Supreme Court Hears Cherokee Nation’s Baby Girl

Cherokee Nation baby & Dusten

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on April 16 heard oral arguments in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a case involving a Cherokee Nation citizen fighting for custody of his biological child by invoking the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

CN citizen Dusten Brown is fighting to keep his daughter Veronica and is utilizing the ICWA to ensure she remains at the family’s home in Oklahoma.

In 2009, Brown’s former fiancé, a non-Native Hispanic woman, made arrangements for their daughter to be adopted without Brown’s consent. The adopting couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina, is also non-Native.

Brown, who served a year in Iraq in the U.S. Army, was prepared to sign custodial rights to the child’s biological mother, but not his parental rights. When he learned of the biological mother’s plan to give up the child, he immediately filed to stop the adoption. Citing ICWA guidelines, Veronica was reunited with her Cherokee family and biological father in Oklahoma.

When Veronica was 2, the South Carolina Appellate Court ruled ICWA trumped South Carolina state law. According to a later South Carolina Supreme Court ruling, the Brown family has a “deeply embedded relationship” with its heritage.

The ICWA was enacted in 1978 when Native American children were being removed from their homes and typically placed with non-Native adoptive or foster parents. It gives tribal sovereign governments and their citizens a voice in Native child protection and ensures children remain connected to their ancestry and traditions.

The Obama administration, 18 states, multiple tribal nations, current and former members of Congress and children’s welfare groups all supported the Brown family and the ICWA with legal briefs.

Continue reading here:

Oral Arguments

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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29 Responses to Supreme Court Hears Cherokee Nation’s Baby Girl

  1. Pingback: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: How should SCOTUS Rule? | Queen City Addendum

  2. Pingback: Adoptive parents petition to change ICWA | lara (author-blogger)

  3. CarolMaeWY says:

    This is article covering the Nations PowWow this week-end in Albuquerque. There are several links.

  4. Ametia says:

    On one hand, fathers in this country are given the side eye for not supporting their children, and on the other hand, when Dusten Brown fights from JUMP to keep his child his daughter Veronica, he’s denied his RIGHTS. This STINKS to high heaven!

    Non-Native/Hispanic my ass= 2420s. So they trump the ICWA? NAW SON!

  5. rikyrah says:

    this case is so wrong. the father did not want to give up his child. that’s the beginning, middle and end of the story for me. everybody else has been wrong in this case.


    More than 100,000 Native children in the US were enrolled in off-reservation boarding schools. Parents who refused to give up their children were imprisoned and their children were forcibly taken away. The first school was founded in 1879 by Richard Pratt, an army officer, who based the system off a school he developed for a prison in Florida. The schools were funded by Congress and run by churches and missionary societies. Pratt mandated that the children be taken far from their homes at an early age and not returned until they were young adults. In the boarding schools boys were taught menial labor and girls housework. They were forced to convert to Christianity, embrace Western culture, and speak only English. Native languages and traditions were prohibited and severely punished. Children were subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by the priests and nuns in charge. Torture was used to punish native language use; children were involuntarily sterilized and died of disease, beating, poisoning, hanging, starvation, strangulation, and medical experimentation. By the 1930s most off-reservation boarding schools were closed, but today boarding schools still exist within reservations. (Smith 35Ð40)

  7. CarolMaeWY says:

    I think the adoption lawyers were scum.

  8. The Indian Child Welfare Act

  9. Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) 1978

  10. US justices struggle in weighing American Indian adoption case

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared conflicted on Tuesday as they debated the delicate question of whether an American Indian father could take custody of his child from a couple who legally adopted her.

    The nine-member court has to determine whether the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law passed in 1978 to prevent Indian families from being torn apart by government welfare agencies, allows Dusten Brown custody of his child, even though he had at one point said he would give up his parental rights.

    Several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, who has two adopted children, appeared sympathetic to the South Carolina couple who adopted the girl, Veronica, who is now three.

    But at least two members of the court, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, indicated some support for Brown, and others appeared unsure how to proceed. Justice Clarence Thomas, who took custody of a grandnephew in 1997, did not speak during the argument.

    Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized American Indian tribe, and a soldier at Fort Sill, Okla., invoked the federal law when the child’s mother, Christina Maldonado, gave Veronica up for adoption.

    The adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a Boeing technician and developmental psychologist who live in Charleston, S.C., had custody of Veronica from just after her birth in September 2009. Brown took custody in December 2011 after a South Carolina court ruled in his favor.

    In reviewing the case, the justices struggled openly with how to apply the federal law, which did not appear to have anticipated the type of dispute before the court.

  11. Xena says:

    Different states have different laws regarding adoption when the parents are unwed and the biological dad has not registered properly to make sure he is not surrendering his rights. Many dads do not look into the law to know their rights. I’m happy to hear that the CN dad did.

    What bothers me are the adoptive parents. IMO, they have a responsibility to make sure that they are not infringing on the rights of either parents, neither members of the extended family who might want to adopt or be legal guardian.

    • ICAM, Xena! The ICWA was enacted in 1978 to keep Native American children from being removed from their homes. Native Americans have suffered enough abuse with having their children removed from them and forbidden to speak in their native tongue. Hell to the No!

      • Xena says:

        Hey SouthernGirl2

        ICAM, Xena!

        Forgive me, but I do not know what “ICAM” is the acronym for.

        The ICWA was enacted in 1978 to keep Native American children from being removed from their homes. Native Americans have suffered enough abuse with having their children removed from them and forbidden to speak in their native tongue.

        Was just reading the transcript, and the attorney for the (adoptive) parents has a losing argument. She gave no consideration to the ICWA which is federal law. I’m still reading. The Justices continue stopping her each time she brings up State law.

      • ICAM = I couldn’t agree more.

  12. CarolMaeWY says:

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’ll read transcript tomorrow. I don’t understand the adoption parents taking this so far.

    • Hi Carol. They haven’t adopted the little girl yet but have assumed pre-adoptive care. They want the dad to bring the child back so they can adopt her. He wants his child. The mother didn’t even tell him she had a baby until she decided to put the little girl up for adoption.

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