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Marshallese Adoption...?

My husband and I are hoping to adopt for the first time. We are currently pursuing domestic adoption. We have been presented with a Marshallese case in Arkansas. I had never heard of a Marshallese culture existing in the US so I did a cursory google search: it seems that sadly there is a large portion of cases that are unethical. We, of course, would not want to contribute to that in any way. Does any one have any experience/advice on this? How would we vet our attorney so as to be on the up and up? With some cases there is a language barrier as many do not speak english. In these cases a translator is used and We would of course want to make sure things were being translated correctly!


Run while you can - I dealt with a Marshallese person named Lomina in Arkansas and she scammed me for thousands of dollars and then changed her mind one month before delivering.
Please be extremely cautious

Posted by Vanessa6546 on Apr 22, 2016 at 6:11pm

There ARE legit Marshallese adoptions that happen: friends of ours have done it. But there are also attorneys that are not ethical.

Vanessa6546, I would hesitate to say that Marshallese adoptions are bad based on what you shared of your experience. I realize there is a lot I don’t know, but the fact is, ANY lady can TRULY change her mind at ANY point in the adoption until her rights are legally terminated. She is not bound by law to place her baby with you just because she says she will. And she may truly have thought she would place, and then as the time got closer, she realized that she just couldn’t do it. I know it hurts. I’ve been there, done that, and cried buckets and buckets of tears because of the pain of loss. But really, it IS their baby until their rights are terminated.

The best things I’ve heard about Marshallese adoptions are about Paul Peterson (attorney). He speaks the Marshallese language, so the E-moms don’t have to try to understand things through an interpreter.

Something I would look for very definitely would be the same as with ANY adoption: Will the mom receive all the counseling she wants/needs before and after birth? What reviews can you find on said attorney/agency? (Of course, some people just like to trash attorneys and can say no good).

May God bless you with wisdom! I know it’s hard to weigh all the options!!!

Posted by Waiting4baby on Apr 22, 2016 at 7:56pm

thank you!

Posted by dbnc on Apr 25, 2016 at 2:33am

Hi, dbnc - Your post is from a while ago, but I’m taking a chance that you might see this. 

Could I ask, did you go ahead with the Marhsallese adoption (in Arkansas or somewhere else)? We are also considering it - seriously considering it, I should say. At first all of the extremely legitimate sounding caveats about unethical lawyers lying to Marshallese eMoms scared us, but we’re also pretty adamant that we want as open an adoption is possible (for the mental health of our child, not to mention for the political reasons in an adoption such as this - we’re both white).

But we’re still pretty nervous about it - not just for potential eMoms getting taken or lied to by unethical adoption attorneys (some of the stories are SCARY), but for us being emotionally and/or financially victimized as well.  Any feedback and/or referrals would be great!

Also, since I’m bothering you, did you use a private adoption agency or a referral agency? Thanks for reading and helping, if you see this! smile (anyone!)

Posted by WhiteLakeMom on Jan 24, 2017 at 3:31am

First off, be aware that the status of Marshall Islands adoptions has changed over the past several years.  There are stronger laws both in the Marshall Islands and in the U.S. to prevent the abuses that used to be common.

For those that don’t know the history, let me give a brief account of what USED TO happen:

A treaty called the Compact of Free Association allows residents of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau to enter the U.S. without going through the visa process, for TEMPORARY residence and work.  Before the governments of the U.S. and the Marshall Islands took corrective action, unethical facilitators and agencies were creating a loophole by bringing pregnant women to the U.S. to the U.S. temporarily, without visas, to give birth and relinquish children to American families for adoption in the U.S.  Because they were born in the U.S., the children would become automatic U.S. citizens

In fact, this was a total misinterpretation of the Compact.  First off, U.S. law prohibits pregnant women from ANY country from entering the U.S., even with a visa, for the purpose of delivering their babies and placing them for adoption.  One reason is that women who do so are highly vulnerable to exploitation, and that was certainly true with regard to what happened to many Marshallese women. 

Moreover, while Marshallese citizens could legally enter the U.S. without visas for temporary stays, and the facilitators took advantage of that aspect of the Compact, the Compact was never intended to allow the women OR their fetuses to enter the U.S. for permanent residence.  Since the women’s babies would be staying permanently in the U.S., after delivery, this was contrary to the intent of the law, even though there was no specific wording about it at the time.

What happened before the Marshallese and U.S. governments cracked down was the stuff of nightmares, in all too many cases.  Unethical facilitators would tell young, illiterate, unsophisticated Marshallese women that, if they agreed, they would, at no cost, bring them to the U.S. for good prenatal care and delivery, give them a little vacation in a place like Disneyland, arrange for an American family to raise and educate the child for a few years, and then send the child back to the Islands.  Obviously, that sounded wonderful to many of the women.  But the papers that the women signed told a different story.  These women were agreeing to relinquish their babies forever, and to have another family become the permanent parents.

When the women first traveled to the U.S., things often seemed great.  They were housed in cheap motels that often seemed heavenly, given that they might have lived in a place without indoor plumbing or electricity.  They went to big fancy doctor’s offices and got thorough checkups.  They were taken on sightseeing trips, taken to McDonald’s, and so on.  They didn’t notice that they were being kept away from Americans who might bond with them and help them in an emergency. 

Once they gave birth, however, things changed dramatically.  When asked, some women willingly handed over their babies and were put on a plane home as soon as they were discharged from the hospital, often not realizing that they would not see their children again. Others, however, realized that they didn’t want to relinquish their beautiful children, and told the facilitators so.

At that point, some of the facilitators stopped all pretense of being nice.  They told the women that they were committing a crime by reneging on the promise they had made in writing, to relinquish their babies.  They said that if the women went to the police or anyone else, they would be arrested and put in prison for their “crime”.  They confiscated the women’s passports and left the hotel; the women were left without a way to pay for their room and food, without people to turn to, without money.  Within a few days, most were desperate enough to agree to relinquish their children, in exchange for a plane ticket home and a ride to the airport.

Luckily, with the U.S. and Marshallese governments working together, the loophole has largely been closed, and most of the unethical providers have been put out of business or have found new ways to profit from people’s desperation.

On the Marshallese side, the government now requires all parents considering relinquishment to sign papers in a government office, where the documents are translated and the concepts are explained.  And people seeking to adopt must submit standard adoption paperwork, such as an approved homestudy, and must travel to the Islands to complete their adoptions, which may not occur until at least 30 days after a woman agrees to relinquish. I’m not sure whether it’s law or custom, but there has been an effort to have birthmothers and adoptive families meet and arrange to keep in touch.

On the American side, all parents MUST use a Hague-accredited adoption agency or a Hague-approved attorney as their primary provider, even though the Marshall Islands are not Hague-compliant.  They MUST follow the USCIS non-Hague international adoption process, which includes having a homestudy, getting USCIS approval of their qualifications and the eligibility for adoption of the children, and going through the normal process for getting visas for their children.  And they must travel to the Marshall Islands for either one trip of four to six weeks or two trips, to meet their child (and, sometimes, the birthmother), to finalize the adoption, and to get the child’s visa to travel to the U.S.

Overall, adoption from the Marshall Islands today is much safer, and it’s much easier for families to determine whether or not a provider is ethical.  Here are some things to remember:

1.  Under NO circumstances can a pregnant Marshallese woman be brought to the U.S. to deliver and relinquish her baby to an American adoptive family. It is ILLEGAL under U.S. and Marshallese law.  Run away immediately if an agency or facilitator says it can be done.

2.  Under NO circumstances can an already-born child be brought to the U.S. without a visa, under the Compact of Free Association, for permanent placement with an American family.  The adoption MUST be finalized in the Marshall Islands, with the adoptive parents present, and the child MUST obtain an adoption visa (IR-3 or IR-4).  Remember that the Compact of Free Association applies only to people coming to the U.S. temporarily.  If you manage to take custody of a Marshallese child brought in without a visa, be aware that he/she will not be considered a legal immigrant.  He may have difficulty obtaining documents needed for school or work, and may not be able to obtain citizenship; there is a potential for deportation.  At best, you will need a very good lawyer to assist him.  At worst, you could be considered complicit in an illegal act.

3.  Because of the Universal Accreditation Act, you MUST use a Hague-accredited agency or a Hague-approved American attorney as your primary adoption provider.  The Hague accreditation/approval process for agencies and attorneys is very comprehensive, and helps to ensure that the rights of children, birthparents, and adoptive families are protected.  So before you start an adoption from the Marshall Islands, be sure that the agency or attorney you choose has current Hague accreditation.  If in doubt, check the list on the State Department website.

4.  Adoption from the Marshall Islands is an international adoption, which means that it involves some additional steps that are not required for domestic adoption.  As in most (though not all) international adoptions, you will have to travel to the Marshall Islands to complete your adoption and obtain your child’s visa.  If you can’t or don’t want to travel, Marshallese adoption is not for you.  That being said, Marshall Islands adoptions offer the prospect of meeting a child’s birthmother during the adoption process, and possibly continuing to have a relationship with her, something that is often impossible with other international adoptions. 


Posted by sak9645 on Jan 24, 2017 at 9:58pm

There are no US adoption agencies that place children from the Marshall Islands except with expat families. Families who live in the US have only one option to adopt a Marshallese child, and that is domestic adoption.

A second point to consider is the fact that even if international adoption from the Marshall Islands was possible, please keep in mind that the birthmother will not have the right to choose the adoptive parents and will be given very little control.

While it is true that any pregnant lady an change her mind about placing her baby for adoption, the phenomenon of some ladies abusing the system and receiving large sums of money without ever having intended to place at any time is very real. There is no way to prove that such ladies never had any intention to place but had planned all along to “change their minds”.  In general, be careful and vigilant and protect yourself, and keep in mind that you can easily be taken advantage of financially.

Regarding the idea that open adoption is best for the adoptee: Open adoption is currently strongly promoted in private domestic adoptions as being best for the adoptee, but there is no solid longitudinal studies that supports this claim. The current studies show that it’s not harmful but that does not imply that it’s best. (E.g., if this claim were true, the international adoptees would fare significantly worse compared to domestic adoptees in open adoptions, and as far as I’m aware, this is not the case).  It is currently against the “bon ton” for adoptive families to speak up against open adoption, but please be a wise consumer and ramp it up slowly. I am personally aware of several families whose boundaries were severely compromised and whose safety has been compromised due to open adoption. It is not easy to decrease the level of openness, and if there is a safety issue, the situation may become very difficult.

Posted by Wizard on Feb 10, 2017 at 10:10pm

Just a note: there are currently more Marshallese people living in Arkansas than living in the Marshal Islands. There are some cultural issues that crop up because in their culture adoption was more like what we could consider foster care. 

It has been a big scandal in Arkansas.

Posted by Ms Nothing on Jun 08, 2017 at 9:59pm

We recently just went through a failed Marshallese adoption.  I believe the attorney we used is not at all invested in the people as he claims to be but more invested in the money he makes off of it. The Birthmom we were matched with had absolutely no counseling and I really don’t think she totally understood the implications of what she was doing until it was time to part with her baby.  We had every intention of having a very open adoption with her and keeping her in our lives.  What my husband and I experienced was absolutely awful.  A birthfather who were were told was not in the picture appeared, we were threatened by him as the birthmom gave him our contact information and then when we contacted the attorney to get help from him on how to proceed in returning the baby to the birthmom he wanted absolutely nothing to do with us.  He would not help us at all and wanted us to wait in a hotel with a newborn whose mother wanted him back for 3 more days.  We ended up having to go to a police station with an officer present to return the baby to the birth mom.  I would run as fast as I could from any Marshallese adoptions in Arkansas, I don’t feel the birth moms get the counseling and services they need to make that decision.

Posted by lannvb on Jul 26, 2017 at 9:56pm

I have read about Marshallese adoptions and understand their are both ethical and unethical attorneys who handle them.

I would really be appreciative if some of you would recommend and share who assisted you.

Thanks so very much.

Posted by arti on Aug 06, 2017 at 5:53pm

You can private message me and I will share, but I am hesitant to publicly blast someone.

Posted by lannvb on Aug 07, 2017 at 1:38pm


I would GREATLY appreciate your insight about Marshallese adoption.  I was just presented with a situation. I’m adopted and want to inform myself of any/all considerations about a Marshallese adoption as I want it to be ethical.  Please call if you’re able and willing - thanks!
PS I’m new to this site and not very computer/tech savvy…hence the “old fashioned” request for a phone call - thanks!

Posted by Friend Liberty on Nov 14, 2017 at 4:12am

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