Monday, January 9, 2012

Birth Father Wins Adoption Battle

CNN reports on the role of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the return of 2-year-old Veronica to her birth father, after the adoptive parents' failure to follow that federal law:
For the first few moments of her life, Veronica was with her birth mother.

For the next two years, she was with her adoptive parents.

And for the last week, the toddler has been with her biological father, over 1,000 miles away from the only home she'd ever known.

It's been a long, complicated journey for young Veronica -- one made possible by a federal law meant "to protect the best interests of Indian children" that, in the process, has tugged at the heartstrings of all involved.

The story began in 2009, when Veronica's biological mother and father, Dusten Brown, signed a legal document agreeing to put the girl up for adoption. Brown's attorney, Shannon Jones, says that her client signed the waiver but didn't quite understand it.

Soon after the girl was born, Brown -- a U.S. Army soldier -- headed off on a 1-year deployment.

It was then that the baby moved on as well, to the Charleston, South Carolina, home of Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
It was an open adoption, family friend Jessica Munday said. That meant the girl's birth mother could and did maintain a relationship with the girl.

But Brown, the biological father, wasn't on board. Four months after Veronica's birth, he began legal proceedings seeking custody of her.

"My client has been fighting for custody of his daughter since shortly after her birth," Shannon Jones, Brown's Charleston-based lawyer, said by e-mail. "He loves this child with all his heart."

Brown appeared to win that battle late last year. On New Year's Eve, he arrived in South Carolina, picked up Veronica from her adoptive parents, and headed west to his home in Oklahoma.
It's a pretty unusual case, in that birth fathers rarely win in adoption revocations.  One really important fact to note by all of those who decry the removal of the child after two years with her adoptive parents -- those parents have known since she was 4 months old that the birth father was seeking to reverse the adoption. I expect they were playing the delay game, which, as I posted here, usually benefits the adoptive parent in possession.  Now the adoptive parents are saying they will appeal, and the benefit of delay belongs to the birth father. . . .


Anonymous said...

yes, but he signed over his rights before the child was born. the indian law being used here is silly. he is not an active part of the indian community. based on everything i've read he's doing it to spite the ex-girlfriend who did not want to marry him. he's using the kid. he has taken the child away from the birth mom in addition to the adoptive parents. yes, he served in the military and thanks to him for that. he is now unemployed and living with his parents. what is his parenting plan? the ex thought through the adoption plan in great detail and he was on board with it until he found out she was leaving him. but yes, i agree the AP knew at 4 months as did the birth mom… but it sounds like they were doing what was in the best interest of the child and the birth mom's plan.

Sharon said...

This is a painful case. Adoption by whites was historically used as a tool to destroy Indian culture, and as we've seen recently from the news out of South Dakota, Indian children are still being disproportionately removed from birth families by social services. Like the dad in this case, I'm part Cherokee, but in this situation, I do feel the law has been misapplied. As Anon said, there are some uncomfortable specifics here, but the tribe will put all needed resources into backing the dad on "principle." I'm feeling pretty disappointed with the tribe recently, which also just denied tribal membership to the descendants of black slaves who were "owned" by the ancestors. Those slave descendants lived with the tribe for generations but are being cut out now that there's money to be had.

Lori said...

When a person signs a document that they do not comprehend, that document is, by law, null and void. Regardless of what a "parenting plan" is or whether or not the APs knew what was going on or not, the reality is that ICWA is in place to prevent the removal of Native American Children from their culture. While I am not an expert on said culture, I do know that if the law is not applied evenly in cases like these, it makes ICWA a joke and creates the same circumstances that essentially ended many tribes existence at the end of the 1800's and early 1900's. Pretending that it does not matter here, does not make a difference. It does matter.

Also, as far as I know, family has always been big in Native American culture, no matter the tribe and this creates, within the tribe, the universal need to raise the children of the tribe within the bonds of the tribe. Therefore, the child does belong with her biological father, even without contact with her biological mother. She is with her family, her tribe and in a place where she will grow up knowing who she is.

ICWA is designed for just that purpose and was applied correctly and with responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Didn't know what he was signing? What a joke. In all fairness, perhaps he did not know what the word ADOPTION meant, and he did not have access to a dictionary or an online resource. Apparently he does not live within the tribe, so it's doubtful this child will grow up knowing her "tribe" or any of it's true purposes.
I'm COMPLETELY with Sharon on this one.

Sharon said...

Lori, just because someone is an enrolled member of the tribe, as this dad is, doesn't necessarily mean grew up with the tribe, that he lives with the tribe now, or that he participates in the affairs the tribe in any meaningful way. He may in fact do those things, but the term enrolled simply means he is the descendant of someone whose name appears on the Dawes rolls of 1893, when the federal government gave Indians of the five civilized tribes a window to enroll as legal members to get allotments to compensate for the break up of reservations. My family could not enroll because they had already left the reservation before 1893, and no one has had the energy to trace any relations on the rolls later because the govt and the tribe won't let any "new" members on the list. Former African slaves of the Cherokee and other tribes were indeed listed on the rolls as legal tribe members, but as I said, now the Cherokee have decided to override that to deprive some of their resources. It's unclear if this little girl will grow up knowing her tribe or not.

Anonymous said...

anon - didn't know what he was signing? come on… maybe he doesn't know what he's getting into now (parenting). i'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

sorry- that last post was for lori, not anon.

chittisterchildren said...

There's a post about this on Adoptive Family Circles as well. Apparently, the birthfather thought he was signing away his rights to the birthmother so he wouldn't have to pay child support because she wouldn't marry him.

The specifics of this case, I believe, show that the law has been misapplied.

Furthermore, If I told my bank that I didn't know what I was signing so I wasn't paying my mortgage, that wouldn't fly. I don't see why, if he didn't read what he was signing, the argument works here. FWIW, I saw the surrender that my son's birthmother signed. It was fairly simple, as far as legal documents go.

Anonymous said...

It's extremely sad if he did do this to get back at the birth mother. Especially if he IS living with his parents now. Most likely, if that's the case, the birthmother will have to pay HIM child support, the APs hearts are broken, and we ALL know who will REALLY be raising that little won't be the tribe or the will be the grandparents. Mark one up for another botched legality.
I'm sooo glad for my cousin, who was adopted in the early 60s. Her birthmother was 1/4 indian, but she was on drugs and left her in the hospital at 2 days old. My cousin found her birthmother later in life, and her birthmothers parents were a sight to behold as well. BUT her life would have been so much more enriched by being raised by them....NOT.