A Cherokee child known as Baby Veronica has been placed in the custody of her adoptive parents, the Cherokee Nation has confirmed this week.
Baby Veronica’s father, Dusten Brown, has been locked in a dispute for custody of his daughter with the couple who adopted her, Melanie and Matt Capobianco.
Brown was able to reclaim his daughter after she was placed for adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 under which custody rights applied to his situation due to the fact that Veronica is a part-Cherokee child.
However, a higher court later overturned the decision and tried to place Veronica with the Capobiancos again. Brown fought, but a decision this month ordered she be returned to the couple.
Monday night, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree described the emotionally fraught moment when Veronica was given by her father to the Capobiancos as “peaceful and dignified.” A tribal attorney drove the girl a quarter of a mile away where the Capobiancos retrieved her.
Hembree said that the biological father of Baby Veronica was distraught but held his emotions in check as he rescinded custody of his biological daughter:
“Dusten Brown was just as brave today as we he was when he fought for our country in Iraq… Although this is not something any parent should ever have to do, we could not be more proud of the dignity and courage with which he carried himself.”
Terry Cross, of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, commented on the removal of Baby Veronica to the Capobiancos Monday night. Cross said the Cherokee child was let down by the judicial decision:
“The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”
After the Cherokee child was removed from her father Monday, it remained unclear whether Dusten Brown has any right at all to see his daughter in the future.