Here is Veronica’s story. Please read and show your support for her. She deserves come back home to the only family she had ever known before being removed because of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). She deserves for us to come together, to be her voice and represent HER rights! Our fight is for Veronica!
Matt and Melanie had been married for several years and after unsuccessful attempts to start a family they came to the realization that adoption was their answer to finally becoming a mommy and daddy. They had actually hoped to one day adopt even if they could have a child of their own. God’s will was for them to begin their steps toward adoption in early 2009.
They spent countless hours researching the adoption process and interviewing agencies and private attorneys. After selecting a private adoption attorney, they went through home studies, background checks, legal paperwork and even made a picture-book for birth parents to look at during their selection process. They were very thorough throughout the entire adoption process and committed to following all the necessary legal steps.
Halfway across the country, Veronica’s birth mother knew she wouldn’t be able to provide for her unborn child. Her relationship with the biological father had come to an end months earlier and she was at a place where she had to make a difficult decision. The biological father had told her multiple times he wanted to waive his parental rights. He would not communicate with her throughout the pregnancy or provide any support. It was obvious that Veronica’s birth mother was on her own.
There was no contemplated, calculated plan to keep the adoption a secret from the biological father. It wasn’t until he stated to the birth mother multiple times that he wanted to waive his parental rights did she decide to approach an adoption attorney. She did the most selfless act any mother could do. She ensured her child would be loved, nurtured and provided a happy, healthy home full of opportunity.
Matt and Melanie were overjoyed when they were informed they had been selected by Veronica’s birth mother. They prepared a nursery and a home ideal for any child. They even flew to Oklahoma to meet each other. There was an instant bond. This wasn’t your typical adoption. It was obvious Veronica’s birth mother was extending her family so she could ensure the best life possible for her unborn daughter. She finally had the support she needed and her fears and worries turned to comfort and peace.
With the delivery date approaching, Matt and Melanie returned to Oklahoma to finally meet their daughter. They were present during the birth and Matt even cut the umbilical cord. They were the first ones to hold her and welcome her to this world. Veronica’s birth mother didn’t view this as giving up her child – she was still going to be a part of her life. She knew she had made the best decision for Veronica.
During this time, the biological father was enlisted in the Army and stationed only four hours away. He was aware of the due date yet made no real attempt to reach out to the birth mother even as the due date neared. When Veronica was four months old, shortly after signing a waiver that he would not contest the adoption, the biological father decided to petition for custody even though he was going to be deployed for Iraq just a few weeks later. He had ‘changed his mind’ and later claimed he didn’t know what he signed.
He was petitioning to take Veronica not only from Matt and Melanie but from her birth mother too. See Veronica’s adoption was an open adoption. To this day, Veronica’s adoptive parents and her birth mother have a loving relationship and are part of each other’s lives and communicate regularly – sharing pictures, videos and even holidays. Matt and Melanie are committed to ensuring Veronica knows her birth family and over the years the two families became very close. This should be a clear indication that no one was hiding anything and testament to the respect that Matt and Melanie have for Veronica’s biological family.
Matt and Melanie were not aware Veronica was considered an Indian child during the initial stages of their adoption. They knew she was more Hispanic and Caucasian than anything else so when they learned of her small percentage of Cherokee heritage it came as a surprise. Regardless, they remain committed to raising Veronica in a healthy, loving environment with full understanding and appreciation of all her heritages – as Veronica is a multiracial child. But there is a law in the United States that claims Indian heritage is more important than any other heritage and that tribes are allowed to determine where a child is placed regardless of the birth parents wishes.
Since Veronica has ‘one drop of Cherokee blood’ this federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) would initially apply to her adoption case. Ultimately, the misuse of this law required Matt and Melanie to return Veronica to her biological father even though this federal act was originally established to protect families and children – not tear them apart. More importantly, if a child’s birth family maintains no affiliation with the Indian culture or tribe to begin with, Veronica would not be raised in a setting that would reflect the “unique values of Indian culture” to begin with.
In an era when we all recognize the importance of adopted children knowing their biological and ethnic roots and maintaining a connectedness with their heritage regardless of who is raising them, as a society we need to recognize that non-Native American parents are capable of raising their children to respect all their heritages. Ultimately, however, this should be Veronica’s choice.
Regardless of these points, on Dec. 31, 2011, Veronica was removed from a stable, nurturing environment and driven more than 1,100 miles away from the only parents and home she has ever known. She had no choice but to be placed into a truck with people she had never met. There was no transition period for this little girl nor were her best interests considered. Many people say, “Why didn’t they give her back at 4 months old?” Would you just hand over your child to people you had never met? Additionally, they couldn’t just hand her over. She would have been placed in foster care. So what would have been best for Veronica? Foster care or to stay with the two people she considered to be her mommy and daddy?
Additionally, the lower court ruled that the birth father’s consent to the adoption was not necessary to finalize Matt and Melanie’s adoption under South Carolina law. Based on state law, he had no voice as to the future of this child and would not have been able to obtain custody due to his abandonment of the birth mother. The state of South Carolina terminates a father’s rights when he has not provided pre-birth support or not taken proactive steps to be a father before and shortly after birth. The birth father did not support the birth mother and was not deployed to Iraq during this time. The court would have issued an order relinquishing his parental rights and given the adoptive couple custody of the child. The issue in this case is that the lower court applied the federal Indian Child Welfare Act in such a way as to abrogate a South Carolina adoption law. This is one of the issues that is being appealed.
Matt and Melanie began their appeal process as soon as the family court judge ruled that Veronica be transferred to the biological father. Additionally, they requested an emergency stay so that Veronica could remain in their care until the final appeal ruling – feeling strongly this was in Veronica’s best interest. They did not want her to be moved between families. With a great appreciation for the decades of research behind child-parent attachment and bonding, they also requested a gradual transition period in the event they had to hand her over. This was not granted.
The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted Veronica’s case and oral arguments were heard on April 17. On July 27, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act. They stated the following in their ruling:
We do not take lightly the grave interests at stake in this case. However, we are constrained by the law and convinced by the facts that the transfer of custody to Father was required under the law. Adoptive Couple are ideal parents who have exhibited the ability to provide a loving family environment for Baby Girl. Thus,
it is with a heavy heart that we affirm the family court order.
While the ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court was devastating for the Capobianco family, they refused to give up on their daughter. Attorneys for Matt and Melanie submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on October 1 and in January 2013, they received the incredibly hopeful news that their case had been accepted. Oral arguments were heard on April 16 and in attendance was Veronica’s biological mother who traveled all the way to Washington D.C. from Oklahoma to show her unwavering support for Veronica, Matt and Melanie.
On Tuesday, June 24, our nations highest court ruled in favor of Matt and Melanie and stated that ICWA did not apply in this case. Justice Samuel Alito issued the order and expedited the remand back to South Carolina Supreme Court – an action the court hasn’t taken in 15 years! In July, the SC Supreme Court ordered that the adoption be finalized and that Veronica be returned to her adoptive parents in Charleston. Furthermore, the state Supreme Court denied a rehearing that had been requested by the biological father. On July 31, Judge Daniel Martin of the Charleston County Family Court finalized Veronica’s adoption and ordered a gradual transition plan to begin on Aug. 4 for Veronica and all parties involved.
Sadly, the biological father failed to show up for the transfer and once again, Matt and Melanie were left wondering where their little girl was. On Aug. 6, Judge Martin issued and enforcement order for birth father to immediately transfer Veronica back to her lawful parents but still, the birth father refused to comply. On Friday, August 9, a warrant for the arrest of Dusten Brown, Veronica’s birth father, was issued citing ‘custodial interference’, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail and monetary fines. Dusten was expected to turn himself in on Aug. 11 but again, failed to comply with the law. It wasn’t until the following day, at his convenience, that Dusten turned himself in to authorities – and an hour later, he was released on bond.
At present time. Matt and Melanie, Veronica’s legal parents, have no idea where their daughter is. They are terrified and desperate to find her. They still remain hopeful that Veronica will come home soon and that everyone who loves her can be a part of her life.
Since the transfer, Matt and Melanie have only spoken to their daughter one brief time despite repeated attempts to speak with her. During their one and only conversation, Veronica said, “Hi Mommy. Hi Daddy. I love you!”
At the root of all of this is the issue of fundamental fairness and recognition of basic human rights of all people. Children are not chattels nor are they the personal property of an Indian tribe, their birth parents or their adoptive parents. They are individuals who have unique, fundamental rights and needs. Above all, they have the right to permanency and a loving, nurturing family environment providing them stability and security. They should have all these rights irrespective of their race as do all other American children.
As Save Veronica Supporters Worldwide, we have come together for several reasons.
- To support Matt and Melanie in their fight to bring Veronica home
- To speak out for Veronica’s rights
- To ask lawmakers to ensure the Indian Child Welfare Act is not used in this manner anymore and that amendments are made to protect children like Veronica
Being a parent isn’t a decision that one can just turn off and on and Veronica is not an historical artifact. She is a young child that has established a nurturing and caring bond with her parents – Matt and Melanie. They have been separated for far too long and it is time for us to BRING VERONICA HOME!