Out of Samoa: How adoption laws work

Date: 2007-06-14

Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT)
June 14, 2007
Author: The Salt Lake Tribune

The adoption agency Focus on Children is facing an indictment accusing its operators of duping birth parents in Samoa.

What adoption laws require:

Samoa

* After adoptive and birth parents agree to an adoption, an attorney draws up documents that include an affidavit from the birth parents, explaining their reasons.

* The birth parents see a second attorney, from a different firm, to swear the affidavits are accurate and give their consent. This attorney certifies that they understand the adoption.

* Since 2005, a certificate providing the consent of Samoa's Attorney General has been required if the adoptive parents are not from Samoa.

* The first lawyer files the documents in court. A judge evaluates them and may meet with the birth parents. Additional filings are typically required from non-Samoan adoptive parents. If the judge decides the adoption is in the child's best interest, it is approved.

U.S.

* Adoptive parents file a form to begin the immigration process. Among the requirements: fingerprints and a home study. Utah requires a separate home study, a background check and proof the child was properly relinquished.

* Once the form is approved, adoptive parents petition to classify the child as their relative. They must show they saw the child prior to or during the adoption, or prove someone working on their behalf has custody.

* If the State Department approves the petition, the child is considered an immediate relative eligible for an immigrant visa. Generally, a child becomes a citizen upon entering the U.S.

What went wrong?

Prosecutors allege:

* Samoan parents still did not understand the adoption would be permanent, convinced by false promises that children would return after turning 18.

* Adoptive parents, falsely told the children were orphans - abandoned or with a parent who could not care for them - unknowingly made untrue statements on immigration forms.

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