Child at Center of Adoption Case Returned to Biological Father

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.

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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