5 Feb 2004

The Marshalls moves to enforce a crackdown on illegal adoptions

9:14 pm on 5 February 2004

A new adoption authority has been set up in the Marshall Islands to crack down on illegal agencies and enforce the government's adoption law.

The Central Adoption Authority will open an office in Majuro at the end of the month.

The law requires the compulsory registration of all adoption companies and makes facilitation of adoptions illegal.

Lawbreakers face fines of up to one thousand US dollars and a maximum of 3 years jail.

This comes after many Hawaii based agencies have allegedly been coercing Marshallese women to put their children up for adoption, and charging the adopting families thousands of dollars.

The Authority's director, Michael Jenkins, says adoptions need to be an option for families that desire or need it.

"But the coercion that's happened and the persuasion that's happened with promises of money and opportunities has really violated every known ethical and professional standard that governs the field. And so those incentives and those coercions have to come to a complete stop."

Michael Jenkins says he expects a local facilitator to be prosecuted this month, and the CAA are pursuing legal recourse with at least two agencies in the US who are getting pregnant women out of the Marshalls and into Hawaii.