Lawyer advocating for change after adoption fraud scheme

SALT LAKE CITY - At least 19 women from the Marshall Islands planned to give up their babies for adoption in the U.S. through what is now being called an adoption scheme spanning across many states.

Arizona attorney and politician Paul Petersen was arrested and accused of facilitating so-called “baby mills” in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas.

Some of the at least 13 families planning to adopt those babies are in Utah, according to attorney Josh Bryant.

Now, Bryant is working to help those involved.

“I will be there to facilitate the infrastructure we created in order to bring all of Mr. Petersen's cases in front of one judge in one courtroom,” he said.

It’s personal for him.

“I am an adoptive father of two Marshallese children,” Bryant said.

While his children were not adopted through Petersen, he said his son’s biological mother told him she went through something similar.

“She confirmed some of these same practices that we are talking about right now were utilized against her to coerce her into placing my son up for adoption,” he said.

This is the reason Bryant is so passionate about not only this case, but adoption as a whole. He wants to fix the system so this type of thing won’t happen again, he said.

His focus right now is on the dozens of people impacted by Petersen’s alleged illegal actions.

“The overarching concern is these adoptions started unethically and they were allowed to blossom in the dark. We are going to end them ethically,” Bryant said.

Bryant went to an Arkansas judge Friday to begin fighting for the victims in this case. While the judge granted his team several requests, Bryant said there is a lot of work to be done and they will be back in court next week.

“I think everyone’s priority is the kids. At the core of what we are trying to do is the children — they have no voice for themselves, they are obviously helpless. We want to make sure they are taken care of,” he said.

Another big priority is the expectant mothers.

“They are scared, they don’t know what is going on, many of them don’t speak English. It is just a very, very frightening time for them,” Bryant said.

Bryant said there will be many more days in court ahead.

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