Supreme Decision Making
By Meika Rouda
While last month’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act received much due attention and celebrating, there was another Supreme Court decision that also deserves a toast.
The Supreme Court had an adoption case pending regarding the rules of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Veronica Capobianco nee Brown was adopted at birth. Her biological mother placed her with a family she had chosen in South Carolina. Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, who is part Cherokee Indian, relinquished his paternal rights through text message to Veronica’s biological mother before she was born. Dusten Brown served in the Iraq war, never paid any child support and didn’t request to see his daughter until she was 22 months old and he learned that his ex-girlfriend had placed her with an adoptive family. Once he learned of the adoption, he claimed he didn’t understand he was relinquishing his parental rights and tried to regain custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act whose intent is to preserve Native American families. While Veronica is 3/256th Cherokee, the court sided with the adoptive parents, saying that the biological father had given up his rights to the biological mother so the ICWA does not apply to this case.
Supporters of adoptive parents have a lot to celebrate. While Mr. Brown is now trying to adopt his daughter through the Oklahoma courts, it seems unlikely that he will succeed and she will be placed back with her adoptive parents.
The victory here is that so often with adoption, the biological parents have many rights and adoptive parents usually don’t. In this case, since the biological mother technically had sole custody and chose to place Veronica with the Capobianco’s, the adoptive parents have rights too. The Capobianco’s were at Veronica’s birth and raised her for the first 22 months of her life. They are her parents too. And while I am sorry that Dusten Brown has regrets about giving up his parental rights, and perhaps he should have had more information or counseling before making that choice, it does not excuse the fact that he never paid child support nor even asked about his daughter until she was almost two years old. The Capobianco’s are her parents and she deserves to be reunited with them. Cheers to the Supreme Court for making not one but two good decisions this summer.