South Carolina couple Matt and Melanie Capobianco were over the moon when they adopted new-born baby Veronica in 2008. But their joy turned to grief, when at the age of three, Veronica was removed from their home and placed with her biological father, a person Veronica had never met, but whose ancestory trumped the Capobianco’s legal parenthood.
Father Dusten Brown, who lives in Oklahoma, was a member of the Cherokee nation.
He brought a court action seeking to have custody of his daughter in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in 1978. The Act provides that Native American tribes and relatives should have a say in the placement of aboriginal children.
Mr. Brown successfully argued he was unaware that Veronica’s mother had given her up for adoption and her Native American heritage could only be fostered if she was raised by her father. The Appeal Court agreed. The judges said the Capobianco’s are “ideal parents”, but the law demanded a change in custody.
This week the United States Supreme Court will hear the Capobianco’s appeal and will weigh in again on the vexing question of aboriginal adoption.
The Court ruled in 1989 that tribal courts should determine these issues. In the 1989 case a tribal court permitted the adoptive parents to keep their adopted toddler twins, despite a claim by the children’s aboriginal relatives.
The federal government and eighteen other states, including Washington, California and Oregon, support the law. It’s difficult to believe that the removal of a three-year-old from the only parents she knows is in her best interests, particularly if the adoptive parents embrace and encourage her native heritage.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang