Trends in case filings in the RMI High Court show customary adoptions escalating while international adoptions declined to a many-year low in 2018. A startling decline in international adoptions in the High Court is evident in the past two years. While adoptions of Marshallese children to Americans through the High Court dropped to 10 last year, reports from the United States say illegal adoptions of Marshallese are skyrocketing in the US states of Hawaii, Utah and Arkansas.
The 10-year peak for international adoptions was hit in 2014, when 34 were handled by the High Court. Since then, they have continued declining: 21 in 2015, 18 in 2016, 11 in 2017, and 10 last year.
Honolulu Civil Beat published an in-depth series of articles last month about adoptions of Marshallese in the US, including one titled “Marshallese adoptions fuel a lucrative practice for some lawyers.” (To read it: civilbeat.com.)
While customary adoptions in the High Court were as few as 25 in 2010, the number increased more than four-fold by last year. These adoptions differ from international adoptions in that they do not extinguish the rights of the biological parents while giving legal authority over a child to other family members.
For the first time ever, customary adoptions went over 100 in 2017, with 101. Last year the number jumped to 110. Customary adoptions are often used by Marshallese families when children are sent to live with relatives in the US in order to provide necessary legal documentation for school, health and other needs in the US.
Read more about this in the January 11, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.