What is in Baby Veronica’s Best Interest?
If only I had a magic wand or could click my heels and make something happen. Surely I’d be waving and clicking away right now. The sad sage continues in the Baby Veronica case, and this child is almost literally being torn in two.
By now everyone knows the basic facts. Man meets woman. Man, and this turns out to be an important point, is a member of the Cherokee tribe. Woman gets pregnant. Man is deployed with the armed forces. When he finds out about the pregnancy, he relinquishes his parental rights (via text) because he says he doesn’t want to pay child support. Woman selects an adoptive family for the baby and places her in an open adoption with a South Carolina couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
Four months later and before the six month time period necessary for finalization had expired, the biological father, Dusten Brown, changed his mind and sought custody, saying he did not realize that Veronica was going to be placed for adoption. Mr. Brown challenged the adoption in South Carolina court, and the case eventually made its way up the system to the South Carolina Supreme Court, who ruled in favor of the biological father since they interpreted the 1978 federal law, National Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), as preventing the adoption of Native American children outside of the tribe if the tribe objects.
Meanwhile, Veronica continued to live and thrive with her adopted family for 27 months.
After the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling, Veronica was removed from her adoptive family without a gradual transition and moved to Oklahoma with her father and his wife. She had no further contact with her adopted parents, other than one phone call the day after she was removed.
The Capobiancos moved their fight for Veronica to the federal courts challenging the South Carolina interpretation of ICWA. Against all odds, this case was selected to be heard by the US Supreme Court, which ruled in June that ICWA did not apply in this case because Mr. Brown gave up his parental rights before Veronica’s birth.
Meanwhile, Veronica continued to live and thrive with her biological father for almost 2 years.
The case went back to the South Carolina courts to determine final custody. In light of the US Supreme Court’s ruling that the ICWA didn’t apply, they concluded that the original placement with the Capobiancos should not have been disrupted. They ordered Mr. Brown to return Veronica to her adoptive family. Arrangements were made for a gradual transition, and the Capobiancos have said they would like to work out an open adoption arrangement with Mr. Brown.
On the appointed day of transfer, Mr. Brown did not bring Veronica. The South Carolina court issued a felony warrant against him for custodial interference. On Monday of this week, he turned himself in to Oklahoma authorities for failing to appear in South Carolina and is out on bond. He has said he will continue to fight for his daughter.
Meanwhile, Veronica lives in limbo.
The wheels of justice move slowly, but once they move it’s a done deal, especially if the final court to speak is the US Supreme Court. It is hard to imagine an outcome at this point that doesn’t involve Veronica going back to her adoptive family. That’s how the law works in the US. What is abundantly clear is that the fighting between the biological family and the adoptive family makes it harder for them both to remain in the child’s life. It makes it almost impossible for a smooth and gradual transition between the two families.
Meanwhile, people thinking about adoption extrapolate this case to all adoption cases and are scared to death.
I always preach that in adoption, the child’s best interest should be our guiding principle. What is in Veronica’s best interest? Has best interest changed now that she has been living with her biological father for almost two years? Does the birth mother’s wishes or interpretation of what is best for her daughter count? If so, she has said she wants her daughter to be back with the adoptive family.
Never mind, I don’t want a magic wand or clicking heels. Oh, King Solomon where are you when we need you?!?
Image credit: Ross Pollack, Plbmak