Here are a few things I've learned that some attorneys or their employees are telling biological parents who are considering placing their child up for adoption:
It has to stop, and with the legislation I've drafted I hope it will. Right now, Arkansas law requires that a person or organization be licensed before placing a child up for adoption unless they are a physician or lawyer. It is this loophole that some attorneys and perhaps some doctors are using to carry out these abuses. We propose we close that loophole by:
Biological parents need to have someone who will look out for their best interests, and the attorney that is both placing a child up for adoption and representing the adoptive parents is not the proper person to do that. These parents need independent attorneys who can put the courts, their clients, and potential adoptive parents at ease. These parents need someone who will stand up and ensure that no one is forcing them into giving up their child for adoption.
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1. Adoption has become human trafficking in vulnerable communities in Arkansas.
Yes, you read that right. There are people who know their rent and groceries will be covered so long as they are pregnant and that they are giving up their child for adoption. Others come from far away places without a good grasp on the English language from a culture where adoptions are routinely open to a state where adoptions are by law closed. There are attorneys who pay finders fees to people who will bring an expecting mother or couple to them to place the child up for adoption. How do I know? For starters, I've adopted two children from parents who live in these communities, and while I'm confident that our adoptions were above board and ethically done, I've heard story after story indicating we are the exception, not the rule. It sickens me.
2. When hospitals suspect human trafficking in this context, there is little they can do.
The law right now requires hospitals to follow the directive of birth parents in releasing a child to someone else if it is properly executed. Never mind that a doctor may see the sadness in their eyes. Never mind that a social worker may have witnessed coercion or duress levied against them. Never mind that the parents may not be able to read the documents they are signing. Never mind that their instincts tell them something is very wrong with the situation. They must comply. Some may be taking the risk of not complying with that directive, but the law is pretty clear.
3. Broad definitions of legal reimbursement are all but allowing birth parents to sell their child.
The law does not allow birth parents to sell a child. However, they can receive reimbursement for reasonable expenses related to the pregnancy. What does that mean? It could mean anything. On top of that, there is little or no transparency in what the money is used for. Most reports filed with the Court supervising an adoption have three line items: attorney fees (which are often excessive in these cases), court costs, and birth mother expenses. The reports rarely, if ever, itemize what money was used for so that the legitimacy of the payments can be scrutinized.
4. Migrant birth parents make establishing jurisdiction difficult.
Many birth parents in these situations are migrants, either willingly or otherwise. They come to the state of Arkansas for the sole purpose of adopting away a child, whether the adoptive parents are residents of Arkansas or not. The law right now requires that if adoptive parents are coming from out of state to adopt a child, the biological parents must be residents here for four months. That birth parents have lived here for that long is increasingly difficult to prove and the Arkansas judiciary is noticing that it is being abused.
5. Some attorneys who practice adoption law have serious conflicts of interest.
Many times, biological parents will go to an attorney to place their child up for adoption knowing that attorney will immediately give them money. That attorney is also approached by unsuspecting parents eager to adopt without the red tape of many adoption agencies or the Department of Human Services. The attorney will take money from the adoptive parents, give some of it to the biological parents for often unspecified purposes, file paperwork with the courts on behalf of the adoptive parents, require the biological parents to sign papers terminating their parental rights, and then go to court with both parties. This is a very dangerous practice for most attorneys that few are crying foul on right now.
6. There are people pressuring pregnant families to give up their children.
There have been reports of men putting pregnant women and their significant other on planes on the other side of the world headed for Arkansas. Some people know that they can make a quick $500 if they'll just bring a pregnant couple to an attorney, so they engage in high pressure sales techniques to convince them to give up their child. Some parents have tried to change their mind about putting their child up for adoption and are afterwards subjected to harassment, threats, intimidation, and other coercive action.
The worst part is that in Arkansas, the law is powerless to stop this madness.
That's where our legislation comes in. This legislation provides an independent attorney to represent the best interests of the biological parents and ensure that threats and intimidation are not part of their decision making paradigm. It criminalizes solicitation of a birth parent and the heavy handed tactics that have led to such abuses of the system. It revitalizes the jurisdictional requirements and forces proof that the Arkansas judicial system is not overloaded with petitions from people with no ties to the state. It gives hospitals a moral choice when there are concerns that the decision to place a child up for adoption was reached improperly. It requires transparency in how money flows from adoptive parents to biological parents through attorneys. And by God's grace, it will end the practice of turning something as beautiful as adoption into something as ugly as human trafficking.