Posts Tagged ‘ Native American ’

‘Baby Veronica’ Returned to Adoptive Parents

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

The 4-year-old Oklahoma girl known as “Baby Veronica,” who had been temporarily returned to the custody of her biological father in the latest chapter of an ongoing legal saga, has been returned to the custody of her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live in South Carolina.  More from CNN.com:

Earlier in the day [Monday], the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Dusten Brown, the girl’s father, must return the girl, named Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live in South Carolina.

“Veronica is safely in the arms of her parents and has been reunited with her family. Our prayers are with everyone involved this evening. There is no happy ending in this travesty, only closure,” said Jessica Munday, a spokeswoman for the family.

The Capobiancos adopted Veronica at birth in 2009 and have been involved in a custody battle since then with Brown, who lives in Oklahoma.

Brown’s attorney, Clark Brewster, said his client handed Veronica over Monday night. He said the Browns were “devastated” but thought it best after the court’s decision to hand Veronica over to the Capobiancos, with whom she spent the first two years of her life.

“One thing we wanted to avoid was some type of showdown, or sometime of event that would affect Veronica,” Brewster said.

The four-year case has spanned state lines and tested an unusual federal law.

The Capobiancos legally adopted Veronica, and Brown learned of her adoption a few months later. Brown, a registered member of the Cherokee tribe, asserted his custody rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, setting off the legal fight.

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Child at Center of Adoption Case Returned to Biological Father

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

A 3-year-old Oklahoma girl called “Baby Veronica” has been temporarily returned to the custody of her biological father, Dusten Brown, under an emergency ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.  The move is the latest in a years-long dispute that involves allegations by Brown that Veronica’s mother put the girl up for adoption without his knowledge, and after the couple had separated and Brown had relinquished his parental rights.

Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and custody was awarded by the court under the Indian Child Welfare Act.  But the adoptive couple, who raised Veronica for 27 months from the time she was 4 months old, has also won court cases in their home state of South Carolina.  The US Supreme Court has, so far, declined to take up the case.

More from Today.com on the latest development:

It was not immediately clear Tuesday why the court made the emergency ruling or for how long Veronica would remain with her biological father, Dusten Brown….

At the heart of Veronica’s case is the Indian Child Welfare Act, established in 1978 in response to high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native families. A South Carolina family court awarded custody of the girl to Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, under the Indian Child Welfare Act. A family court in the same state later ruled that custody be awarded to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over. Brown refused.

The U.S. Supreme Court said in June that provisions of the act, which would favor Brown, didn’t apply in the case.

The case has highlighted overlapping parental claims in two states, and the clash between a Native American culture seeking to protect children from being adopted outside their tribes and U.S. legal safeguards for adoptive parents. The situation has become so emotionally wrenching that the governors in Oklahoma and South Carolina have spoken on the phone about it and are pushing for a resolution outside of the court.

Since the South Carolina family ruled against Brown following the Supreme Court decision, he has fought to keep Veronica while the Capobiancos insisted she return to their home.

When Brown failed to appear at a recent court-ordered meeting in South Carolina, authorities charged him with custodial interference; Brown turned himself in and posted a $10,000 bond for his release.

In the meantime, Veronica has stayed with paternal grandparents at an undisclosed location.

Image: Gavel and American flag, via Shutterstock

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U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Native American Adoption Case

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The United States Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case that will likely set precedents in both the rights of adoptive parents and the rights of Native Americans to keep their families together.  The case centers around a 3-year-old Cherokee girl named Veronica who was legally adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobianco in 2009.  Though the girl’s birth mother had given up parental rights, her father, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, sought custody shortly after her birth, and is currently raising the girl in Oklahoma.  More from CNN.com:

Dusten Brown had earlier signed a legal document agreeing to put the girl up for adoption, but his attorneys say the father did not understand the extent of the waiver, and that the birth mother misrepresented the child’s American Indian heritage to social service workers when the adoption was finalized.

At issue is whether Brown, as the onetime non-custodial father, can gain parental custody, after the non-Indian mother initiated an adoption outside the tribe.

A special congressional law governs such interstate adoptions, since the current 556 federally recognized tribes all fall under Interior Department oversight, giving those tribes certain unique benefits and rights.

Lawyers for the Capobiancos say federal law does not define an unwed biological father as a “parent.”

The adoptive couple was excited that the high court will hear their case.

“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Melanie Capobianco told CNN’s Randi Kaye. “It was a low chance and we just feel really extremely happy that they decided to hear it.”

Her husband, Matt, added, “It restored some hope and a little faith in the judicial system.”

The federal law in question is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, a response to decades of often abusive social service practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of native youngsters from their families, in many cases to non-Indian homes.

The legislation was designed to “promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and Indian families by the establishment of minimum federal standards to prevent the arbitrary removal of Indian children from their families and tribes and to ensure that measures which prevent the breakup of Indian families are followed in child custody proceedings.”

Brown’s relationship within the “federally recognized government” of the Cherokee Nation means Veronica — named in court papers as “Baby Girl” — is a member of the tribe and subject to their jurisdiction.

“It’s not anyone’s intent ever to rip a child away from a loving home,” said Todd Hembree, the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based tribe’s attorney general. “But we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first.”

Still, the Capobiancos argue that the little girl’s real home is with them.

Image: The U.S. Supreme Court, via Shutterstock

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