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In re a Minor Child (Juv. No. 68-87),

In re A MINOR CHILD

High Court of American Samoa
Trial Division

JUV No. 68-87

May 12, 1987

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Notwithstanding the consent of child's natural parents to the termination of their parental rights and obligations so that child could be adopted by another couple, such termination would not serve the best interests of the child where (1) the prospective adopting parents were sixty-four and fifty-eight years old, (2) the natural parents were much younger, (3) the child had lived for most of his life with his natural parents, and (4) the only apparent advantage of a legal adoption would be increased Social Security benefits for the prospective adopting parents.

In order for a child to leave his natural parents and live with another couple as their adopted child in accordance with Samoan custom, it is not necessary that the child be legally adopted or that the legal rights and obligations of the natural parents be terminated.

Before REES, Chief Justice, LUALEMAGA, Associate Judge, and TUIAFONO, Associate Judge.

Counsel: For Petitioners, Isalei Iuli

Although the natural parents have consented to this petition for the termination of their parental rights, we cannot grant the petition. The petitioners are 64 and 58 years old, and the natural parents are much younger. Although the testimony and the child service protection reports varied somewhat on how long the child had been living with the petitioners, it appears that for most of his ten years he has lived with his natural parents. (For several years the natural parents were residing with the petitioners.) The child is, of course, free to live with the petitioners, to regard them as his adoptive parents for all purposes relevant to Samoan custom, and to give them the love and respect that are owing to[4ASR2d139] parents. A voluntary "fa'a Samoa adoption" does not require the approval of the Court. The only thing that would be gained by a leal adoption would be higher Social Security benefits for the petitioners, and in return the child would have to give up all future rights of support from his adoptive parents. We do not believe this to be in the best interest of the child.

The action is dismissed.

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