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Refugee advocates still determining how to best help victims of illegal adoption ring

(Photo: Maricopa County)

SALT LAKE CITY – The man accused of running an illegal adoption ring in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas has a federal court date set.  Paul Petersen will be in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 29th.  He’s currently awaiting extradition in Arizona.

Meanwhile, victims’ advocates are extremely busy trying to help the women he illegally brought into the country.

Over the course of three years, officials say 40 women from the Marshall Islands were brought into the state of Utah to give birth for this adoption ring.  However, Asian Association of Utah Anti-Trafficking Program Director Andrea Sherman is not allowed to say how many are still here.

She is allowed to say there are many things these mothers might stand in need of.

Sherman says, “All of our resources are [given out] case by case.  There is not just one victim profile.  Victims have their unique needs and people react to trauma in different ways.”

Most of these women will need both prenatal and postnatal treatments.  Plus, Sherman says many will have to have some sort of mental health care, although some may need more intensive treatment than others.

“It’s not what we think the victims need.  It’s what they identify that they need,” she says.

Also, housing is a very big concern.  Frequently, traffickers will provide their victims with a place to stay.

“So, when someone leaves that trafficking situation, escapes or otherwise, their housing is lost as well,” Sherman says.

The association will also have to find things like interpreters, IDs, and safety planning.  Sherman says potential victims are still coming forward through the hotline set up by the state.