In the Capobianco adoption case there are no easy answers. In 2009, Matt and Melanie Capobianco began the process of adopting a female Cherokee baby. Baby Veronica’s biological mother consented to the adoption.
In 2011, the Capobioancos were informed that the biological father, Dusten Brown, did not consent to the adoption.
An adoption normally requires the consent of both biological parents. If the father is unknown, or unreachable, the adoption can proceed without his consent. As stated at Oyez.org, the biological mother falsified the father’s name and birth date on the paperwork.
As the information was incorrect, The Cherokee Nation was unable to inform Brown of the adoption.
As reported by Boston.com, Brown filed a lawsuit in 2011, demanding custody of his daughter. The judge sided with Brown, citing the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The 1978 act was created to prevent Native American children from being fostered or adopted by non-Native families.
The Capobianco’s adoption was halted and Veronica was returned to her father.
The adoptive parents reluctantly followed the judge’s order. However, they were not ready to give up.
The Capobiancos filed an appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court. The court upheld the original decision, ruling that Veronica would remain in Brown’s custody.
The couple took their appeal all the way to the US Supreme Court. In 2012 the US Supreme Court sided with the Capobiancos. Their decision explains that the ICWA does not apply to veronica’s adoption:
“a non-custodial parent cannot invoke the ICWA to block an adoption voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent… the biological father never had either legal or physical custody of Baby Girl and had previously relinquished his parental rights… ICWA’s goal to prevent the breakup of Indian families did not apply.”
Although Brown never formally consented to the adoption, he sent a text message to the biological mother stating that he would relinquish rights. The text message was sent before Veronica was born.
Brown contends that it was part of an argument. He says it was never meant to be a legally binding statement.
The US Supreme Court decision concluded that Veronica’s custody should be decided according to the laws of South Carolina, not the Cherokee Nation.
The South Carolina Supreme Court therefore reversed their decision, completed the Capobianco adoption, and ordered Brown to return Veronica to her adoptive parents.
Veronica was to be introduced to the Capobiancos gradually, beginning on August 4. Unfortunately neither Brown, nor Veronica, never showed up.
Brown’s family explains that as a member of the Oklahoma National Guard, he was unable to make the appointment.
The Capobiancos say that they sympathize with Brown, but the want Veronica back in their home.
Veronica has been living with Brown and his wife for two years.
There are no easy answers in the Capobianco adoption. Unfortunately, Veronica is the one that has suffered the most throughout the entire ordeal.