Read the whole Marshall Islands article series - start with this website and follow its links:
From another source, Hawaii Star-Bulletin, Friday, March 5, 2004, 'Adoption practice draws concern':
Marshallese women have their babies here, then put them up for adoption by Americans.
Despite increased scrutiny from authorities, adoption agencies are continuing to flout Marshallese law by bringing late-term pregnant women from that country to Hawaii and other states so the newborns can be adopted by U.S. families, officials said yesterday.
A healthy Marshallese baby can cost the adopting family as much as $40,000.
Although the number of adoptions each year is believed to be small, the practice has been widely condemned because it circumvents Marshallese law, and the birth mothers generally do not understand that they are giving up their children for good, according to federal authorities and other officials at a video conference called yesterday by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie to discuss the problem.
Also, the practice often seems to involve fraud or deception, not only victimizing the birth mothers, but also state and federal agencies, hospitals and other organizations, the officials said.
As recently as last month, hospitals in Hawaii handled births of Marshallese babies destined to be adopted, and a small group of pregnant women from the tiny, impoverished Western Pacific nation was expected to arrive in Hawaii today, bound for Utah, the officials said.
Abercrombie (D-Urban Honolulu) invited representatives from law enforcement agencies, health care providers, advocacy groups, the Marshallese government and other organizations to the conference, linked by video between Honolulu and Washington, D.C.
While the agreement governing relations between the two countries prohibits a Marshallese child from traveling to the United States to be adopted without meeting immigration and other requirements, it is not clear whether that provision applies to pregnant Marshallese women.
But under Marshallese law, the adoption of any child by a foreign resident must be approved by that island nation's court. Officials said adoption agencies arrange to bring the birthing mothers to Hawaii to circumvent that law.
Beyond the legal issues, the birth mothers usually do not understand the full ramifications of a U.S. adoption, and once in Hawaii they become completely dependent on the adoption agency, which houses them, arranges for transportation and medical services, provides translators, takes their passports and essentially controls their lives, several conference participants said.
"They're basically held hostage," said Kristine Nicholson, president of Hawaii International Child, a state-licensed nonprofit adoption agency which has not arranged any Marshallese adoptions.
But Linda Lach, a Kauai attorney who has arranged such adoptions, cautioned against portraying all people in the industry with the same broad stroke.
As in any industry (bold added), there are unethical people involved with Marshallese adoptions, but "we can't all be tainted with the same brush," said Lach, who was not at the conference. She said the adoptions she handles are done properly, and the birth mothers clearly understand what they are doing.
Officials at the conference said that when questions are raised about suspect practices, the adoption agencies simply move the birth mothers to different locations around the state and switch hospitals.
The state attorney general's office is investigating whether Medicaid fraud has been committed by some agencies. Among other issues, the office is investigating whether the agencies are collecting money from the adopting families for the birth mothers' medical expenses while enrolling the women in Medicaid, putting the state on the hook for those bills.
The Legislature also is weighing in on the adoption issue. A bill that would prohibit Hawaii courts from approving any Marshallese adoptions that have not received the go-ahead of that country's court system was passed yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Whatever is done to tackle the problem, authorities said that the organizations that may be benefiting from a criminal enterprise - not the mothers exploited by it - should be the target of law enforcement.
"What we have to find is who is behind it," said Michael Seabright, assistant U.S. attorney in Honolulu.
EXTRAORDINARY circumstances have turned the Marshall Islands into the world's most uninhibited baby market. Laws aimed at halting the flow of newborn infants to the United States from the Marshalls are being ignored. Stronger enforcement is needed to ensure that such adoptions are in compliance with the new laws and are not coerced.Rep. Neil Abercrombie conducted a video conference Thursday with law enforcement agencies, health-care providers, government officials and others to bring attention to the problem. A group of pregnant women from the Marshalls were expected to arrive in Hawaii the next day, bound for Utah to give birth and fulfill adoption agreements.The incentives for such adoptions are powerful. As the Baltimore Sun pointed out last November in a series of articles about the problem, the Marshall Islands' fertility rate -- the number of children a woman is expected to bear during her lifetime -- is 6.5, more than triple the U.S. rate. The per capita income is $2,300 and the unemployment rate tops 30 percent. It is not surprising that the Marshall Islands' adoption rate of .27 in 1998 was the highest in the world, more than 20 times that of runner-up Guatemala.A study conducted by Brigham Young University professor Jini Roby of 73 Marshallese women who gave up infants for adoption found their average income to be $400 and that some had given birth as many as 15 times. For most, the baby given up was their fourth or fifth.American families pay as much as $40,000 for a healthy Marshallese baby. While poverty might seem to induce the mothers to give up their babies to receive the payment of as much as $100 a week while pregnant, Roby found that most did not comprehend the permanence of adoption. Nearly 90 percent said they would not have agreed to the adoptions if they had known their children would not return to the Marshalls upon becoming adults.Americans are estimated to have adopted 500 Marshallese babies from 1996 to 1999, prompting the Marshallese government to declare a moratorium on adoptions by foreigners. The ban was lifted in 2002, and a new law forbids the payment of money, gifts or other benefits to the natural mother. It also forbids a birth mother to leave the islands to complete an adoption.Some adoption agencies skirted the law by bringing pregnant Marshallese women to Hawaii to give birth. The tactic was simple to employ since Marshallese are allowed to travel to the United States without visas. In December, President Bush signed an amendment to the Compact of Free Association that requires any Marshallese traveling to the U.S. for purposes of adoption to obtain a visa. Senator Akaka has implored the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the new rule.As many as 50 babies were born to newly arrived Marshallese women in Hawaii last year. The state Attorney General's Office is investigating whether fraud was committed in using Medicaid to pay for medical expenses. A bill in the state Legislature would require Marshallese court approval of any Marshallese offspring to be eligible for adoption in Hawaii.
TLC officials say they no longer do adoptions from the Marshall Islands and that they severed their relationship with Graser and Maun in the wake of the Shefik case.Graser and Maun still arrange adoptions of children from the Marshall Islands.Graser, after coming under investigation by the state of Utah for running an unlicensed adoption agency, subsequently started Noah's Ark Adoptions, a licensed, for-profit corporation.She said she has four or five facilitators in Majuro, including Maun, who help her new company find mothers and pregnant women who want to put their children up for adoption.Maun said she has arranged about 80 adoptions over the past five years and now works with Noah's Ark and LDS Family Services, which is affiliated with the Mormon church. She said she collects a fee of $750 for each adoption.
NCFA Continues to Grow in its Leadership Role as "Global Ambassador" for Adoption There is a growing need and opportunity for NCFA to advocate adoption, both domestic and intercountry, around the world. With its excellent reputation and expertise, and its mission of adoption advocacy, rather than membership interests, NCFA is uniquely positioned to lead in this way.Lead in this way? Where was its leadership in the victimization of families from the Marshall Islands? Why wasn't LDS reprimanded by - or booted out of - NCFA for its participation in these horrendous international child-trafficking activities? Instead, as you'll read farther on in this blog, LDS was actually honored by NCFA for its "extremely active, influential and positive force in adoption nationally, promoting best practices."
As for the Marshall Islands, they have successfully rooted out the adoption predators through legislation. So has the state of Illinois here in the U.S. But much more work needs to be done in other states - including yours! Will you help?