Marshallese culture and adoption in Arkansas

Marshallese culture and adoption in Arkansas
Some call Marshallese adoption a big business.

SPRINGDALE, AR (KAIT/KNWA) - Sharing is a big part of Marshallese culture that even applies to children.

As television station KNWA reports, the old island rituals may not translate into their American home.

“We have a phrase...it [translated to] no matter where the child is, how far the child goes, the child will eventually find his or her way back to the natural family,” said Melisa Laelan, the president of the Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese.

But that’s not always the case in Arkansas.

“In the Marshallese population, adoption is a very open thing. In Arkansas law, it is not,” said Josh Bryant, a Rogers-based attorney.

Adoption in the Marshallese culture may not match Arkansas law. (Source: KNWA)
Adoption in the Marshallese culture may not match Arkansas law. (Source: KNWA) (Source: KNWA)

Over 12,000 Marshallese people live in Northwest Arkansas and many live in poverty.

Depending on the arrangement, birth mothers can receive benefits and thousands of dollars in exchange for their newborn.

“Vulnerable mothers know they will have their rent paid and food on the table as long as they are pregnant and give their child up for adoption. And so they get stuck in a cycle of pregnancy, adoption, pregnancy, adoption, pregnancy, adoption. And they can never get out of it,” Bryant said.

Bryant has proposed a plan to Arkansas lawmakers which creates transparency, ensures there is no coercion from lawyers, and criminalizes the solicitation of children.

The plan is to get a draft in front of the general assembly in 2019.

To read more on this story from KNWA-TV, click here.

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