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Deep Dives

Malia Politzer
Editor of International Investigative Journalist
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piqer: Malia Politzer
Friday, 16 November 2018

Offshore Season III: A Podcast Series About Adoption Fraud In The Marshall Islands

"Offshore" is an investigative podcast produced in Hawaii. I recently stumbled on the third season "The Blood Calls", produced this year, which investigates adoption fraud in the Marshall Islands. 

The entire series is a deep dive into unethical adoptions, shining a spotlight on the corruption, exploitation, and abuse of power that riddles the worst actors in the international adoption industry. It explores how the Marshall Islands went from a place where adoption is pretty much unknown, to having one of the highest per-capita adoption rates in the world—leading to so may children being adopted out that they are sometimes called the "lost generation".

Episode 1, The Adoptions, gives a teaser of some of the complexities associated with inter-cultural adoptions, and hints towards some of the darker themes the podcast will touch on in later episodes—human trafficking, the coercion of birth moms, and the loss of culture and identity that a child adopted away from their birth country might experience. It also introduces us to our main character, London Lewis, a 25-year old man adopted as a child from the Marshall Islands who is searching for his birth parents. 

The investigation begins in Kapialani Hospital in Hawaii, where sometime last year, doctors began noticing a troubling trend: About 20 women of Marshall descent had all come to give birth, then given away their children. All the women shared the same translator—and often the same address—and doctors were worried that there might be indications pointing to human trafficking.  

The podcast then cuts to the late 1990s, which marked the beginning of the adoption rush. Between 1996 and 1999, about 500 Marshall babies were adopted—a significant number, considering that the total population of the Marshall Islands numbers only 68,000. In 1999, the government imposed a temporary moratorium on adoptions. But that didn't stop the most horrendous abuses—deceptive practices used to coerce birth mothers into giving away their children.

Offshore Season III: A Podcast Series About Adoption Fraud In The Marshall Islands
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