Baby Veronica Returned to Adoptive Parents
The story of baby Veronica, the Cherokee toddler at the center of a lengthy custody battle, has finally come to a close. The girl’s father has since lost custody, and Veronica is back with the family that adopted her at birth, reports CNN.
Veronica’s biological father Dusten Brown was ordered by a South Carolina family court judge to return Veronica to the Capobiancos in August, but he refused and was subsequently arrested. Insisting the Indian Child Welfare Act gave his parental rights, he brought the four-year-old case back to court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Brown must return Veronica to Matt and Melanie Capobianco in South Carolina.
The lengthy custody battle began shortly after Veronica’s birth in 2009. Her non-Native American mother asked Brown to sign a document absolving him of child support payments. In signing the form, he also revoked his parental rights, something Brown said he didn’t understand at the time. Veronica’s birth mother then began adoption proceedings without consulting Brown. When he found out Veronica was up for adoption, he began seeking custody, invoking the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law created in the 1970s to keep Native American children with their communities. Because large numbers of Native American children were being adopted into non-Native American families, the act was designed to maintain the integrity of the tribes. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation. A family court judge ruled in Brown’s favor and in 2011, he took Veronica to his home in Oklahoma.
Since 2011, the Capobiancos have fought to bring Veronica back to South Carolina. Brown handed over his daughter to the couple yesterday, and the Cherokee Nation released a statement, applauding him for doing so in a “peaceful and dignified” manner. The statement also said Veronica will “always be a Cherokee citizen.”