Baby Veronica, who was at the center of a legal dispute between her biological
father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and her adoptive parents, Matt
and Melanie Capobianco, has been returned to the Capobiancos in South Carolina.
Veronica was handed over to the Capobiancos hours after the Oklahoma Supreme
Court dissolved a temporary court order leaving the child with her father
and his family. Until the Monday night transfer, the Cherokee Nation had
insisted the girl would remain with the tribe.
The Capobiancos and the girl's biological father, Dusten Brown, had
fought for years over custody of the girl. The dispute has raised questions
about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and a federal law meant to help
keep Native American tribes together called the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Veronica, whose biological father is a member of the Cherokee Nation and
whose biological mother in not Native American, had lived with the Capobiancos
from birth until she was 27 months old, when Brown was awarded custody
under the Indian Child Welfare Act. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision
later went against Brown, and a South Carolina court finalized the Capobiancos'
adoption of the girl earlier this year. Brown had then turned to Oklahoma's courts.
Brown and his family claim the Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that
the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation. The law was passed in
1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children
being adopted by non-Native American families.
A South Carolina court cited the law when awarding Veronica to Brown in
2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court this year said the law did not apply
because he had been absent from the child's life.
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