Marshallese “Adoptions” = Newborn Trafficking

Earlier this year, Mirah Riben via Huffington Post, brought Kimberly Rossler’s nightmare story of a forced adoption to the attention of the international public. The ugly practice of manipulative “pre-birth contracts” is now exposed. Hopefully, Alabama agencies, especially Adoption Rocks, will soon have their doors permanently closed for the violation of human rights that is newborn adoption.

“Adoption,” as a word and practice, doesn’t mean the same thing to the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands as it does to Americans. To the Marshallese, adoption means “it takes a village” and women tend to nurture each other’s kids. And Americans are taking advantage of their culture’s customs. Yes, adoption attorneys, agencies, and wealthy people are buying Marshallese newborns, blatantly lying to mothers and families. Kathryn Joyce brilliantly exposes the child trafficking fraudulent adoptions from The Marshall Islands, as well as immigrant Marshallese citizens, in “Do You Understand That Your Baby Goes Away and Never Comes Back”, New Republic:

Alabama is not the only state with lax laws that outright violates human rights, abuses women and children, and promotes child trafficking. International adoption is no better. The turn of this century witnessed the Mormon Church rival the Catholic Church for their spot in the ugly industry of forced adoptions via coercion, manipulation, and lies. States with unethical and unscrupulous adoption laws have a high percentage of Mormon influence:

Paul Petersen, a Mormon attorney who has done mission work in the Marshall Islands and was recently elected as a county assessor in Arizona, has been facilitating Marshallese adoptions in Arkansas for five years without a state license.

Hawaii was the gateway for traffickers selling Marshallese newborns. But, as quoted below, as soon as the federal government and FBI clamp down on baby-sellers, opportunists and traffickers simply move shop to another state. Like Petersen above, they embed themselves in local politics and law where they can manipulate the legal system to legalize their gross violations of human rights.

But as Hawaii and, to some extent, the federal government tightened its oversight, the adoptions just moved: to Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona, and, most significantly, Arkansas. Private domestic infant adoptions in the United States are controlled at the state level, and Arkansas’s lenient, “adoption-friendly” laws had long made it a destination for hopeful parents from around the country. Birth mothers in Arkansas can consent to adoption anytime after they give birth—sooner than in most other states, which require at least a two-day waiting period. As in many states, there’s a window of time in which mothers can revoke their consent to the adoption, but Arkansas mothers can also waive their full revocation window, so that adoptions become irrevocable after just five days.

Newborn peddlers/child traffickers, Marti Woodruff and Justin Aine, justify their businesses of selling baby humans and abuse of women by with the condescension and corrupt sanctimonious rhetoric of missionaries and overseers. As a lawyer, Woodruff makes bank on her private, closed adoptions. And like many attorneys, Woodruff sniffs out vunerable mothers from disenfranchised communities:

“Aunt Marti,” as the hospital nurses call her, likes to say she’s facilitated adoptions “for every kind God makes.” When Springdale’s chicken factories were staffed by Latinos, she did Latino adoptions; of the 200 adoptions she’s facilitated over the course of her career, she estimates that 75 were for Marshallese birth parents. She is said to leave her business cards in local Marshallese churches, and every year she sponsors a Marshallese women’s softball team, buying team t-shirts emblazoned with her law office’s logo.

Justin Aine, another baby-seller, all but admits to trafficking is his self-righteous arrogance and verbal disputes with nurses safeguarding the rights of their patients, the mothers. Like Woodruff, he and his colleague have entrenched themselves in the Marshallese community. He refers to the women his uses as “chicks.”

The women mostly come to him because of his deep roots in the community. For years, he helped the Marshallese prepare their taxes; after hours, he sponsored a local softball team and ran a traditional Marshallese dance group. “I get a lot of girls, a lot of chicks,” he told me, referring to the women who end up relinquishing their babies. A person who has witnessed a number of courtroom proceedings said that Aine refers to the women he’s working with as “my girls” in the courtroom as well.

As of late January, Aine estimated that he had 35 pregnant women working with him and Cordes. Most of these women prefer, officially, to enter into private U.S. adoptions, he said, rather than the official adoption procedures the Marshallese government has set up, because they know they will be better compensated for it. He boasted that the families who work with him and Cordes honor their informal open adoption agreements and that none of his birth mothers—except Maryann—has ever backed out of an adoption. (At least in part, this may be because Aine tries to limit the information the mothers receive: He has fought with nurses over what they can tell their patients. “I come and tell [the nurses], you’re not supposed to tell the birth mother anything she don’t [sic] know,” he said. In recent months, said Jeremiah, she witnessed Aine reassuring a birth mother that “she could see her baby anytime she wants.” When Jeremiah interjected, Aine angrily told her that she’d “better shut [her] mouth,” and abruptly left with the patient.) Aine has had relatives back home who can’t afford to fly themselves to Arkansas; offering a child up for adoption in the United States seems like a way out, and they ask him repeatedly to help them make a match.


In many instances, mothers are brought into the United States to have their babies. They are promised citizenship and a new family. Thankfully, nurses and OB/GYNs have exposed Marshallese newborn trafficking, citing heart-breaking stories of mothers crying just to hold their babies as translators, hired by the attorneys, chew them out. And, yes, many of these women don’t speak English. They are hoodwinked, manipulated, and lied to incessantly only to discover the truth after papers are signed.

“When we say it’s gotten out of control, it’s really a money-­making business for many people,” Robert Hix, an OB-GYN at Parkhill, told me. “You can almost tell that some of them are not sure what’s going on until the baby is gone.”

Lacking money, citizenship, and representation, there is virtually no way mothers and families can fight back. The attorneys and agencies know this… and the adopters know this.

Initially, I learned of Marshallese child trafficking from an old friend. She gleefully recounted how her “really wealthy friend” had purchased her Marshallese daughter, and was shopping for another. My intuition churned. I researched the hell out of international adoptions, namely the Marshall Islands. And I called out the “adoption” for what it is – child trafficking. I didn’t expect her to change the baby-buyer’s mind. And of course she wouldn’t have tried. But her response to the fraudulent adoption resulted in my severance of a lifelong friendship. She did a photo-shoot for her photography business of the Marshallese newborn, dressed in tulle and placed beside a prop – an “A” for “adoption – as a hot commodity of the season. A Facebook comment from another party sums up my feelings:  “Disgusting. Pink tulle disguising one of the greatest U.S. human rights violations being perpetuated for profit.”

This former acquaintance’s attitude reflects the first-world sense of entitlement and landlord rhetoric of privileged Americans, which tramples on the human rights of indigenous peoples. “We know what’s good for you. We’ll take those babies you birth because we know what’s best for your children… and my infertile friend wants a baby!”