FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA)– Around Arkansas, certain adoptions could now be criminalized as human trafficking thanks to a bill heading to the Governor’s desk.
This bill aims at helping expecting moms and stop adoption crimes from happening right here in Northwest Arkansas.
An attorney in Rogers says he’s personally worked with women who have been taken advantage of through the adoption process and fell target to empty threats of jail time and deportation if they didn’t cooperate.
“It’s a tough road to walk along when you have no support,” said Michaela Montie, the Executive Director of the non-profit Shared Beginnings.
Montie is the mother of three adopted children.
Now she runs Shared Beginnings to guide expecting moms through the tricky adoption process.
She said, “By having their own representation, no other attorney or agent of an attorney is allowed to solicit or really even talk to them.”
Montie says there’s a problem of crooked or fake adoption facilitators in Northwest Arkansas who offer pregnant mothers large sums of cash in return for their child.
Josh Bryant, a local attorney, has seen this happen first hand.
“When someone brokers a deal between an unsuspecting parent and an unsuspecting or unknowing biological parent, that’s not human trafficking,” he said. “Even though it’s buying and selling a child, or buying a selling a human being.”
House Bill 1789 seeks to stop these practices and make them a criminal offense.
The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“We’ve heard of and actually met some women who have placed 8 different children up for adoption over the course of 10 to 12 years,” Bryant said.
But, he says it’s not just happening here.
He said, “Not only here, all over the country and all over the world… bringing mothers here for the sole purpose of adoption in Northwest Arkansas with the promise of a better life, with the promise of a whole lot of money and those promises just not being fulfilled.”
Montie hopes to help women become more empowered to go through the adoptive process in a more loving and respectful way.
When the Governor signs bill 1789, 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.