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.
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