Broken Home: The Save Veronica story

Matt and Melanie Capobianco lost custody of their adopted daughter Veronica, but they refuse to give up hope

| September 26, 2012
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- Illustration by Doris Howard
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"Matt cut Veronica's umbilical cord in an Oklahoma delivery room, and the couple spent every day of the girl's life with her until last Dec. 31. To date, they also have spent all but four months of Veronica's life in court battles, first in Charleston County family court, then the South Carolina Supreme Court. Now they plan to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Matt and Melanie Capobianco spent their adopted daughter Veronica's third birthday 1,200 miles away from her. They wrote their wishes for her on purple balloons and released them into the sky. The day before, the local newspaper ran a story quoting the lawyer for Veronica's biological father, who said the girl no longer recognized the Capobiancos in photos. The couple says they find that hard to believe.

But so much of the past 10 months seems barely imaginable. The Capobiancos are private people, but the story of how they lost custody of their adopted daughter to her biological father has run in publications around the country and on national television, including CNN and Fox News. Their story will air on Dr. Phil's show later this fall. Melanie's cousin, a Merchant Mariner, even saw them on military television on his way to Singapore.

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"We keep telling ourselves, it's not about us, it's about Veronica," Matt says.

Veronica's biological family worries that the media exposure puts the girl at risk, emotionally and physically. However, Melanie, a developmental psychologist, worries how the move away from the only parents she has ever known will affect their adopted daughter. Veronica spent her entire life in a home on James Island, a five-minute drive from Folly Beach. Then, one night, she made the long drive to Oklahoma with a father she had never met.

"People try to portray us as these rich people, but I was working at an auto body shop at the time," says Matt, who now works for Boeing. Before this custody case, the couple poured their income into seven unsuccessful in vitro fertilization attempts and then the legal and travel expenses of finding Veronica's birth mother, a Mexican woman living in Oklahoma.

"We scraped our money to do the adoption in the first place," Melanie says. "We saved and borrowed for that."

Matt cut Veronica's umbilical cord in an Oklahoma delivery room, and the couple spent every day of the girl's life with her until last Dec. 31. To date, they also have spent all but four months of Veronica's life in court battles, first in Charleston County family court, then the South Carolina Supreme Court. Now they plan to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Charleston County family court judge ordered the Capobiancos to turn over the girl to her birth father, Dusten Brown, on New Year's Eve. Brown, an Oklahoma resident and registered Cherokee, had contested the adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families.

Today, Veronica Capobianco goes by the name Ronnie Brown and attends Native American stomp dances with her father. But if she were to return to the Capobiancos, she would find everything as she left it. Her child-sized pink appliances — a refrigerator, stove, and sink — still sit to the right of the grown-up kitchen. Her toys wait in neat bins in the living room. Her high chair still claims the head of the dining room table.

"When this happened, it didn't occur to us to cut our losses," Melanie says. She pauses and then adds, "We recognize there's a good chance we'll lose."

By now most people around here know something about Veronica. They see the purple Save Veronica signs and bumper stickers in business windows and parking lots. Her swath of curly dark hair has become almost iconic. But what most local residents don't understand is how this happened.

Four months after Matt and Melanie Capobianco brought Veronica home, an attorney called them to let them know that Dusten Brown had filed for paternity and custody. A few more months passed, and the Cherokee Nation joined the case, claiming a violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. That law, passed in 1978 to keep tribes together, also deems the Capobiancos' unwavering drive to care for Veronica less significant than her biological tie to the Cherokee Nation. The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that a child with Native American heritage grow up with blood relatives or, if that option is unavailable, with a member of his or her tribe. Social workers can place the child with adoptive or foster families from outside the tribe, but only after exhausting those possibilities. The cases that arise from this law prove as divisive as abortion or gay marriage. Some people take this law personally.

That's how the Capobiancos arrived at the Charleston Place Hotel on New Year's Eve to meet Brown, his parents, and his attorney in the lobby. A surreal scene unfolded.

Holiday revelers awaiting the midnight hour strolled past in novelty New Year hats, brandishing noisemakers. Employees at the Charleston Grill readied their tables, and great thinkers who had convened for Renaissance Weekend wore nametags and shook hands. Photographers and television cameras lined up near the model trains, uncertain how this exchange would play out, as passersby stopped to ask the media which celebrity they were staking out. Brown refused to meet under the circumstances, and two police officers escorted the Capobiancos to an attorney's office at the corner of Market and Meeting streets. Matt carried Veronica over his shoulder, as she looked back wide-eyed at the dozen supporters and friends, plus a throng of news reporters and photographers trailing behind them.

A court filing on behalf of the Capobiancos said Brown agreed to give up his rights to Veronica to his estranged ex-fiancée, so long as he could give up any child support obligation along with it. Brown's attorney, Shannon Jones, instead argued that her client expected Veronica's biological mother to raise their daughter and signed away his rights to her alone.

The two families spent nearly two hours inside Jones' office, where Veronica met her father for the first time. Matt and Melanie Capobianco eventually walked out crying, their arms empty.

Dusten Brown and his parents stayed upstairs in the law office, as an attorney peered from the windows to find a few reporters still camped outside. He eventually pulled Brown's blue pickup truck around to Market Street in front of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and Brown walked from the office and out through the adjoining restaurant, carrying Veronica. His mother carried bags of her toys and clothes that the Capobiancos had brought.

At the time, Brown offered a "no comment" as his lawyer pushed a television camera away.

A few hours later, the ball dropped in Times Square. Couples kissed and clinked champagne glasses in the Charleston Place Hotel, where Matt and Melanie Capobianco spent their final moments alone with Veronica. And an exhaustingly litigious new year began.

For people who live in South Carolina, it's easy to relate to Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Native American residents only account for 0.4 percent of the population, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures, and most people here have never heard of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Terry Cross, founder of the National Indian Child Welfare Association in Portland, Ore., says Veronica's adoption should have been considered high-risk and handled carefully, given her heritage. As a member of the Seneca Nation, Cross blames shoddy legal work during the early adoption proceedings for the legal chaos that followed. An attorney for Veronica's biological mother misspelled Dusten Brown's name, submitting it to the Cherokee Nation as "Dustin," and provided an incorrect birthdate for Brown. No one verified the information.

"My heart goes out to the Capobiancos," Cross says. "No one should be in this position."

But he called the court decision a victory for the tribe, and he says that Veronica is a necessary link in a vanishing community. "Tribes cannot continue to exist if children are removed at such rates as were being done in the past," Cross adds. "When you lose someone in that network, it is a trauma to the entire network. Protecting our children and being able to bring them home is part of our healing and recovery."

Cross says the reasons the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted remain very real in parts of America, most notably in Alaska, where social workers continue to mistake poverty for neglect and remove children from their birth parents. "The nature of [Veronica's] case is very unusual," Cross says. "There are perhaps a half-dozen since 1978 with this set of circumstances but hundreds, literally thousands, each year where ICWA prevents Native American children from being taken away from their families."

Marcia Zug, a University of South Carolina law professor, says that many people in South Carolina identify Native Americans as gambling operators, capitalists with special protections. The reality, she explains, is much starker.

"All they see is the casino Indians, but that's not the majority of them," Zug says. "They'll tell you what life is like: They are the poorest population in the country. Their mortality rates are higher than anybody else. They die of diseases nobody else gets. There's still a big divide. A lot of people say this is guilt for the past, but do we believe Indian tribes should have a future? If you see a need and right for Indian tribes to exist, you will see the need for the Indian Child Welfare Act."

Before teaching in South Carolina, Zug worked on a high-profile Indian Child Welfare Act case in New York. She notes that Indian boarding schools were around mere decades ago and that the number of Native American children in foster care remains grossly disproportionate to their share of the population. "In some places it's 30 percent of Native kids that are in foster care, but only 1 percent of the population is Native," she says. "That's not sustainable."

Joe Kroll, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children in Minnesota, points to the staggering number of children placed in homes outside their culture. Prior to the Indian Child Welfare Act, 80 percent of American Indian-adopted children in the United States wound up in non-Native homes from 1969 to 1974, he says. Even with the law in effect, the number still remained at 68 percent in 2010, he adds.

"To us, race and culture are big things," Kroll says. In 1986, he adopted a Korean girl and bases his opinions on experience. "Personally, watching it with my daughter, after all these years she struggled with her identity and figuring out who she was."

Kroll's work primarily focuses on children older than nine, children who prove tougher to place in prospective homes. He hates cases such as Veronica's, where two parties both want the child. "They're painful for everybody," he says.

And they're not all that unusual.

Chrissi Nimmo, the attorney for the Cherokee Nation in Veronica's case, has 14 other Indian Child Welfare Act cases assigned to her right now. The tribe currently is involved in 1,100 Indian Child Welfare cases, she says. "To say one tribe has 1,100 of these cases means there is a lot more going on," Nimmo says. "In Oklahoma, we are one of 38 tribes. I think the reason people don't know about the Indian Child Welfare Act or hear about child welfare cases is because they are private."

Nimmo says Brown has kept his media interaction limited to that single "no comment" on New Year's Eve to protect Veronica. "He loves her, and his family loves her," Nimmo says. "I have no doubt she's going to thrive in this environment."

On the other side of the courtroom, Mark Fiddler isn't so sure. The Minneapolis lawyer and founder of the Indian Child Welfare Law Center began working for the Capobiancos when they appealed the family court ruling to the S.C. Supreme Court. He rebuts the Indian Child Welfare Act argument by citing Brown's lack of involvement in his daughter's early life. Under South Carolina law, Brown would hold no rights to Veronica because he provided no support, financial or emotional, prior to the custody lawsuit.

To say that the Indian Child Welfare Act trumps state law "would be fine if Congress meant that at the time, in 1978, for an unwed father with no relationship to the child to win custody solely on the basis of biology," Fiddler says. "I seriously doubt that's what they intended."

Fiddler expected to win at the state Supreme Court level. He also expected a decision as early as 30 days. Instead, the five justices took more than three months. And they came back with a 3-to-2 opinion upholding the family court decision. Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote that she and the majority affirmed the family court order "with a heavy heart."

"Father did not consent to Baby Girl's adoption, and we cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that custody by him would result in serious emotional or physical harm to Baby Girl," Toal wrote. "Thus, under the federal standard we cannot terminate Father's parental rights."

In an impassioned dissent, Justice John Kittredge wrote that the majority opinion lost sight of Veronica's best interests. "I believe it has recast the facts to portray Father in an undeserved favorable light, thus creating the illusion that Father's interests are in harmony with the best interests of the child," he wrote. "The reality is Father purposely abandoned this child and no amount of revisionist history can change that truth."

Kittredge added that the court "blames the birth mother and the adoptive couple — everyone except the Father, whose vanishing act triggered the adoption in the first instance."

Justice Kaye Hearn joined with Kittredge, pointing to the fact that Brown chose to give up his rights to Veronica, rather than support her. "In stark contrast to Father's behavior in completely shirking his parental responsibilities, every action taken by Adoptive Couple since they learned she was going to be their child has demonstrated their deep and unconditional love and commitment to Baby Girl," he wrote.

Toal noted in the majority opinion that the Indian Child Welfare Act presumes that placing a child within her tribe is in the child's best interest. The Indian Child Welfare Law Center's Fiddler, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, instead worries that the decision sets a dangerous precedent. "The effect of the majority's decision is a man can come into an adoption case at any time with or without doing anything," he says. "That's just injurious for children and adoptive parents, and that's inexcusable."

On one point all parties can agree: What makes Veronica's case so special is how well-known it has become. The publicity owes, in large part, to a Capobianco family friend who also happens to run a marketing firm in Charleston.

Jessica Munday, a mild-tempered woman with a Southern lilt to her voice, is charmingly persistent. She met Melanie Capobianco through work a decade ago, and the two women maintained a close friendship over the years.

Melanie and Matt Capobianco initially followed their attorney's advice not to speak to reporters, but then they received the court order on New Year's Eve. Munday pulled up to their driveway in her black Suburban ready to work. For the past 10 months, she has become an Erin Brockovich-type character when it comes to bringing attention to Veronica's case and now to the Indian Child Welfare Act in general. She polices the "Save Veronica" social media sites, screens any messages before they reach the Capobiancos, and maintains contact with reporters and politicians around the country. Munday initially assumed the role of managing press inquiries and relieving her friends of that added burden. But she wound up hearing from people around the country — some who wanted to help and some who needed help. "I heard from other families in similar situations," Munday says. "As someone that cares about people, I couldn't just say, 'I'm sorry.'" Instead, she set about changing federal law.

Munday and others, including Fiddler and Melanie Capobianco, incorporated the Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children and Families in Minnesota a few weeks ago. The members have asked federal lawmakers to amend the Indian Child Welfare Act. Among their requested amendments, they want to ensure that fit birth parents can choose guardians for their children without concern for heritage, and they want to limit a parent's right to revoke consent to an adoption for 30 days, not a year. They want to avoid future Veronica scenarios. Munday has e-mailed their ideas to the author of the three-decade old Indian Child Welfare Act, former U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk of North Dakota.

"The reason the law was passed was to prevent an adoption unless the tribe OK'd it, and I really don't see a reason to change that," Abourezk says. "There are times when the outcome might be heartbreaking for white families, but, overall, to change the law to prevent someone's heartbreak might cause more heartbreak for Indian families ... I wish there were a way to prevent heartbreak for everyone."

Abourezk says he keeps responding to Munday's requests for support with a polite "no." But she keeps in touch anyway.

On a recent night, Munday sat on her porch after she had put her own three children to bed and composed yet another e-mail. "It dawned on me: This is really big," Munday says. "It started with my friends and watching what happened with their daughter, but this movement could potentially save thousands of people from what Matt and Melanie went through."

Munday launched a petition to "Save Veronica" and collected 20,000 signatures less than a month after Brown took custody of the girl. Munday drove the document to Columbia, presenting it to any lawmaker's office with a staff member who would listen, and, on a chance encounter, spoke to Gov. Nikki Haley in person.

In July she flew to Washington to discuss the Indian Child Welfare Act with federal officials and interested parties on both sides of the issue. She plans to return to Capitol Hill again this month.

"We want Veronica to come home, first and foremost," Munday says. "But, unfortunately, changes to the law would not have an impact on her case. What would be amazing is if Veronica's Law came about because of all this."

At times, Munday struggles to explain her extracurricular lobbying to her own children. Her son asked her as they rode home from school the other day why a law would separate a child from her mommy and daddy. "How do you explain that to a fifth grader?" Munday asks. She hopes, one day, that other parents won't have to.

Despite all the Indian Child Welfare Act cases playing out around the country each year, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up only one. Both Nimmo and Fiddler have petitioned the highest court in the past — unsuccessfully.

Only a 1989 case of the Mississippi Choctaw Indians versus adoptive parents named Holyfield ever reached Washington. In that case, the Holyfields, a non-Native American couple, adopted illegitimate twin babies after their births 200 miles away from the Choctaw reservation. The tribe disputed the adoption, but a county court judge overruled the tribe's motion. The Supreme Court, citing the spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act, later reversed the county court's decision. The birth mother in the case had chosen to leave the reservation so that the Holyfields could raise her children away from the tribe, but the justices found that Native American parents cannot skirt the law geographically by leaving the reservation to give birth or to place a child up for adoption.

Fiddler thinks Veronica's case stands a good chance of being picked up by the U.S. Supreme Court, given varied state interpretations of the federal law. Plus, the Capobiancos will bring their case to Washington with something perhaps even more promising than a compelling argument: an insider.

Lisa Blatt has argued a record 30 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, more than any other woman. She also won 29 of those cases. Blatt has argued on an array of subjects: health care, pharmaceutical manufacturers' rights, disability benefits, and a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency. Washingtonian magazine named her one of the "100 Most Powerful Women in Washington," and she agreed to work on Veronica's case for Matt and Melanie Capobianco pro bono. The Capobiancos know that, given the history of the Indian Child Welfare Act and of their own case, their plea might never reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but they have to try.

"That's our daughter," Matt says. "You never stop fighting for your child."

The couple has spoken with Veronica only once since New Year's Eve, the day after she arrived in Oklahoma. "Mommy, Daddy. I love you," she told them.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco rely on the company and distraction of good friends but acknowledge that their lives have been changed forever. Melanie recently watched a baby throw a tantrum in a restaurant while dining with her mother. She saw the parents' embarrassed looks and remembered that feeling. "Then I thought, 'God, I wish we were in their place,'" she says.

She and Matt celebrated Veronica's third birthday at a quiet dinner this year. They know Halloween will be tough, as will Thanksgiving and then Christmas. "Everything we do, we're reminded she's not here," Matt says.

They won't take her photos down inside their home, and they won't put her toys away. They have sent her packages, and Melanie has called Brown's home to speak with Veronica once a week, every week, until recently. No one has answered any of her calls after that one brief conversation on New Year's Day, but Melanie always leaves a message.

A few weeks ago, Brown and his family made a request through their attorneys: They wanted no further contact from the Capobiancos. So on Veronica's birthday her adoptive parents sent only their wishes written on purple balloons.

Legally, it was all they could do.

Matt and Melanie tried in vitro fertilization seven times before they adopted Veronica.
Matt and Melanie tried in vitro fertilization seven times before they adopted Veronica.
- Jonathan Boncek
Veronica called Matt and Melanie mom and dad.
Veronica called Matt and Melanie mom and dad.
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Comments (108)

Showing 1-25 of 108

The birth father gave up all legal rights to his daughter when he made a deal with the birth mother to give up paying child support. Why won't the courts acknowledge that fact? He doesn't get to change his mind simply because he's Native American.

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Posted by Jason Usry on September 26, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Thank you for sharing this story! Very informative and balanced. Nice job Allyson.

report 30 of 75 people like this.   
Posted by Jessica Munday on September 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM

What a heartbreaking story, I can't imagine whay they must be going through. I pray the Capobianco's remain strong, and that Veronica comes home!!

report 31 of 91 people like this.   
Posted by Molly B. McDonald on September 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Great article, very informative. Such a heartbreaking story. I pray the Capobiancos remain strong, and that Veronica comes home soon!

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Posted by Molly B. McDonald on September 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Thank you, Allyson, for such a wonderfully written article. My love always goes out to Veronica and the Capabiancos. ♥

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Posted by Kacey Arnold on September 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM

If he wasn't NA he would never have custody. I would imagine that when you give up your parental rights to your child to avoid any type of support, you also give up any type of decision making. Giving up of Parental Rights shouldn't mean that someone is able to set conditions around the Parental Rights they are giving up - like in this case, 'he thought he was giving up his rights to the bio-mom'. No other race would have this result. ICWA is shameful.

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Posted by North on September 26, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Great article!! Praying for reunification for this family.

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Posted by Rebecca Hethcox Smith on September 26, 2012 at 2:55 PM

I don't care if you're a demi-god, if you give up your rights, you give up your rights. It's kind of like shooting a gun. You can't "take back" the bullet once you fire it. This is so wrong.

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Posted by Jolie Bonnette on September 26, 2012 at 3:31 PM

by attmepting to find loopholes in ICWA is like trying to reinforce genocide that was inflicted on our people the last 500 years! so what if Mr. Brown gave up paternity rights after Veronica's birth? He gave them up based on intentions of leaving them solely on the birth mother. The Capobiancos need to get off the freaking pity pot already. What's more important than Veronica's best interest is the fact that our Native children remain in Native families so they can carry on our heritage for the 7th Generation. They were contacted by attorneys when she was 4 months old and refused to give her up then. They would have lost a lot less if they had given her up upon the first contact. I feel for their loss. I really do, but they need to put away their selfish desires. We natives are trying to rebuild and revitalize a culture that was taken away from us; and by allowing our children to continue to grow up in non-Native homes is like rebuking our dream of cultural regrowth. It's understandable that the Capobiancos have love for this precious child, but if they really care about her that much, they will care about her bloodline and understand that her biological father will be there for her from now on. They should suggest visitation rights, at least, in hopes that Mr. Brown or the courts will allow it.

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 3:36 PM

by the way, I have a baby sister that I havent seen in over 3 years because my ex-stepmother was a white woman who claimed abuse against my dad who I know for a fact never laid hands on her and would NEVER in a million years lay hands on my siblings and I. She was a tiny white woman claiming abuse against a "big Indian guy". The courts relinquished my dad's rights to see my baby sister which in turn relinquished the rest of the family's rights to every see her because my ex-stepmom took her and fled. That was a heavy loss on all of us. I saw her a few Xmases ago at a Kmart and my ex-stepmom scooped her up, told Dakota she never met me before and told me to stop confusing HER child! what could I do even though she was my blood sister? So, I have absolutely NO sympathy for the Capobianco people whatsoever!

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Cante Ista, I feel for you that you had such a significant loss of someone you love. That alone should foster a sense of understanding of the loss the Capobianco's are feeling, along with the fear of what harm could come to her. She was not removed from this man forcefully like your sister, he terminated rights willingly and stated repeatedly that HE did not want Veronica. If you didn't like that someone could forcibly remove someone you love from your home, how can you possibly condone the removal of a baby from the only parents she has ever known? Unless you are suggesting that the capacity for loving someone rests SOLELY i the content of one's blood. Suggesting that your race (which is also mine) is capable of deeper, more compassionate love is not only is the more arrogant, racist thing I've heard in quite a while, it's also extremely foolish. Had the Capobianco's known about her heritage, they would have taken every opportunity to embrace and educate her on it. What about her Hispanic heritage, which makes up 50% of her "blood"? Or is that not as important? Bio-dad isn't hispanic-do you think he is capable of teaching her about that heritage? I doubt it, since his entire argument was that the Capobiancos were white and therefore not capable of educating her on Cherokee heritage. Food for thought. Sorry you seen to harbor so much hate, and have suffered such a great loss. Hopefully you can heal. Hopefully Veronica can too.

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Posted by Sarah Mason on September 26, 2012 at 4:51 PM

This case is the most unfortunate example of what happens when the law, in this case ICWA, was not followed from the start. Read the opinions and pleadings from the SC Supreme and lower courts. ICWA's purpose was that tribes would have primacy in making adoption placement determinations for its children as opposed to state adoption agencies or individual parents. The law's provisions in this case should have been triggered before the State of Oklahoma adoption services ever set in motion the process for the child to arrive in SC in the first place. If you do not believe in the concept that Native American tribes should still exist or that they should be able to exercise what little sovereignty they have left over their lands and people, then read no further. Laws like ICWA or the last 40 years of federal Indian policy will do little to make you understand the big picture here.

Because of either miscommunication or deliberate misinformation on the part of the biological mother towards the State of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation did not get the opportunity to have that first say. Perhaps they may have eventually found
that the Capobianco's would have been an appropriate fit after exploring potential placement in the tribe. The point is they have the first say and that did not happen here. As soon as they were made aware of the situation, the Cherokee Nation intervened to protect that interest. Focusing on what the father may or may not have thought about what he was signing or giving up before he was deployed for military service ignores the overarching interests of the tribe. Just as any state has the authority to step in and make decisions on behalf of children when actions of their parents warrant state involvement, so has the law recognized the same interest of Native American tribes. Yes, the judicial process is painfully slow and it is sad that emotional bonds were formed as this litigation dragged on.

To the Capobianco family, my heart goes out to you. No law maker in Washington or tribal leader ever intended for these types of situations to unfold. I hope that you one day find peace.

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Posted by SCinDC on September 26, 2012 at 4:56 PM

SCinDC sounds as if you are making an argument that Indian children, even children with 2% Indial blood, are the property of the tribe.

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Posted by Louis Pechon on September 26, 2012 at 5:36 PM

As being adopted at the age of 5 I thank God every day that my real parents gave their rights up as that being sad the father verbally gave his rights up to the child and never thought about what the rememification of it until now. I have a problem with that this is my opinion that his parents found out about the adoption and persauded him to reclaimed Veronica. And they new about the Indian Wellfare Act. I wander if they really thought it out when Veronica grows up and question about her real mother and look for her and when she found out about the Capobianco the adoptive parents how would she feel against her father especially if where she lives is below poverty and the adoptive parents could have provided her with everything she would have needed. I know from experiencing she will turn her back on her real family and probably turn to the Capobianco so I am for them getting her back for that reason and if the Brown really love her they will let the Capobianco talk to her or atleast tell her about them

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Posted by Sharon Byrd on September 26, 2012 at 5:44 PM

What happened to Indians in America is tragic and sad, but once again we find liberal guilt and government intervention being the wrong answer. The Lumbee tribe in eastern NC has never never been recognized by the federal government. As such, it has never been given land or money, yet they prosper. Many, if not most, are as well off socioeconomically as whites in the area, in many cases better. Contrast that with the sky high rates of poverty, drug addition, alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide among other Indian tribes, especially for those living on reservations. Sins of the past will never be solved with money or government intervention. Ultimately people have to have pride and a work ethic. Indians and blacks today are only victims of the distant past because they have allowed themselves to be. In fact, given the advantages now in federal law and with so many programs in place, there is no reason blacks and Indians should be living as they do. You can't give things to able bodied people. You have to give them opportunity, hope, encouragement, but nothing more. We don't need reservations in SC to see the unintended consequences and futile results of failed government policies and intervention. A drive by any local housing project will do just fine. Compare them to the alternative, low income housing people have to work and qualify for, and put sweat equity into, and you see a totally different outcome.

This situation is terrible and heart breaking. A situation created by the aforementioned bleeding heat liberals and government intervention. The father gave up the rights to his child, the mother, who is not an Indian, wanted a better life for her daughter than she could provide. Thus she opted for adoption, which is a commendable thing. The courts and federal government have no business getting involved in this. That outdated, ill advised, and poorly written law is complete garbage. A reservation nor tribe have rights to a child. The father did not and does not want that little girl, the tribe does. This is about money and politics and its a bunch of bull shit. This is just further proof that liberals and a lack of common sense will ultimately ruin America. The best interests of the child has always been the driving force behind Child Services. For the courts to take this little girl from a loving family and send it to an absentee father and an India tribe is beyond stupid.

What's next? A black welfare mother gives up a baby to a white couple and Jesse Jackson and the NAACP come to town?

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Posted by Ned Hill on September 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Sarah Mason, I will tell you now that my statements were in no way racist. In fact, there is 14% more white blood running through my veins than there is Lakota blood (57-43). What I am educating about is mostly the fact that these poor souls are using their pity story as a means to reinact genocide. If you took any college courses in Native Studies or had family members working in tribal and US judicial systems, you would understand the genocidal implications of their "hope". As for my so-called "hate", I do not hate these people. I disagree with their fight. Yeah its sad that they lost a baby daughter. I made inference to losing a baby sister but I will not whale about it to the press because I have no say in it. They may have cared for her for four years, but that doesnt entitle them to have a say in it when they blatantly ignored the first contact made by attorneys when she was only four months old. Like I said, if they want her so bad, they should suggest visitation rights. There may have been personal circumstances regarding the intial denial of custody rights of the bio father that were not mentioned in this article maybe to win favor of the Capobiancos sop story. I am sure that if this story was the other way around, people would still be in favor of the white family because everyone seems to display that colonized, "white supremacy" sort of mentality! Quit acting so loving when you can't even fully embrace your American Indian heritage that you claim to have. I will pray to Tunkasila that you will one day consider reading about Tribal sovereignty and history, that both parties learn to live with their decisions, that we all learn from this sad and unusual situation, and that we can all grow together with the different values we were born with! Mitakuye Oyasin <3

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 6:12 PM

@Louis Pechon,
Short answer, YES.
However using the word 'property' is no more appropriate in the tribal context than it would be in speaking about a state's interest in a child who is put up for adoption. Referring to them as a '2%' blood recalls the precise type of paternalism and antiquated notions of tribal existence that laws like ICWA were designed to erase.
Here is why:
As a matter of their inherent sovereignty, tribes have the ability to define their own membership. If your 2%er was the child of a member of the tribe, and the tribe's criteria states that all children of members are presumed members at birth, then that child has as much protectable interest from the tribe's perspective under ICWA as a child that was born of two "full bloods" as you might say. As tribes differ widely in their membership and descendancy criteria (matrilineal, patrilineal, through marraige or not), it is a case by case situation. Even your 2%er would only be 5 generations removed from whatever you consider your "full blood" prototype of what is a true "Indian." In 2012, that is not such an outrageous proposition given how the last 150 years has played out for tribes. If a tribe considers children in such a situation to be worthy of inclusion in their tribal community, that is their sovereign choice and one that is protected under laws like ICWA.

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Posted by SCinDC on September 26, 2012 at 6:30 PM

SCinDC, you are either a lawyer, a moronic liberal, or both.

Tribes don't own children. This is pure BS and politics. The father signed away his rights because he wanted nothing to do with the child nor to be responsible for child support. The mother is not an indian and wanted a better life for her child. Thus she gave the girl up. End of story.

Some asinine and stupid law should not even be considered. Hell, that law should never seen the light of day and should be repealed. Such a law is akin to legalized slavery. People, especially children, are not property. Children are a product of two parents, not a tribe. Only a complete idiot would think this decision is the right one, regardless of legalities.

Cante Ista, I have no idea if your story is true or not, and it really doesn't matter. This is a totally different situation. You are trying to dream up scenarios and create revisionist history. All that matters is this, the father gave up his rights before the child was born. He wanted no part of the child's life, and zero responsibility. In no way should he now have any standing. Also, when you give up your rights, you have zero say in how the mother then handles decisions regarding the child. That is legal posturing and nonsense. He is trying to change what really happened. This is nothing more than this tribe wanting to get involved where it has no business, laws or no laws. There is this thing called the "smell test" and this whole thing fails because it stinks.

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Posted by Ned Hill on September 26, 2012 at 6:57 PM

Ned Hill, I was unsure of whether to like your comment or not. Even though (I presume) you are a non-Native, the first part of your comment was real truth about the continuous blame of the past and laziness displayed by my own people; of which I cannot deny since I see it with my own eyes on a daily basis. But, you seem to not understand the laws of ICWA nor have read the article correctly. It is essentially not the Tribe that wants Veronica. I am sure that the tribe would have let go of the situation had the Capobiancos family had not brought this issue to attention- ultimately leading to the father requiring legal backup for his change of mind. Since Mr. Brown is the biological father, he reserves all paternal rights under ICWA law which was passed by U.S. congress in the 70s. Just because he was absent when she was first born does not mean that he will make a bad father. In fact, the fact that he had a change of mind and (from the sounds of it) a change of heart should administer enough proof of his desire to be an active and loving father figure in her life. Just because you hear of all this bad stuff that occurs on Indian reservations doesnt mean that there arent kids who are still able to grow up and experience the same kind of love and stability you see in most "white" homes (as you people have implied are the best sort of homes to be raised in). I can name several of my friends whom I went to high school with on the rez where they grew up in that came from good homes- which ultimately helped them succeed through college. Now they are upstanding citizens in our tribal communities and carry strong voices that will eventually lead the rest of our people to live prosperously without white man's religious and political influences!

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 7:08 PM

FYI Ned Hill, how dare u say such things! my baby sister is NOT a figment of my imagination.. how dare u ever accuse of such a thing because i would have never said it if it did not affect me- FUCK U ASSHOLE!

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 7:20 PM

Canta, you are a perfect example of why emotions should be left out of these situations and facts and common sense dictate. The law is a bad and stupid law. And you keep making up facts and speculating rather than judge the case on its merits and what was presented in the article. If you think this is a case of a father simply changing his mind you are nuts. I think there is little doubt that the tribe is behind this. The man signed a legal document. He gave up his rights. End of story. Sadly the child is being hurt the most as her best interests are not driving the rulings.

Regarding your sister, you need to chill. I never said she doesn't exist. I said I have no idea if your story is true and I'm sure others familiar with your story would tell it differently. Everyone puts their own bias into things. The bottom line, your story is irrelevant and has nothing to do with this case.

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Posted by Ned Hill on September 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Cante, you also keep ignoring the fact that the mother is not an indian. This child was never going to be raised as an indian nor on a reservation till the tribe got involved.

Tiger Woods 1/8 indian. Does a tribe have rights to him too?

This whole thing is preposterous and simply another example of government meddling where it doesn't belong.

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Posted by Ned Hill on September 26, 2012 at 7:59 PM

I can't believe how many times, over the last 9 months that I have read how the tribe's interests are more important than Veronica's, or any NA child's. It sickens me. The best interests of the children should ALWAYS be first!! I am an adoptee, and SO thankful that my biological parents were not as selfish, and that they made a hard decision and stuck with it. They didn’t change their minds and uproot me from my loving family. They gave me the love and respect to provide the opportunity for me to have the amazing life I have now. I wholeheartedly wish Veronica’s would have had the same love and respect.

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Posted by Molly B. McDonald on September 26, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Ned Hill, think what you want about ICWA. The case is based on all that ICWA entitles and Congress passed it long ago. That fact is not made up. And yes, you are very right about emotional ties being left out of articles, but i addressed my own personal experience to help my argument in order to show that I could relate to how they were feeling. I really think you should do more research on tribal politics, however, because you do not seem to understand at all how important this case is to Native people and why someone like me would make a big issue out of it. If you could please, cite a few sources of fact rather than opinion on why ICWA law should not even be considered in this case.

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Posted by Čante Išta on September 26, 2012 at 8:09 PM

It is absolutely unbelievable...the sheer number of uninformed and incorrect opinions on this, and every, news article about this situation. Most of them seem to be based upon the incorrect asertion that Father "signed away his rights" or some other ridiculous way of saying he voluntarily terminated his parental rights to his child. Let's put that particular incorrect assertion to rest once and for all, shall we:

"Father DID NOT consent to Baby Girl's adoption, and we cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that custody by him would result in serious emotional or physical harm to Baby Girl." (emphasis added) -Chief Justice Toal, South Carolina Supreme Court

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Posted by Julian Winnfield on September 26, 2012 at 9:17 PM
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