FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — A week ago, news broke that an Arizona based attorney was being indicted in connection to multiple felony offenses in Arkansas including human trafficking.
Investigators say Paul Petersen devised a scheme to defraud families trying to adopt babies from Marshallese women.
Now a local non-profit organization is trying to help those expectant mothers weather the storm.
Shared Beginnings in Fayetteville is in crisis mode and are asking for the communities help with donations and supplies.
The organization's mission is to help expectant mothers, especially Marshallese women.
At the beginning of last week, they were working with just four women, but that number is now 26.
“We’re working to get everyone into stable housing situations because of five of them were living out of houses Mr. Petersen was housing them in and fled after the news of his arrest broke," Michaela Montie, Shared Beginnings Executive Director said.
So far, two women have already given birth.
Many of them only now realizing they have a choice, one they didn’t get from Petersen.
“Have we done something wrong? That’s what we normally hear, they’re afraid right now, very fearful. And then a lot of times they have said that they want the choice of whether or not, we explain that they have a choice if they want to parent or place their child up for adoption," Andrea McCurdy, an attorney at Shared Beginnings, said.
Petersen paid the birth mothers less than $10,000 for their babies, and now many of them are left in a foreign country with nothing.
Shared Beginnings is providing immediate needs such as hygiene products, clothing, and more.
“I was so sad that this is how they bring the Marshallese woman in, and I think that they really never get the right education on the adoption process," Lucy Capelle said.
Because of the influx of cases, shared beginnings are in desperate need of help.
” We need to see some help come from the larger corporations in our community so that we’re able to be staffed adequately to meet all of these needs," Montie said.
If you would like to donate, click here.
Marshall Islands officials put out a statement praising the recent arrest of Paul Petersen.
His next court appearance is October 29th at the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.