Tot dies after stay at nanny house

Date: 2007-06-17

Tot dies after stay at nanny house

Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune

This story was first published in June 2007, republished Jan 09

Sioka and Avea Nua were struggling to raise six children when they were approached by Focus on Children staffers Dan Wakefield and Tagaloa Ieti.

The Nuas say the men visited day after day to push a program that would educate children in the U.S. and return them at 18. Wanting a good future for their toddler Heta, and believing she would be cared for by a family who shared their Mormon faith, the Nuas finally agreed.

"They gave up the child because they thought the program was true," a translator said of their reasoning.

Months later, the girl's death sparked Samoa's first investigation into the agency.

"Just trying to scare them." A Focus on Children barrister and a second lawyer warned the couple they would not get their children back. But Wakefield and Ieti reassured them "this is not true, they're just trying to scare them away from the paperwork," the translator said.

Wakefield and Ieti took Heta to the nanny house in Ululoloa, where she stayed off and on for several months. When Wakefield was there, the couple said, Heta and three siblings sent with her were treated well. But in his absence, the Nuas said, children would go days without bathing and were sometimes beaten with brooms for asking for food.

The Nuas went to the nanny house in 2005 to check on Heta after not seeing her for several weeks. They found the toddler with turkey bones in her mouth and "realized Heta was seriously sick," the translator said.

After treating her with home remedies, the couple took her to a hospital in Apia, where she died of malnutrition, dehydration and a virus she had contracted as a result of poor hygiene.

The Ministry of Police and Prisons concluded its investigation into Heta's death in November, and a ruling from a Samoan judge hearing the case is expected soon.

In the eyes of the sun. The Nuas buried Heta, named after a ferocious cyclone that hit Samoa around New Year's Day 2004, under black lava rocks just to the side of their home. Red, yellow and orange Gerber daisies, called "mataolela" in Samoan, or "eyes of the sun," surround the spot. On a recent sunny day, a small yellow pair of shorts and a matching "Teletubbies" T-shirt were laid on the unmarked grave to dry. One of the Nuas' toddler sons wore them to the nearby LDS wardhouse that Sunday.


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