The Dougherty Dozen Controversy Explained
On the surface, the Dougherty Dozen (as they have dubbed themselves on social media) seem like godsends in the world of child adoption and fostering. Alicia and Josh Dougherty went viral in 2021 after they began posting TikTok videos of their lives with 10 children during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as a way for Alicia to avoid "losing her mind" quickly turned into a lifestyle for the big family. Today the Dougherty Dozen boasts over 6 million followers across social media platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. They have also welcomed 2 more children since they first began sharing their story.
The family has been featured on Good Morning America and TODAY receiving praise from the media for their "inspiring" story. Alicia and Josh reportedly suffered 11 miscarriages before deciding to adopt. However, just days after adopting their first son, Alicia learned she was pregnant. The rest was history as Alicia and Josh went on to welcome four biological children - Zoey, Dash, Bodhi, and Harlee - while also adopting/fostering Alex, James, Jordan, Jason, Patrick, Bree, Nevaeh, and Dayshawn.
Notably, six of Alicia's and Josh's adopted children suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). They have been praised for giving these children a safe and loving home, keeping sibling groups together, and for raising their adopted and biological sons of the same age, Dash, Jordan, and Jason, like triplets. Additionally, Alicia has garnered a lot of attention for her "supermom" videos where she films montages of her 5 A.M. routine of making breakfast, packing lunches, and preparing dinner and snacks for her 12 children. However, a deeper dive into the family will quickly show cracks in their image.
Disclosing kids' private information and bashing bio parents
One of the major reasons that the Dougherty Dozen have come under scrutiny, is concerns about Alicia's failure to protect her children's privacy. Especially concerning is the number of times that Alicia has disclosed her children's diagnoses, medical conditions, or behaviors to her millions upon millions of followers. In one shocking video, she disclosed one of her adopted son's list of diagnoses, creating a list to shock viewers with its extensiveness. The list included extremely private information, all the way down to the traumatic homes he lived in. She went on to say that he was "dealt the worst deck of cards in life." The video left many wondering how this child will cope later in life, when his entire medical record and traumatic history are public online for anyone to find.
In another instance, she took a photo of her son kneeling by the toilet and went into a detailed explanation of his struggles with Pica, how he had swallowed pennies, needed "impulse-control" medications, and would "jump out of a 2-story window" given the chance.
Alicia frequently discloses her kids' private information to gain attention and sympathy. Even in her coverage from major media outlets, she described her kids as being "aggressive" and prone to "fits of rage." In one shopping haul video, she filmed herself buying adult diapers while announcing, "Some of my kids battle incontinence." In another post, she compared her child to a dog, saying they were going through a "coprophagia phase" and made it obvious which child she was talking about. She has also boasted how some of her children were deemed "unadoptable" and at times even called them "trauma kids," making it seem as if she solely defines them by their conditions and pasts. At one point, when a personal aide had nothing but positive things to say about one of Alicia's sons, she screenshotted the message and posted it to social media, laughing at it and pitying the poor aide who was still "optimistic" about working her son. Her kids being well-adjusted children and excelling in school and therapy evokes sarcasm and bullying because she knows it will garner her less attention and sympathy for being a heroic mom to "unadoptable" children.
Many have also criticized her tendency to slide in shade towards her children's biological parents publicly on social media. In one post, she exposed a biological parent for chain smoking, and accused her of being the reason the children suffered from asthma. While parental abuse of any form is never acceptable, one must tread carefully with adopted and foster children and understand they may have complex relationships with their parents. Despite their parents' shortcomings, some children still do defend and love their biological parents, while others are still trying to come to terms with growing up in abusive environments. Growing up and seeing their adoptive mother trash the woman who gave them birth will not sit well with many of these kids, who would likely prefer the details of their lives before adoption not to be disclosed either.
Shopping addiction and food waste
Even those only familiar with Alicia's morning routines and shopping hauls will quickly find them problematic. Alicia gets views by using the shock factor, and does this by creating enormous displays of food daily, gifting her children thousands of dollars worth of presents for every birthday, putting in enormous fast food orders, and regularly blowing thousands filling up shopping carts upon shopping cart at the grocery store. Part of her shopping addiction includes having to buy things in 12s because she has12 kids, even if not all of the kids need that product. For example, recently she bought all 12 kids new toothbrushes. In another instance, she bought all 12 kids a McDonald's McGriddle meal which included a sandwich, hashbrowns, and a large drink, which was very likely too much food for the majority of her young kids.
In another instance, she bought 20 McFlurries and 20 McDonald's Apple Pies, which seems unnecessary for 14 people, especially when each child could've had just one or the other for dessert. Additionally, she seems to spend the majority of her day in the kitchen making enormous meals and snacks for her kids, most of which likely go uneaten. In one video, her daughter was complaining that she wasn't hungry and didn't want dinner. Alicia stated that she didn't care whether the kids ate or not, she just wanted to film them making dinner, solely to have content to share.
Alicia is also very prone to flaunting her money. She recently gifted both her teenage sons brand-new cars on their birthdays, along with gaming monitors, desktops, workout equipment, multiple Nike outfits and sneakers, and plenty of other miscellaneous gifts.
In one instance, she gifted her son hundreds of dollars worth of expensive presents in front of his bio mom, who was also flown across the country as part of her son's "gift" and very likely doesn't have the means to gift her son such extravagant luxuries. While it is certainly sweet of her to treat her kids from time to time, it is quite clear that she is trying to win them over with money and extravagance, when many of them likely would rather she spend time with them instead.
Additionally, she tries to avoid spending money on actual necessities, such as refusing to get the family's septic tank fixed for six months. This allows her to get more content buying loads of bottled water, running to the laundromat every week, purchasing/using all plastic dishware and cutlery, and limiting the amount of water they use.
Bullying, racism, and alcohol
Given her callous disclosure of all of her kids' medical issues and trauma, it isn't surprising that she is prone to bullying and insulting her kids, too. Recently, she posted a TikTok video of her young biological son going around and telling his siblings which celebrity or TV/Film character they were a "dupe" of. The first video was harmless, but obviously concocted by Alicia, as her young son referred to his baby sister as a "Rue Bennett dupe" and it's unlikely he watches Euphoria at his tender age. The next video was shocking, as she described one of her sons as a "Sideshow Bob dupe," a character comparison many find to be mocking and racist. She then took the insults even further by calling one son who struggles with his weight a "Peter Griffin dupe" and another son who suffers from FAS a "Sid the Sloth dupe."
Meanwhile, she received high praise for raising her adopted Black twin boys and her biological white son as triplets. However, these media outlets failed to mention how she began referring to them as her "Oreo triplets." She would even position them to have her bio son in the middle so they would be in perfect "Oreo order." It's unclear why anyone would think this was okay.
Then, there is the issue of the family's attitude toward alcohol. Alicia jokes A LOT about alcohol, even going so far as to blame her kids for being the reason she drinks. Plenty of parents likely make this joke, but adopted children with traumatic histories and struggles that are out of their control shouldn't have to see comments like this. Additionally, the amount of White Claw that Alicia is frequently seen purchasing on every weekly grocery haul is quite a lot, especially in addition to the bottles of wine and tequila frequently spotted in her videos.
Even more concerning than her drinking habits, is the fact that her alcohol is always sitting out on the open on counters and in the fridge. Proof that this is a very bad idea, is the fact that she has mentioned her White Claws going missing. Meanwhile, studies have found that individuals with FAS are at a higher risk of suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Having alcohol with no child-safety precautions is very concerning, and especially should not be allowed in a foster/adoptive home. While Alicia and her husband can't be barred from drinking, it just seems like a given that parents in their situation would be discreet and careful about what they expose their kids to when it comes to alcohol.
The Dougherty Dozen children don't belong on the internet
Even without the ignorance, insults, disclosing of sensitive information, insane spending, bio-parent bashing, alcoholism, and waste, the Dougherty Dozen still doesn't belong on the internet. In the age of YouTube family vloggers and now TikTok vloggers, many are beginning to become concerned about the exploitation of children and the denial of their privacy. Alicia often argues that she has a perfect right to film her kids and share their names and faces on social media. When concerns arose about her putting two children in kinship care on social media when they weren't legally adopted, she proved that it was "legal" for her to do so. She also immediately had them referring to her and Josh as mom and dad upon arriving in a new home.
Having something be "legal" is not a good enough excuse to do it. All children are vulnerable and should not be exploited, but her adopted kids are especially vulnerable. Many of them have been through trauma and abuse, and many have medical conditions that require special care. They will have enough hardships in their life dealing with the marks that their pasts have left on them. The last thing in the world that they need is videos circulating of them being compared to Sid the Sloth or listing every detail of extremely sensitive and private medical conditions, traumas, and behaviors. They also don't need hundreds of comments from strangers directed at them, many of which are callous, brutal, and inappropriate. Their stories are their own to tell. They will tell their story only when, or if, they ever choose to do so. Their lives, stories, traumas, and struggles are not Alicia's to share or exploit for money, and they never will be.