Trusting dad gives kids away; Son promises to return

Date: 2007-06-17
Source: sltrib.com

Trusting dad gives kids away

Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune

This story was first published in June 2007

Fa'anunu Faiupu's sons circle the family's home in a warm torrential rain, holding cupped hands below the eaves to collect water in their palms. Then they dart away down a rocky footpath, disappearing behind a thick coconut grove.

Fa'anunu, the father of 13, stares blankly out his front door. He is consumed not by thoughts of the romping boys, but of the three children he hopes will one day return from America.

A baby girl was the first to go, placed for adoption with Utah-based adoption agency Focus on Children. A year later, 8-year-old Fa'anunu and his sister Motumotu, 5, were also slated for adoption and began staying four days a week at the agency's nanny house.

The clean, yellow and brown ranch-style nanny house is on the same Ululoloa road where Samoa's prime minister and many of his Cabinet members live. It was used to meet the narrow U.S. immigration definition of an orphan: a child left with a parent who cannot provide care or who is abandoned.

Youngsters Fa'anunu and Motumotu were living there in 2005 when the death of 17-month-old Heta Nua closed it down and sparked the first of several investigations of the agency.

Without a goodbye. Like other Samoan families, Fa'anunu and his wife, Tafiau, say they were first approached by a man named Sapati who sold them on adoption as an education program.

The paralegal for the agency's barrister explained they would not see their children again, Fa'anunu said. He said he understood her explanation but put his trust in Dan Wakefield, a Focus on Children employee and a fellow member of the LDS Church.

A portrait of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, for whom one of the couple's grandsons is named, hangs draped with beads in the family's home.

First, they placed an infant daughter in Wakefield's hands, telling him they wanted to meet her adoptive family and say goodbye. But he took her straight to the American couple, who left with her.

A year later, the Faiupus had not received a photograph or letter about her and told Wakefield they would not give up the other two children. That same day, Fa'anunu said, they were finally provided a photo.

Wakefield apologized and implored the family to continue. They did, sending little Fa'anunu and Motumotu to the nanny house in Ululoloa, then run by Tagaloa Ieti and his wife. Their 8-year-old boy said he was sometimes left in charge of the home's children.

Once that nanny house closed, the Faiupu children were moved to another, in Letogo, before being sent to the U.S.

A father's hope.
The elder Fa'anunu said his son agreed to look after Motumotu, adopted with him, and baby Faafetaitasileuluaimisiona, adopted to another Utah family.

The elder Fa'anunu said his son promised to return someday to the island with his sisters, reuniting the family. A translator explained for the parents, "It's something like a mission."

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