State Representative Proposes Marshallese Adoption Bill

SPRINGDALE (KFSM) -- There are many Marshallese mothers who give their children up for adoption in Northwest Arkansas, but Arkansas State Representative Jeff Williams has proposed a bill that would make sure these mothers fully understand what that process will entail.

Williams said he was contacted by the Marshallese community who told him that some families did not completely understand court documents they signed when the adoption process started.

During his research, Williams said he found a culture difference in the Marshallese definition and the American definition.

His bill, which is still in a draft stage, would require Marshallese women to get approval from the Republic of the Marshall Islands goverment.

A process he said would be simple.

“Talking to the consulate general [in Downtown Springdale] who will just ensure the individual understands the process and procedures that occur in the court and once he feels that he has explained it to them and they understand it and they still want to move forward then he can simply sign a document approving it," Williams said.

He does not believe that if this bill is passed that it would stop or slow down any current adoptions.

Michaela Montie adopted two Marshallese boys and is an advocate for adoption reform.

When she first read Williams' bill, she said she didn't think it went far enough to protect the biological mother.

"There is currently not a lot of support for those biological moms," Montie said. "So there isn't a lot of resources and social workers available to take them to doctor's appointments or provide counseling services and that is something we would like to see set up."'

Montie is a part of a group of other adoptive parents who also would like to see some changes in the adoption process.

She explained the group has worked with other lawyers to draw up their own legislation to address some of these issues.

While she doesn't think this bill, as it is currently written, is the best solution, she did state that she was happy to see the conversation begin.

Montie told 5NEWS that she and some lawyers met with Williams to show him their legislation.

The two are now collaborating on possible changes that could be made to the bill.

Williams said he is very open to discussions like this and is willing to hear other changes that could benefit the biological mothers.