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Supreme Court Will Hear Case of 'Baby Veronica'Elizabeth Sharon Morris for Salem-News.com
“We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…" - Dr. William Allen, former Chair, US Commission on Civil Rights
(WASHINGTON DC) - In 2009, Christinna Maldonado chose Matt and Melanie Capobianco to love, nurture, and raise her soon-to-be-born child. The Capobiancos had long wanted to be parents and after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts, made the decision to enter into an “open adoption” of Baby Veronica. On all accounts. Veronica was a happy, thriving, child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. To this day, Maldonado remains committed to her choice.
On or around Jan. 4, 2010, Dusten Brown, the biological father, signed away custody of his daughter in exchange for not having financial responsibility. Brown later changed his mind and sought custody of Veronica. Initially, due to South Carolina law, he was denied standing because he was considered an absentee father.
However, because he was 3/128th Cherokee heritage, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to Brown under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. Baby Veronica, only 1.12% Cherokee heritage, was ordered removed from the Capobianco's care and placed in Dusten Brown’s custody. On Dec. 31, 2011, despite abundant evidence from child psychologists and attachment experts that removing toddlers from care-givers they’ve bonded to could cause long-lasting psychological damage, Veronica was handed over to her biological father.
Though supporters of ICWA say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it – many of whom have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs. Some opponents of ICWA question the motivation for seeking after children whose families have chosen to be disconnected from Indian Country. The Cherokee Nation alone had over 100 attorneys targeting some 1,500 children across the country in 2012.
Now Veronica’s case has reached the highest level. On February 26, 2013, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Matt, Melanie and Veronica. SCOTUS will hear testimony of the case on April 16th and will make a ruling by the end of the term in June 2013.
CAICW is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision made by the high court of South Carolina and return Baby Girl Veronica to the Capobiancos, family chosen for her by her birth-mother. The statutory and constitutional issues addressed in this case impact the equal protection, due process, liberty, and state rights provisions of children in need of care. A child’s best interests should be considered in every child custody determination. There is no presumption that residing with members of a child’s tribe is in the child’s best interests, particularly when the child is lives off the tribe’s reservation. Further, tribal governments lack inherent jurisdiction over nonmembers. Application of the federal ICWA to cases involving the parents who are not tribal members violates the equal protection provision of the U.S. constitution, even if a non-member parent lives within reservation boundaries.
In the words of Dr. William Allen, former Chair, US Commission on Civil Rights (1989) & Emeritus Professor, Political Science MSU, “... we are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…"
Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country: A Family Journey From Self-Destruction To Opposing Tribal Sovereignty.”
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