NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — Some northwest Arkansas families could be out upwards of $40,000 after an adoption scheme is uncovering flaws in the system.
Four Marshallese women have chosen to keep their babies instead of going through with the adoption.
The women were alleged victims of adoption attorney Paul Peterson.
He’s accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. and give their babies up for adoption.
Earlier this month, Petersen was federally indicted on adoption fraud in Arkansas, Arizona, and Utah.
Some parents who were set to adopt the babies have changed their minds.
Adopting a child can take anywhere from days to years.
It’s an expensive process, costing anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per adoption, says Josh Bryant, non-profit attorney and adoptive father.
According to local adoption agency Shared Beginnings, four Marshallese women have now decided not give up their newborns.
Bryant says after even after a child is born and the legal documents are signed, there’s a 10-day period where birth mothers can change their mind.
He says it’s important to remind these birth mothers that they have rights.
“They were being coerced. They were being threatened and harassed in some cases. It’s important to note that they can change their mind and they have options here,” he said.
Bryant says some of the Marshallese birth mothers came to northwest Arkansas from the Marshal Islands for the sole purpose of giving their child up for adoption, and others have lived in northwest Arkansas for several years.
There are several northwest Arkansas organizations that will support local Marshallese women and their newborns, including Shared Beginnings.
It’s also partnering with HARK Center for Collaborative Care and the Community Clinic, taking each case by case.