Sep 26 2013

Understanding the Complex Case of Baby Veronica and Implications for Native American Sovereignty

Should a biological father be able to get his daughter back almost two years after she was adopted? What if the little girl was Native American and the parents who adopted her were not? This, in a nutshell, is the complex case of Baby Veronica, a little girl caught in the center of a prolonged custody battle which has had broader implications about the rights of historically disenfranchised Native American people in the United States.

Baby Veronica was born in 2009 of a Cherokee father, Dusten Brown, and a non-native mother. When Brown and the mother decided not to marry, the mother chose to offer her baby up for adoption to a white couple named Matt and Melanie Capobianco as soon as she was born.

Although Brown had originally decided to relinquish his parental rights, not knowing about the adoption, when he found out about the Capobiancos adopting Veronica four months after her birth he took action. However, Brown is a US Marine and his deployment to Iraq and errors in the adoption paperwork complicated the situation.

Brown ultimately used the Indian Child Welfare Act to try to regain custody of his daughter. The act was put into place in 1978 to address the mass separation of native children from their families. In the end, despite a long-drawn out emotional legal battle which included a US Supreme Court ruling that denied the use of the Indian Child Welfare Act and ruled in favor of the adoptive parents, the now 4 year old girl was handed back to the Capobiancos on Monday. The Capobiancos have decided to sue Veronica’s biological father Dusten Brown for half a million dollars in legal fees.

GUEST: Sarah Deer, Associate Professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law. She is also a Citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Understanding the Complex Case of Baby Veronica and Implications for Native American Sovereignty”

  1. Mariaon 26 Sep 2013 at 1:17 pm

    For the love of everything: Dusten did NOT just show up randomly when his daughter was 2. He tried to offer marriage and support to his daughter’s mother; she denied him and kept her motives and actions secret. He started proceedings to get custody of her when she was 4 MONTHS old – but everything had to wait because the PROSPECTIVE adoptive parents couldn’t be bothered to do the right thing and give her back to a parent who wanted her while he was being shipped off to a war zone. Even if the mother had not given her up for adoption, Dusten would have still needed to sign over his rights, as every active duty soldier must.

    The bottom line of this case is: selfish adoptive parents, a multi-billion dollar industry built on selling children, white people who would love to continue to destroy Native Americans, and a deadbeat mother who couldn’t be bothered to do the right thing by her daughter or her daughter’s father.

  2. Randy fergusonon 27 Sep 2013 at 12:05 pm

    These are not the facts. Dusten Brown asserted parental rights prior the adoption being finalized. Jag took his assertion of parental rights soon after Dusten knew of the birth mothers intent to adopt. The birth mother used trickery to keep him from validating his Cherokee citizenship by miss spelling his name. More corruption as you look into the case. Having received more then allowed by law the birth mother ended the relationship with Brown because military marriage benefits wasn’t enough. Dusten Brown became a victim of political interference criminalizing him for pursuing his legal options. Financial incentives and bonus money in child adoptions encourage deception to remove parental rights and due process.

  3. Sarah Deeron 27 Sep 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Just to clarify, I am not the author of the text on this website. I was a guest on the program but did not write the copy.