Marshallese

Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

As many as 15,000 people from the Republic of the Marshall Islands have moved to Northwest Arkansas to work, obtain health care and raise their children. But unlike the American nuclear family, islanders traditionally may relinquish their children to the care of relatives and clan members, if in dire need. By extension, a growing number of impoverished pregnant Marshallese women in Arkansas are consenting to private legal adoptions to improve their children’s welfare as well as to secure medical and living expenses. But some may not understand that they risk losing all contact with their child, under traditional Arkansas adoption rules. This autumn, community advocates and lawyers are laboring to protect the interests of both islander birth moms and parents wishing to adopt Marshallese babies.