Minister rejects adoption call

A call for adoptions to be handled by a Court Registrar instead of lawyers was flatly denied by the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aloesa Katopau Ainu’u, in Parliament.

He said this will only “create confusion.”   The debate also led to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, issuing a strong warning to Samoan families to be vigilant when they give up their children to be adopted by their families overseas.  

The matter was raised during the debate on the budget for the new Financial Year 2020-2021.

Falealili East Member of Parliament, Fuimaono Te’o Samuelu, had appealed to allow adoption to go through the Court Registrar as per previous procedures.

“The lawyers have different fees for adoptions," he said. "However we know the Registrars used to facilitate adoption cases in the past.

“Why can’t we go back to that? The reality is some adoptions costs up to $3,000 in lawyers fees."

But Fa’aolesa made it clear the Government does control the fees charged by lawyers.

“It is entirely up to the lawyers on how much fees they charge," he said. "Regarding the call to have Court Registrars facilitate the [adoption] this was the main cause for the confusion back then.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa said some seven years ago, the Government moved to regulate the fees charged by lawyers but this was strongly rejected the lawyers.

He said the Government should revisit the matter.

"This is an issue that we will reconsider," he said. "It is true the lawyers’ fees are quite significant and yet the majority of the lawyers were able to attend law school courtesy of government scholarships."

He said fees by doctors and accountants are nowhere near as expensive as the lawyers.

“Yet when you visit the doctors their fee is $20-$30 tala; even accountants don’t charge that much; however lawyers’ fees are expensive.”

As for parents, he warned them to think twice about the adoptions.

“This is happening in New Zealand and recently in Australia. They adopt their sibling’s children, promising a better future and yet they use these children’s benefits [from government] and they mistreat them. A Church Minister’s family adopted up to 20 children, and yet they don’t take care of these children,” Tuilaepa said.

Tuilaepa cautioned families to be extra careful. 

“We must be vigilant giving up our children for adoption with palagi. There was one case in the past where I inquired with the Attorney General’s office for assistance,” he said.

“It’s a business to some people. That is why we have to be attentive and that is why the government is going the extra mile in determining whether the adoptive families can afford to care for the child they’re going to adopt.

“There are families who are complaining they are not in contact with their children anymore, and this is relatively important, even if it’s your brother and sister, make sure it is genuine," he said.

The Prime Minister reminded that money literally blinds some people to the point they neglect their children.

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