SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — The lives of local Marshallese mothers, in limbo after being tangled in a large adoption scheme.
This comes after adoption lawyer Paul Petersen was indicted for adoption fraud in multiple states, including Arkansas.
“We’re helping all of them,” said Michaela Montie with Shared Beginnings.
19 Marshallese moms are now victims after being forced to put their children up for adoption in a multi-state illegal adoption scheme.
“They didn’t understand they had a choice in the matter, so Mr. Petersen was just pairing them with an adoptive family and not giving them choice in where their baby was going,” said Montie.
She’s helping every single one of Paul Peterson’s victims in our area, educating them on their rights as a parent.
She said, “For the first time, they’re feeling a different level of choice than they ever have before.”
Now, the moms stand at a crossroad.
“Some of them may make the choice to parent, some of them may make the choice to continue with the adoption, some of them may make the choice to continue the adoption with another family,” non-profit attorney Josh Bryant said. “At the same time, adoption attorneys are working through each case to determine; does arkansas have jurisdiction? Are there consent problems? Has anyone been threatened or coerced?”
Bryant represents the adoptive parents as a group.
He said regardless of their decision moving forward, these adoptions need to be handled in court.
“Just so that we can have a record of every single one of these cases that Mr. Peterson began,” he said. “We want to make sure that every one of them that started in the dark, and that had problems because they were started in the dark, we want to fix those in the light.”
For adoptions that have already been processed, Bryant said it’s unlikely a mother would take their child back from an adoptive family but not impossible.
As of right now, two babies have been born.
The fate of those kids will depend on what the mother wants, which will then be approved by a judge.
Bryant said, “If there’s an agreement, we want to honor that, if mom wants to parent, we want to honor that. It’s just a matter of taking one case at a time.”
Inside Shared Beginnings, you can find everything from toiletries to baby clothes that mothers or the adoptive families need.
Montie said, “For all of these ladies, we are helping them apply for pregnancy Medicaid, we’re helping them apply for housing vouchers, just making sure that we kind of help triage all of the immediate needs.”
To keep this support, Montie said the non-profit desperately needs volunteers and donations.