A Texas adoption agency that worked with birth mothers from the Marshall Islands must stop all international adoptions after losing its accreditation on Thursday, according to an announcement from the U.S. State Department.
But in June, Civil Beat reported that Texas attorney Jody Hall, who ran Adoptions International, was arranging adoptions involving birth mothers flown from the Marshall Islands to the U.S., through Hawaii, in defiance of a treaty between the two nations.
“Yes, it’s legal to pay for tickets,” Hall wrote a prospective adoptive mother. The attorney wrote that it was easier to “control” the women from the Marshall Islands, compared to Marshallese already in the U.S., because they had to cooperate to get the plane tickets.
“We placed 3 in the past 3 weeks,” she wrote.
Five days after that story, IAAME suspended Adoptions International. IAAME is the only organization authorized by the federal government to screen international agencies, as required by law.
After Thursday’s cancellation, the State Department advised those with open cases to contact Adoptions International, which is required to transfer the cases to another provider. The adoption agency also must issue refunds.
When adoptions in the U.S. fell through, attorney Jody Hall offered to fly in birth mothers from the Marshall Islands.
Jessica Terrell/Civil Beat
Hall did not respond to a request for comment.
Her agency is still licensed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In response to a complaint, the agency in July found some “deficiencies,” including that its licensing staff did not have access to records when it did an inspection. But the agency did not revoke or suspend the license.
Hall remains in good standing with the State Bar of Texas.
Two of Hall’s clients told Civil Beat that they tried to adopt from Marshallese birth mothers already living in the U.S., which is legal. But then the adoptions fell through, and Hall offered an alternative – flying in a birth mother living in the Marshalls.
One client’s fees included money paid to “helpers in Honolulu” whose job was to pick up birth mothers at the airport and take them to hotels during their layovers before flying on to Dallas.
Hall told some clients that her contact in the Marshall Islands helped birth mothers get together the documents they needed to travel and go to government appointments.
Until recently, she worked with Justin Aine, a well-known adoption fixer who in March was charged in the Marshall Islands with human trafficking.
Other U.S. lawyers also fly Marshallese women to the U.S. for adoptions, as documented in a Civil Beat investigation in November, despite reforms two decades ago intended to give the Marshallese government control over international adoptions. None of these attorneys have faced sanctions for their activities.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Support local journalism
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.