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6 J.L. & Fam. Stud. 303 (2004)
Understanding Sending Country's Traditions and Policies in International Adoptions: Avoiding Legal and Cultural Pitfalls

handle is hein.journals/jlfst6 and id is 309 raw text is: Understanding Sending Country's Traditions and Policies
In International Adoptions: Avoiding
Legal and Cultural Pitfalls
Jini L. Roby*
The beautiful young woman1 was wiping tears from her cheeks as she
struggled to tell her story. She paused many times, often overcome with sor-
row, and frequently searching for the right English words. I waited for her,
knowing that attentive and empathic silence on my part was not uncomfortable
for her in context of her culture. She looked to be in her early twenties, but she
had already given birth to three children and relinquished the older two.
At her home in Majuro, Marshall Islands, a small Pacific country with a
population of just over 50,000,2 she had been solicited to bring her children to
the United States (hereinafter U.S.) to place them with an adoptive family.
When she and her husband divorced, she had been left without means to sup-
port the children. A local adoption 'facilitator' (child finder) had visited her,
and urged adoption. To make things easier, she would travel to the U.S. with
her children and relinquish them on U.S. soil; thus the adoptive family would
avoid the complicated process of international adoptions and she would have a
trip to the U.S.3 She was promised on-going help and continuing contact with
her children, which did not strike her as anything unusual.4
* Jini L. Roby is a member of the Utah Bar and an assistant professor in the School of So-
cial Work, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah where she researches and teaches social
welfare and family policy, both domestic and international.
Based on a real case. The facts were changed slightly and all identifying information is
withheld. Her account, in her handwriting, is in the author's possession.
2 Statistical Abstract 2001, Economic Policy, Planning, and Statistics Office, Republic of
Marshall Islands (14th ed.) available at http://www.spc.int/prisn/country/mh/stats/Publication/-
2001 YB.pdf (last visited Mar. 23, 2004).
3 Compact of Free Association, Pub. L. No. 99-239, 99 Stat. 1770 (1986)) (Marshallese
citizens were allowed into the U.S. without a visa as long as it was not for permanent immigra-
tion.); see also Compact of Free Association Amendment Act of 2003, (Pub. L. No. 108-188,
117 Stat. 2720, 2799 (2003)) (this law was changed in late 2003 to provide procedural safe-
guards in adoptions. Under the newly amended Compact, a visa is required for Marshallese citi-
zens traveling into the U.S. for purposes of adoption, made retroactive to March 1, 2003 .
Whether this visa requirement applies to only the child already born in the Marshall Islands or
also to the pregnant birthmother who travels into the U.S. and delivers the baby on U.S. soil is
not sorted out by federal officials at this time); Letter from several U.S. Senators to Tom Ridge,
Secretary of Homeland Security (Jan. 2004) (These Senators who participated in the Compact
negotiation process indicating that their legislative intent was to include the birthmother who
would travel to U.S. for purposes of relinquishing her unborn child.).
4See Julianne M. Walsh, Adoption and Agency: American Adoptions of Marshallese Chil-
dren (unpublished manuscript) at http://www.yokwe.net/ydownloads/AdptionandAgency.doc
(Presented at a conference sponsored by the Center for Pacific Island Studies, University of Ha-

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