Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that the Adoption Unit of the American Samoa Department of Human and Social Services (ASDHSS) was recognized at the 2011 Adoption Excellence Awards Ceremony in Arlington, Virginia.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) Children’s Bureau, the ceremony honored a total of 18 recipients from across the nation. The American Samoa program was recognized specifically under the category entitled “Support for Adoptive Families” for their unique skills and professionalism to integrate national adoption program requirements with Samoan cultural protocol while defraying the cost of the adoption process to families.
Accepting the award were Senator Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata (District 8, Tualauta County) and Celestine Faumuina-Nix, Manager for the Child Welfare and Family Advocacy Branch and the Adoption Unit within ASDHSS. Senator Fonoti, Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Resources and Human Social Services nominated the Adoption Unit for this prestigious award.
The Adoption Excellence Awards were established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1997 as a way of recognizing outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America’s children waiting in foster care.
The awards honor states, local agencies, private organizations, courts, businesses, individuals and families who are making key contributions to increasing the number of children from the foster care system who are adopted or placed in other permanent homes. Selection criteria include innovation, uniqueness, overall impact, demonstrated benefits, use of resources, community outreach/involvement, collaboration, sustainability, and ability to replicate.
“I offer my congratulations to the Adoption Unit of the American Samoa Department of Human and Social Services on this distinguished national recognition. I am proud to say that out of 18 recipients for the entire nation, our small island territory was recognized and also the only territory represented among the 2011 awardees,” Congressman Faleomavaega stated.
“Adoption within families is a natural aspect of our fa’a Samoa, and in providing support for adoptive families, the Adoption Unit has successfully overcome the challenge of merging our Samoan cultural practices with national adoption program standards, legal requirements, and procedures. With cultural and family values that make foster care very rare, American Samoa serves as a model to families and state agencies across the country, where foster care is often the immediate and only remedy.”
“I commend Celestine Faumuina-Nix and her staff at the Child Welfare and Family Advocacy Branch for their dedicated service to adoptive families in American Samoa. The Branch is the only adoption agency on island, handling all guardianship and adoption cases including home studies, background checks, reports for the court, and preparation for the families and children. Furthermore, the Branch has worked to successfully reduce the completion time for the adoption process in American Samoa from 2 years to 6 months. I have learned that Mrs. Faumuina-Nix was also recently nominated by Governor Togiola for the DHHS Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) Commissioner’s Award and I commend her for her dedication to this field. I also acknowledge ASDHSS Director, Leilua Stevenson, and Social Services Division Assistant Director Lupe Fiso for their guidance and leadership for our social services programs.”
“I also extend my deep gratitude to Senator Fonoti for nominating the Adoption Unit and bringing national attention to American Samoa’s successes and needs in this field. I thank our local leaders, particularly Senate President Gaoteote along with Senator Fonoti and her colleagues in the Senate Committee on Human and Social Services for their advocacy and leadership on behalf of the adoptive children and families in our homeland.”
“Lastly, I thank Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the US Department of Health and Human Services for her leadership and the Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) Children’s Bureau for all the hard work they do to support adoption programs, children, and families throughout the nation. I was pleased to be able to coordinate a meeting at my office between representatives of the ACYF, Senator Fonoti, and Mrs. Faumuina-Nix to discuss federal resources for American Samoa’s adoption programs. Going forward, I am hopeful that the continued dialogue will lead to increased federal support for adoptive families in American Samoa,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.