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.