unwilling to change despite having so much access to education. It’s the idea of “Well, I was raised to believe this so I’m not changing.” The same mentality exists in so many other areas of raising kids.
You are a true inspiration, Eeka. May I ask you what it is like to be a single mother raising three children with disabilities?
Incredibly challenging, but also a lot of fun—and very funny at times! My kids have struggles most would never understand. It hurts as a parent not being able to fix everything for them. But we have some really fun times, and my kids have a great sense of humor.
What do you do to keep yourself positive? What keeps you motivated?
If I’m being honest, I would not call myself a positive person. I struggle every day and try to remind myself to find even the smallest moment of joy in each day. What motivates me the most is making life easier for my children. Someday I won’t be here, and my hope is that I can set them up for a lifetime of success.
For the people who don’t follow you and are not familiar with the ‘McLeod Family’ page, what is in store for them? What message would you give to them? What is the energy that people can take it from?
We are WILD! My kids operate very much outside the boundaries of societal expectations, and I love watching them experience the world in their own unique ways. I would hope that people see our pages and realize that families come in all shapes and sizes, acceptance and inclusion are life-changing for us all, and fitting into the box is no fun!
Finally, where can people follow you?
YouTube: The McLeod Fam