Baby Veronica must be returned to her white adoptive family. That was the ruling Wednesday in the South Carolina Supreme Court which may end a Cherokee father’s quest to gain custody of his child.
According to Scotusblog, the state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that the case should return to family court with instructions to quickly finalize the adoption of the nearly 4-year-old child by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s a complicated custody dispute. An in-depth Washington Post piece said that Brown had never married baby Veronica’s mother and that he gave up his rights before she was born. The mother then selected the Capobiancos to adopt the child and reportedly said that she would not consent to the child being adopted by anyone else — including the father.
Baby Veronica lived with the Capobiancos for her first 27 months of life. Then Dusten Brown successfully argued in front of the South Carolina Supreme Court that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act didn’t allow a white couple to take a Cherokee child if the natural father wanted custody.
When the state court agreed, Brown and his wife cared for baby Veronica for the next 18 months.
However, in June the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the federal law didn’t apply to the case after all — sending it back to the South Carolina Supreme Court for the Wednesday decision.
For the time being, Dusten Brown still has baby Veronica. But a KTUL news report said that the transfer to the Capobiancos and the move back to South Carolina will likely come with weeks.
A statement from the Cherokee Nation said: “We are outraged and saddened that the South Carolina Supreme Court would order the transfer of this child without a hearing to determine what is in her best interests…Dusten Brown is a fit, loving parent and Veronica is, as the court previously defined, ‘safe, loved, and cared for.'”
“We are witnessing the final steps in a forced removal of a Native child from her father, her family, and her Native community.
“NCAI is astounded and alarmed that the South Carolina Supreme Court has issued an order to transfer Veronica, the daughter of Dusten Brown, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to the adoptive couple and doing so without holding a hearing to determine the best interests of the child. There is no scenario in which the best interests of this three year old child will be served by removing her from her loving father and family raising her in Oklahoma. Mr. Brown pursued his right to care for his biological daughter since the moment he learned of the adoption.”
Unfortunately for Brown, South Carolina has ruled that his consent is not required to let baby Veronica’s adoption move forward.
[Supreme Court photo by trekandshoot via Shutterstock]