Marshallese adoption scheme: First NWA baby is born

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A woman in Northwest Arkansas is the first to give birth to a baby after a multi-state illegal adoption scheme is exposed.

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — Josh Bryant is an attorney who’s serving as lead counsel on the civil suit filed against Paul Petersen, the adoption lawyer accused of running a five-year adoption scheme. Bryant said so far 19 pregnant women have said they worked with Petersen’s office and Bryant believes more women will come forward.

The first baby involved in a multi-state adoption scheme in Northwest Arkansas was born Thursday, October 10, two days after Paul Petersen was arrested in Arizona.

Shared Beginnings Executive Director gave KNWA information, via text, that night and said, ‘we have a baby boy,'” Bryant said. A federal investigation revealed Petersen, who worked in Utah and Arizona and practiced law in Arkansas, would recruit, transport and pay dozens of Marshallese women to give up their babies for adoption in the United States. “Half of me wants to cheer and half of me wants to cry because the situation is so messed up,” Bryant said.

Some of the women would be in the country for days to years before giving birth. “In Arizona, it’s reported that after they [the women] gave birth he [Petersen] would pay for them to go back to the islands or come here to Northwest Arkansas where oftentimes they would get pregnant again and enter into another adoption plan,” Bryant said.

Also, they’re working on getting the victim’s help by appointing them an attorney to gather all the paperwork needed to present an adoption case to the judge. “We can kind of start triaging all of these different cases to figure out which is more urgent and what needs to see the judge now,” Bryant said.

He said for the first time these mothers are learning about their rights and are being given a choice to either go through the adoption or keep their baby. As for the mother who recently gave birth, she is following through with the adoption. Bryant says this is her third time going through the process, but the first time her baby wasn’t immediately taken out of the room after it was born. “For the first time, because she had an advocate, she was told, ‘no you have the right to spend the night with your child, you have the right to hold your child.'”

Bryant said so far, no one has requested reversing an adoption. He also said the Department of Human Services will take in the babies who aren’t yet matched to a parent.

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