September 24, 2013 @ 12:35 PM


By staff


Whether tracking the story as a sad family drama or an intricate legal issue being played out before the nation, the adoption journey of Baby Veronica has been both tragic and intriguing. The newest chapter in the story was addressed by today by writer Michael Overall.


Veronica spent the first 27 months of her life in the home of her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco with whom she was placed for adoption at birth by her birth mother. Because the birth father, Dustin Brown, had Cherokee heritage, however, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was triggered, and pursuant to a South Carolina court order, Veronica was placed with her biological father under terms of the ICWA. The ICWA applies to both independent adoption and agency adoption, requiring notice to applicable Indian tribes and giving them the right to object to an adoption to maintain Native American ancestry, and giving the birth parent escalated rights to object to an adoption, even a voluntary one such as Veronica’s.


The adoptive parents appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court, who several months ago ruled in favor of the adoptive parents, finding that the ICWA did not apply, and ordered that Veronica be returned to her adoptive parents, the Capobiancos. Birth father, Dustin Brown, and the Cherokee Nation fought the order under related legal grounds on the state level, and until yesterday kept custody of Veronica. Now, however, Veronica has been returned to her adoptive parents thanks to an order by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.


Whichever side of the issue one agrees with, all can agree that the situation has been a challenging one for Veronica, first in the custody of her adoptive parents from birth until the age of two years and three months, then with her birth father to age 4, now again with her adoptive parents. The Capobiancos have reportedly stated they will consider some type of open adoption so Veronica can maintain her relationships with her birth family, and such openness is common in both independent and agency adoption. However, here, with the contentious litigation history between the parties, it may be difficult.


Although the United States Supreme Court is to be applauded for its ruling in this case, the real problems remain. The ICWA continues to be one of the most poorly written sections of federal legislation in existence. Complicating matters is that many states have written their own version of the ICWA, which alter the federal terms, making tribal cases even more confusing for all involved.


Children need stability. Adoption requires stability. This is for the sake of both the adoptive and birth parents, but most importantly the child. There is no reason why Congress can’t amend the ICWA to reflect reasonable parameters for when the ICWA applies, and to whom, and give definitiveness to those entering into an adoption plan so that all issues are resolved prior to the birth, ending cases like this where an innocent child is put in legal limbo for years.