PHOENIX – Two pastors and their small Phoenix congregation are giving a helping hand to the Marshallese mothers trapped in Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's alleged adoption fraud scheme. Life Church at South Mountain Pastor Barmon Langbata said that his church members are stunned by the child-trafficking accusations levied against Petersen.

Langbata visited recently with the Marshallese mothers and said they are in good spirits though frightened about their now-uncertain futures. "They don't know if they're going to go home, or go somewhere else or what's going to happen to them," Langbata explained to 12 News.

Seeing these women's basic needs, Langbata, his co-pastor Greg Pratt and their congregation have stepped up to collect food and clothing for the Marshallese mothers. "Everybody's very sad as far as the Marshallese community right now here in Phoenix. We're trying to get together and do something for them," Langbata said. Though donations have been given and accepted, the church still needs more donations of food and clothing for the mothers until their futures are decided.

Meanwhile, Petersen, who has not resigned his Maricopa County Assessor seat, is staring down the barrel of 62 charges in three states in addition to federal charges for baby trafficking.

Read the full story at 12 News.

Maricopa 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.

Upon reviewing language from the Bright Star Adoption contract obtained exclusively by New Times, multiple experts in Indian law told New Times the firm appears to have given bad legal advice. The contract states that the Indian Child Welfare Act did "not apply" in the adoption case, which is a false assertion, according to attorneys who spoke with New Times. Kathryn Fort, a professor of Indian law at Michigan State University, said the married couple looking to adopt a Native baby were "being taken advantage of" by Petersen's firm.

People here in the Valley are working to help the mothers and families caught up in Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's alleged adoption scandal.

Pastors Barmon Langbata and Greg Pratt along with the Life Church at South Mountain in Phoenix are stepping in to help the victims in this case.

Langbata says the tight-knit church is shocked by the whole situation, surrounding Petersen and the alleged baby-trafficking business.