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Court tidies up process as abuse of Samoan children adopted overseas surface

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 11 OCTOBER 2022: The Ministry of Justice & Courts Administration (MJCA) is finalizing changes to the Adoption Direction Practice that guides the application process of adopting a Samoan child to an overseas family.

The President of the Samoa Law Society, Alex Sua said the changes were prompted by the concerns raised by the District Court Judges the adoption process is under and for approval.

“There is an issue with families in New Zealand subjecting adopted children to abuse and neglect,” said Alex.

Alex said that whilst he was not in a position to go into details about the changes, this was one of the issues raised by the Court when they met with the Law Society Council members last week.

Alex said the issue may not be new, but the Court is very serious and more critical now about adoption applications and is now asking for a police report or record of the adopted couples or family.

“This was never in the process before,” said Alex.

Alex believes adoption is a process established for a person to have a better life but it is sad that there are people who use children for a different purpose.

“The paramount concern of the Court is the best interest of the child and that they are secure and safe in their new environment,” said Alex.

adoption Alex
adoption Alex

President of the Samoa Law Society, Alex Sua.

The Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Justice, Aumua Ronnie Fereti confirmed the revision to the Adoption guide.

“There are changes but the Court’s main concern is for the best interest of the child from the time of the adoption to adulthood,” said Aumua.

The overseas adoption process is different from the local adoption but both take three months to prepare.

“We have to be very cautious with international adoptions especially when there was a time when adoption was run as a business,” he said.

Not new but increasing
Aumua noted when parents or a mother put their child up for adoption, they want it done quickly.

The process takes three months and that gives the Court the chance to peruse the information, query it or send it back to the lawyer to complete before refilling it.

“The Court has no intention of declining an application, but if they see the information does not fit well, they will continue to question the application, “said Aumua.

He said adoption has been a practice that has been in place for a very long time and was basically within an extended family or within villages.

However, there is evidence of adoption being used for different reasons.

Twenty years ago, the Government stepped in and stopped adoptions and tidied up the legislation after an American Focus on Children (FOC) Program facilitated the adoption of Samoan children to American families as a business.

The American who fronted the program was arrested and faced trial in the United States and due to jurisdiction issues they could not extradite the program’s local partners to stand trial there.

The new changes to the Adoption Direction Practice was supposed to come into effect last month, however, after the Council meeting with the Court Judges, they agreed to extend it to allow for the draft to be finalised.