Uncovering the flaws of the adoption process in Arkansas, new details shed light on ethical concerns


How the big money business is becoming abused by attorneys, biological parents cashing in on children

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KFTA) — New details on adoption crimes and unethical practices from both attorneys and families in northwest Arkansas are coming to light.

In a special report that aired in September, KNWA uncovered the flaws of the adoption process in the Natural State.

One couple shared their story after being cheated out of thousands of dollars when they were promised a child who never even existed.

The couple filed a lawsuit against their adoption attorney, Vaughn Cordes, which has since been settled.

However, litigation is still pending for two other co-defendents, including Justin Aine, who faces human trafficking charges.

On Tuesday, Rogers attorney Josh Bryant deposed Cordes, learning new information on his relationship to Aine.

Documents show Aine, a community liaison and Marshallese translator, was making over $150,000 a year by working with biological mothers who were in an adoption plan.

“Every time I think I have discovered just how bad the adoption process can be abused, it gets worse,” Bryant said. “If the translator is making $150,000 a year, what’s the attorney making?”

He calls this amount of money a red flag.

Bryant adds, “it looks like there is a group of people who are working to manipulate how these particular adoptions are done.”

During the deposition, he uncovered evidence that two local adoption attorneys are under investigation for various ethical complaints.

“There have been complaints of deception, where attorneys have lied to their clients, complaints dealing with attorneys not responding to phone calls, or requesting information,” Bryant said.

Flaws in the adoption process are not isolated to the Marshallese community.

“It’s legally complicated, it’s psychologically complicated, and emotionally complicated.”

Josh Bryant, Attorney at The Bryant Firm

Bryant calls it a systematic problem, and anyone who is marginalized and vulnerable could fall for the abuse of practices.

“A lot of times the judges in northwest Arkansas have applied a lot more scrutiny to an adoption where a Marshallese is involved. To avoid that scrutiny, what a lot of them have done is send pregnant mothers to other parts of the state,” Bryant said.

He says, for example, there were five pregnant Marshallese women living in Paragould, Arkansas, with adoption plans.

While he continues to fight for change in how adoptions are conducted, it won’t be seen overnight.

“Hopefully it will get back to a point to where adoption is a respected and viable option for mothers and fathers who find themselves where they can’t care for a child, and the whole practice of adoption returns to being a means of child welfare — and that becomes the focus rather than economics.”

Bryant says adoptions can be done ethically, and provides these tips for families looking to adopt:

  • Hire a reputable attorney, who will insist that a mother has private counsel on their own and receives services necessary for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery
  • Track where the money is going
  • Know who the translator is; ensure they are trustworthy and reputable

Certain adoptions will soon be criminalized as human trafficking thanks to a state bill that takes effect July 24.

The bill defines human trafficking as forcing a woman into adoption for personal profit or financial gain.

It also criminalizes the solicitation of a woman to place her child up for adoption. Bryant helped draft the bill.

Bryant says he has heard reports of women being approached by translators or other people who work for attorneys or agencies, that were offered cash on the spot if they would agree to place their child up for adoption.

“Because of that economic influence into adoption…are now going to be at least criminalized and it’s going to give prosecutors and law enforcement agencies some teeth and some ammunition to be able to step in and stop some of the things that are going on,” Bryant said.

Arkansas will be the 13th state to define the selling of a child as human trafficking. In 37 states, all of this is still legal.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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