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Capobianco Adoption: No Easy Answers

Veronica Adoption

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.

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20 Responses to “Capobianco Adoption: No Easy Answers”

  1. NicKy Allyson Culverhouse

    I love the article but why on earth would link Dr Phil's show with it?

    Dr Phil clearly picked sides and painted Dusten horrible by twisting facts, belittling the guests who were to speak on Dusten's behalf and most importantly leaving out vital facts in the case. It is a shameful unethical presentation of the facts meant to support an agenda of a friend.. It made me sick to watch that presentation. Clearly his story was not to show Veronica's story but to discredit the ICWA as a personal agenda of TROY DUNN because TROY saw his own mother in the shoes of the Capobianco's years ago. HE knew first hand what it was like to try to KEEP a child away from their BIOLOGICAL family and didn't enjoy it. He grew up hating the ICWA because a BIOLOGICAL INDIAN family member wanted to get custody of HIS adopted sibling. How hypocritical when he claims be about reuniting families. As for the other family on the show. That is another family well known for hating the ICWA because they too almost lost their adopted children because of the ICWA. But in his case the ICWA found them to be the best suited. So the ICWA did it's job, researched and ruled in THEIR favor and yet they aren't grateful! Instead they make it their business to teach their adopted sons to hate their own culture. Not exactly father of the year in my book. Anyone watching the episode with a critical mind can see it was a set up to steer the public to disgust over the ICWA. How dare they try to make it a race issue instead of nation wanting to preserve their blood line. As soon as the media gets wind of "the rest of the story" the credibility of the reporters who tilted the scales will be in question.

  2. Alison Price

    Inquistr you might reconsider your name, weren't these the people, as in Spanish, who wiped out native indigenous people?

  3. Anne Pavlos

    Articles posted in the Inquisitor have always seemed reliable and believable. Until today. I've never been more shocked to see an article printed without being properly researched than I was to see this article today. So, for those who really want to know, here are the facts of this case.
    1. When baby Veronica was conceived, her parents were unmarried.
    2. Her birth-mother refused the birth-father's marriage proposal; he agreed that their child should live with her.
    3. When the birth-father was deployed in Iraq, the mother texted him asking for money; he said he was unable to send any.
    4. The birth mother moved to another town, gave birth, and chose to give up her child for adoption. She knowingly gave false information to the authorities so that the adoption could be expedited.
    5. The birth-father returned to the states when his child was 3 months old to find out that his child had been placed for adoption without his knowledge or consent. (He'd not even been informed of her birth)).
    6. The birth-father legally requested custody of his child and the case came to court when she was 4 months old.
    7. The adoptive family, living in S. Carolina was depending on a S. Carolina law that states that a child who has received no support or interaction from a parent can be considered to be "abandoned". To them, it was irrelevant that the birth-father had not been informed of his child's birth, nor consented to any adoption plans.
    8. Over a year went by with the case in litigation, appeals brought forth by the prospective adoptive family:….Mr. Brown had to prove he was the biological father, he had to prove he was fit to be a parent, that his lifestyle was stable, that he'd be able to properly support his child. But nothing he did brought his child back to him.
    9. In a last ditch-effort, the birth-father appealed to the Cherokee Nation for assistance and with their assistance, he finally won custody of his child through the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act).
    10. The adoptive parents appealed yet again, the case went to the supreme court who ruled that the ICWA was improperly used in Veronica's specific case and sent the custody issue back to S. Carolina for determination.
    11. A S. Carolina court agreed to Veronica's "tentative placement" with the adoptive couple pending the finalization of the adoption. using documents from the last court proceedings in making their determination. No consideration was provided for the fact that Veronica had been living in her birth-father's home for two years or that such a move would have a social and emotional impact upon her. Veronica is now almost 5 years old.
    12. Veronica's birth-father is currently contesting the current decree and the adoptive parents have turned to the media for support.

    Truly, this is a difficult situation and one can't help but empathize with both families. But in the end, little Veronica is the one who will end up losing, no matter what the courts final ruling.

  4. Bridget Morgan

    Thank you for trying to get the simple facts of this case straight. To correct your erroneous facts: 1) the prospective adoptive parents otherwise know as the Capobiancos were informed by Mr. Brown — the child's natural/first father — in January 2010, less than four months after the child's birth, that their adoption petition to South Carolina family court was contested by him; 2) Mr. Brown, an Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen was just a few days from his deployment overseas to fight our war in Iraq when he learned of the adoption plan of the the child's natural/first mother; 3) when the South Carolina family court judge ordered Mr. Brown to travel to South Carolina with the child in tow to begin her transition from his fit, safe, and loving natural/first fatherly care to theirs as her DNA strangers, he was constrained by Oklahoma Army National Guard orders to be in Iowa for mandatory training; 4) isn't it a bit cheeky of the adoptive parents and the South Carolina family court judge to order Mr. Brown to fly himself and the child to South Carolina — on his own dime I presume — to meet their command performance take over terms when he was physically and legally unable to do so — trust me if you have never been in the military, all of your life options are given over to your units CO when you are a private in the Army, National Guard or otherwise; 4) the child has not suffered throughout what we adults name her ordeal, particularly over almost the past two years, when she has been aloowed to be raised up in the shade of her fit, safe, and loving father. Read US Supreme Court Justice Scalia's short but scathing dissent to the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United Sates) majority opinion and know why your post is muddled. Once again, thank you for trying in your own way to set things straight.
    Sincerely,
    Bridget
    PS: PS if you write on this case again, please post a current photo of the child. The photo you posted is two years past its sell by date. It shows a poor, pitiful 2 year old baby toddler which is the exact opposite of what all the up to date August 2013 photos show. She is now a spunky, vibrant child. Today she is 32 days short of her 4 year birth date when her bio mother gave her up for adoption by strangers. And that fact is sad for Veronica, now and forever, especially since 4 months after her birth, Mr. Brown, her bio father, once he knew, stepped up to raise her up.

  5. Suzie Kidnap

    actually, there is an easy answer. there was no valid consent signed by the father. he was about to deploy to iraq, and thought he was signing the standard guardianship papers all soldiers sign, when they go into a war zone.

    so, it was never a vlaid consent.

    therefore, the little girl was never available for adoption.

    that's why the court gave her back to her father. where she has been for 20 months. the cs need to move on.

    they need to let go of that little girl, stop hounding that family through the courts, and find a TRULY needy child to adopt. veronica has a family and a home. let the cs adopt a homeless child.

  6. Susan Lowe

    But he relinquished parental rights because he didn't want to pay to contribute to the support the mother while she was pregnant or the baby after she was born. That's not a person who should have children. I think the US Supreme Court made the right decision. This was not a situation of someone going on to the reservation stealing a child. This was a man who did not live on the reservation who deserted his child.

  7. Susan Lowe

    I would think that the CO would have excused Brown from training under the circumstances. Did he even ask or did he take advantage of the order to avoid beginning the transition to return the child to the Capobiancos? Did he even notify the Capobiancos? Your implication that the baby was ill treated by the Capobiancos is outrageous. Nor would I assume that she has been ill treated by Brown in the past two years but she certainly was ill treated by Brown when he surrendered parental rights to her in order to avoid paying child support. And, thanks all the same, I've read enough of Scalia's ridiculous decisions to know that he is an irrational person who should be removed from the US Supreme Court for his unethical behavior.

  8. Sherry Murray

    There was a statement written by Brown's superior's that said he was not to leave training for any reason and they refused to get involved in the case. All along it was mentioned that the C's would go to OK for the transition plan. Not sure why the change. His side says they knew about his training.. C's side said they didn't.

  9. Victoria Defazio

    Susan Lowe but he has been raising her in a loving extended family setting for almost 2 years now. Pictures of her show her as an inquisitive happy kid with bunches playing with geese and toys and her half sister.

    Whatever happened between him and the birth mother doesn't change that and the fact the minute he found out the birth mother didn't want her he tried desperately to get the baby back – when she was 4 months old and he kept fighting till her got custody when she was 27 months old and he is still fighting for her. Really does that sound like a deadbeat dad to you? Or at worse one that screwed up and is desperately trying to do right by his child?

    I'm betting there is more on the birth mothers side we don't know about seeing how she refused marriage which would have given her his health benefits and entitlements under his military service. That she got a 10k bonus for the adoption that she is part of a class action suit now. If there is are we judging him as an unfit parent basically on the grounds his relationship with the birth mother went to pot and not on his actual fitness as a parent?

    As for the his mandatory training for crying out loud it was in reports at the time of the finalising of adoption how come the adopters are know saying they didn't know, and wasn't there reports saying they were supposedly willing to go to where he lived to make it easier on the child? What happened to that?

  10. Talea Lopez

    I'm sure if these asshole defunct white couple could have their OWN children, I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate somebody trying to take their child. These people are disgusting scum. LEAVE THE LITTLE GIRL ALONE!

  11. Teresa Houck

    The court decision said "lawfully initiated." How was it lawful when she falsified information on the birth certificate? Why falsify information if not to keep the father from being informed?

  12. Leann Saymore

    I think there are too many abandoned, abused children in this country for these adoptive parents to fight like this. It is obvious to me this little girl has a biological family who loves and cares for her very much. Why not allow the biological father to keep his child, and the adoptive parents can be the god parents. They could then adopt a child who truly needs a family. I promise there is an over abundance of them in South Carolina. Give the child of a drug addict the chance to have a bold, beautiful life. Once this little girl grows up, she will seek out her biological family. There will be major life strife when she finds out the circumstances of her adoption. I am a huge advocate for adoption. My husband was adopted, as was his mother and uncle. I was raised by my maternal grandmother. I know both the value of adoption and the value of being raised by your biological family. I am positive that the adoptive parents set out with the purest of intentions. Remember the saying, "the path to hell is paved with good intentions". What is happening here is short sighted.

  13. Anne Pavlos

    How can Matt and Melanie Capobianco ever be happy about being awarded custody of a child under such circumstances. They have ignored the fact that her birth-father wants her, and can and has supported her in a happy, stable environment. As there are several appeals in motion, it could be years until the custody of this child is decided. And now the birth mother is back in the mix…stating that if the birth father is awarded custody, she will revoke the adoption herself and raise the child. She wants nothing to do with him and apparently cares little about the emotional wellbeing of the child she gave birth to. The Capobianco's should do the right thing and LET GO!

  14. Bridget Morgan

    Susan Lowe: you don't know what you are talking about unless you, or someone close to you, have served in the US Army National Guard. My husband did so I know first hand and thus know that what I said in the beginning is correct.

  15. Bridget Morgan

    Sherry Murray: it has now come out that the C's presented two transition plans to the South Carolina Family Court Judge whilst lodging a preference for their #two plan which demanded Dusten and Veronica appear in Charleston for their command performance. Even William Shakespeare in love would not have been so cheeky at the Globe Theater in Elizabethan England. Read Shakespeare's history plays to truly understand military mentality through the ages. My motto: study Shakespeare and be free and thank you for weighing in.

  16. Bridget Morgan

    Susan Lowe: reread my first post and if you can point me to my words which stated or implied that Veronica was ill treated by the C's I will retread my original commentary.