Samoa - Focus on Children - Scott & Karen Banks case
Scott and Karen Banks Heta Nua's Parents
Prosecutors say recruiters exploited the faith of the Samoan parents -- many of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- and sold adoption as a program that would send youngsters to live with an American Mormon family and get a good education before returning home at 18. The Samoan parents claim they also were promised money, regular letters and photos from the U.S. families. Some were told adoption was like a 'mission' trip.
In Samoa, adoptions are informal affairs within a family. Samoan informal adoptions do not sever the link between the child and the bio parents, but rather create a link between the caregiving family and the bio family. In addition, in this situation, many Samoan families may have been encouraged to ignore what the lawyers said and rely on the words of their fellow church members, Dan Wakefield and others, who led the families to believe the children WOULD return, rather than: a few of the adoptees might return for brief visits as adults.
Adoptive parents were falsely told that the youngsters were orphans or abandoned. Adoptive parents were not told of the promises or regular communication and travel made to the bio families. Adoptive families were actively discouraged from meeting the bio families.
Children were placed in nanny houses to meet USCIS guidelines of an 'orphan' defined as abandoned by both parents or left with one parent who cannot provide care. Parents took children to an FOC nanny house, but they often visited and took the youngsters home for extended stays. Others cared for their children at home before and after the adoption paperwork was done.
FOC's adoption processing guidelines said 'Do all adoption steps without any contact between Adoptive parents and Birth Parents'.
Three of FOC's adoption lawyers in Samoa worked for the Samoa government, one is now Attorney General.
See also individual cases:
Elleia Nyberg (Sei So) case
Fa'anunu Faiupu's children case
Michael Ulisese McKrola (Posi Iva) case
Heta Nua's death
and this abuse case which may be an FOC placement
Boy adopted by Scott and Catherine Kanani Nelson
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