By Steven Hsieh | Phoenix New Times
County Assessor Paul Petersen, who’s facing possible prison time for an adoption scheme involving pregnant Marshallese women, helped facilitate at least one planned placement of a Native American baby, according to documents obtained by Phoenix New Times.
Emails to the adoptive family from the director of Bright Star Adoptions, an adoption firm for which Petersen served as general counsel, suggest that concerns came up about the firm’s compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act following Petersen’s arrest.
The director, Linda Henning Gansler, wrote to the adoptive parents on October 12 that she retained a new lawyer in place of Petersen and assured them that the birth mother was still willing to move forward with the adoption.
She also wrote: “I do have to notify the tribe as that is proper procedure, [sic] we were given incorrect advice from Paul. this [sic] will happen this week.”
The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law enacted in 1978 to prevent removals of Native children from tribal communities and to protect the due process rights of American Indian parents. The law stems from an ugly period in recent American history wherein government officials forcibly removed Native American children from reservations to assimilate them into white culture.