Dear Governor, Representatives and Senators of Arkansas and candidates for office,
Please allow me to state the problem in as clear and concise a manner as I can. In short, unborn and newborn babies are being solicited, brokered, bought, and sold in Arkansas and the General Assembly has the power to fix the problem. KNWA recently aired a story about this problem that has become well known in Northwest Arkansas and is growing in vulnerable communities across the state. You can see the report here.
In the worst cases, a person who we commonly call a fixer approaches a pregnant woman and offers her money if she’ll place her child up for adoption. If she agrees, the fixer and the biological mother go to an attorney’s office where the attorney offers the expectant mother as much as $15,000 to place her child up for adoption. If the biological mother decides to place her child up for adoption through that attorney, the attorney pays the fixer around $500 as a “finder’s fee” for bringing the biological mothers in. At any time before or after these meetings, hopeful adoptive parents have also contacted that attorney seeking to adopt a baby. They pay the attorney anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000 in attorney fees to process the adoption. This appears to be a de facto conflict of interest with an attorney representing adverse legal interests in the same case. Throughout the pregnancy, the attorney acts as a conduit of information, communication, and money. However, most adoptive parents I have talked to complain about the fact that record keeping on those funds is laughable and most biological parents complain about not getting the money they were promised. Many times, there are no receipts and no accounting despite the fact that the adoptive parents will later sign an affidavit swearing under oath to how money was spent. What’s worse, many times after the adoption is finalized the biological and adoptive parents stay in touch only to discover that the money paid to the attorney earmarked for the biological family does not make it there. In other words, attorneys are billing adoptive parents for birth mother expenses and pocketing the cash rather than give it to the biological mother.
It gets worse. Sometimes, the fixers are recruiting biological mothers from foreign countries (particularly the Marshall Islands where inhabitants can freely enter and work in the United States without a visa or green card), flying them to Arkansas, and leaving them here after the adoption is finalized. They frequently speak little English, have no job or vocational training. Often times when biological mothers indicate their desire to change their mind about adoption, the attorney sends in the fixer to smooth things over, often with very gritty harassment, coercion, and duress. They’ll threaten the biological mothers with hefty prison sentences, unpayable civil judgments, and more. Here recently, there has been an uptick in cases where fixers will go back to a birth mother in the eighth month of pregnancy and offer more money if they will switch attorneys. When this happens, biological mothers get more money, the fixers get more money, but adoptive parents are left with broken hearts and empty bank accounts with little hope of recovery. This has led to some criminal prosecutions, but far too few. Attorneys who practice in this area of law talk about how they have an arrangement with one another to reimburse the attorney who lost a client when a birth mother switches attorneys. Unfortunately, that money rarely if ever finds its way back to adoptive parents who’ve invested in a failed adoption.
Believe it or not, it gets worse. I’ve interviewed adoptive parents who have adopted children straight from Arkansas attorneys who just weeks earlier adopted the child themselves. They charge the new adoptive parents far more money than they spent to adopt them in the first place, literally buying a child low and selling high. I’ve talked to biological parents who when pregnant were approached in public places by someone offering to give them money in exchange for placing their unborn child up for adoption. I’ve talked to circuit court judges who are disgusted by the notion that a mother may have been coerced, threatened, harassed, or intimidated to place their child up for adoption but are left with little choice but to sign an adoption order on the mother’s testimony that their choice was free and voluntary.
Not every case has every one of these despicable practices, but nearly every case has at least one of them. Not all attorneys practicing in this area engage in these practices, but regardless these practices must stop. These cartels of attorneys and fixers must be broken up. Adoptions facilitated by lawyers (as opposed to DHS or licensed adoption agencies) must be more transparent. The legislative scheme for adoptions must change. Rather than just present you with a problem, I would like to present you with a solution. I have attached a proposed bill which I offer for your consideration. It would provide for legal counsel to biological parents to correct the conflict of interests that exist in current practice. It would criminalize the facilitation of an illegal payment to a birth mother for an adoption and the solicitation of a biological mother to place their child up for adoption. It would require detailed accounting of funds paid from adoptive to biological mothers for court review. It would solidify the jurisdictional requirements that are currently placing a drain on probate courts in Arkansas. In short, it would go a long way towards fixing this problem.
This issue is non-partisan. Republicans and Democrats alike see how wrong these practices are. Reform is supported by biological parents and adoptive parents alike. I look forward to seeing the General Assembly pass a bill that solves the problem. You can learn more at www.adoptionarkansas.org. If I can be of any assistance in the process, please let me know.
For His Fame,
Josh Bryant| Attorney at Law
5204 Village Pkwy., Ste. 11-131
Rogers, AR 72758
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I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.