Preview: The Lost Children
- Focus on Children Federal Document
- Defendants in Samoan adoption scandal to plead guilty Tuesday
- Adoption scam hits home
- Adoption scandal has prompted only minor changes
- Adoption Employee Allowed to Leave
- Victims of scam will visit Western Samoa in summer
- Adoption case raises fears over trafficking
- Couple involved in adoption scandal win guardianship of girl
- Two couples fight for right to claim child as their own
- Adoption scam defendants cut no-jail-time deal
from: CBS news
"48 Hours" Investigation: Families are Torn Apart in One of the Largest Foreign Adoption Scams in U.S. History
(CBS) CBS News will present, "The Lost Children," a "48 Hours" special, on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT - the clmination of a two-year investigation by "48 Hours" into one of the largest foreign adoption scams in U.S. history.
Anchored by "48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher, who herself was adopted, "The Lost Children" profiles three families - Patti Sawyer, Mike and Kari Nyberg, and Elizabeth and Gary Muenzler - who adopted children from the South Pacific island of Samoa through the Utah-based Focus On Children adoption agency, only to face a heartbreaking decision years later.
"There exists a common goal for me as an adoptee and as a journalist, which is to find the truth,? says Maher. "I know from my own personal experience the challenge adopted children face in learning where they came from and determining their own identity."
"For the last two years, it has been a privilege, personally and professionally, to be a part of these emotional journeys. There is little room for speculation about the immense difficulties these children and their families face as they try to determine who they are and where they belong."
Since it was started in 1994 by Scott and Karen Banks, Focus on Children had placed children from nine different countries in American homes, so when Sawyer, the Nybergs and the Muenzlers were each looking to adopt a child, they turned to the agency, which had recently set up a program in Samoa. Told that the kids were orphans who had been living in the agency?s orphanage in Samoa, after being abandoned by their biological parents, the three American families fully embraced their adopted girls as their own, unaware of a promise made half a world away.
The Samoan parents, all of whom were poor and uneducated, believed they had signed their children up for an international foster program, in which they would be able to stay in close touch with their children, who would then be returned at the age of 18.
"They were basically kidnapped," says U.S. State Department Special Agent Pat Durkin about the children. "This couple exploited these families?They were in it for the money."
For the first time, Dan Wakefield, Focus on Children?s key man on the ground in Samoa, speaks about his role in a 48 Hours exclusive, claiming he handed over 100 children to American parents. Thirty-seven of these adoptions would become the focus of a State Department investigation that would bring down the agency.
"I was following orders. I was basically a cowboy rounding up cattle," says Wakefield. "[The Samoan families] knew what the deal was."
With the three children each torn between two cultures, "The Lost Children" documents the difficult choices their adoptive families face. Do they return their child to her family in Samoa or do they keep the child, knowing that her family never really gave her up?