Native American Baby Veronica

Native American Baby Veronica

What happens when a father who at first didn’t want his child, changes his mind? What happens if the father is Native American and a non-Native American couple adopt the child?
This is the long court battle for Native American baby Veronica Brown.
Native American Baby Veronica

Dustin Brown’s decision

In April 2009: Veronica’s birth parents’ relationship ended because the Dusten Brown, the birth father and partially a Cherokee Indian, abandoned his parental responsibilities and was unwilling to financially support Christy Maldonado, the mother of his unborn child.
May 2009: Christy continued providing updates to birth father about pregnancy. Phone records show no response from birth father.
Native American Baby Veronica

Christy Maldonado’s decision

June 2009: Christy decided adoption was best for her unborn child. She was already struggling financially as a single mother of two children and knew it would be even more difficult to provide for a third child without help from the birth father.  Brown responded that he would to sign away his rights.
July 2009: Christy selected Matt and Melanie Capobiancos to raise her child. Christy felt a connection with them and continues to work double shifts to make ends meet for her and her two children. She had not seen Brown in months.
Native American Baby Veronica

Adoptive relationship

August 2009: Melanie and Christy begin speaking weekly. Melanie flew to Oklahoma to visit Christy.  Christy and the Capobiancos filed paperwork is with agencies and attorneys.

Dusten’s first name was misspelled (“Dustin”), but Christy brought it to their attention. Christy is unaware of birth father’s exact birth date.

Native American Baby Veronica

Later Key Points

  1. Maldonado provided her attorney with father’s correctly spelled name and location and what she believed to be his date of birth.
  2. her attorney forwarded this information to Cherokee Nation in a letter dated August 21, 2009. She testified she knew father’s birthday was in October and that he was older than she was, so Father’s year of birth was sometime before 1982.
  3. During oral arguments at SC Supreme Court hearing, Cherokee Nation acknowledge only 8 members (out of 316,000+) have the same first and last name as birth father using both “i” and “e.”
Native American Baby Veronica

Baby Veronica adopted

Sept. 15, 2009:Veronica is born; Matt and Melanie Capobianco bring her to their James Island, South Carolina home shortly afterward.
Brown was located after numerous attempts and served papers allowing the adoption to be finalized. He signed and acknowledged to Christy that he signed.
Native American Baby Veronica

Adoption challenged

On January 14, 2010, Brown filed for paternity and custody. He did not indicate that Veronica or himself were Native American.
February 2010: Brown overseas with the Army.
April 2010: Brown amended  paperwork to reflect that he and Veronica have Native American blood.
Native American Baby Veronica

Cherokee Nation intervenes

May 2010: Paternity results come back and confirm Brown is Veronica’s biological father. Veronica is now 8 months old.

Oklahoma > South Carolina

July 2010: Oklahoma dismissed Brown’s challenge, but the case was transferred to South Carolina. Veronica 10 months old.
December 2010: Brown returned to Oklahoma. He made no attempts to contact Christy, Matt, Melanie, or 15-month-old Veronica.
Native American Baby Veronica

Indian Welfare Act

July 2011: South Carolina sets family court date and declares that the Indian Child Welfare Act applied to Veronica’s case. The Act is a 1978 Federal law that governs jurisdiction over the removal of Native American children from their families.
Family court is held on September 12-16. Christy testified on behalf of the Capobiancos.
November 2011: A South Carolina family court judge ruled in Brown’s favor and an appellate court agreed.
Native American Baby Veronica

Veronica Brown

December 31, 2011: Brown brings Veronica to Oklahoma.
January 2012:  the Capobiancos appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
February 2012: South Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear case. It was the state Supreme Court’s first time weighing in on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.
A number of mental health and child welfare professionals from around the country issue a letter stating their opposition to the transfer of Veronica to Dusten, particularly the abruptness of the move–“When secure attachment is severed, a child may become embroiled in a variety of negative responses, including distress, anger, rage, fear, shame, and humiliation.”

In Brown’s Favor

July 2012: the South Carolina Supreme Court  ruled  3- 2 that the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act favored the biological father of the girl.
It stated: “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.”
Native American Baby Veronica

Supreme Court Appeal

October 2012: Attorneys for Matt and Melanie submitted petition to the United States Supreme Court on October 1.
January 5, 2013: The United States Supreme Court announced acceptance of Veronica’s Indian Child Welfare Act Adoption Case. Details can be found on the SCOTUS Blog.
April 15, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court heard the Capobiancos’ appeal

Supreme Court decision

June 25, 2013: in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a Minor Child Under the Age of FourteenYears,the US Supreme Court decided  5 – 4 that a Native American child did not have to be taken away from her adoptive parents and given to her biological father. That decision simply allowed for the possibility of the Capobiancos adopting Veronica.

Native American Baby Veronica

Back to South Carolina

July 17, 2013: in a 3-2 decision the South Carolina Supreme Court awarded custody of Veronica Brown to Matt and Melanie Capobianco and ordered the lower family court to finalize the adoption.

More intervention

Native American Baby Veronica

July 22, 2013:  three of largest Native American organizations prepared to intervene.

At a press conference, representatives from the National Congress of American Indians, the Native American Rights Fund and the National Indian Child Welfare Association announced plans to file a civil rights lawsuit if the South Carolina Supreme Court did not reconsider its decision to terminate Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown’s parental rights without a “best interest” custody hearing.

July 31, 2013: the three Native American organizations filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of the now three-year-old Veronica.

The complaint argued that, “As a matter of law, the actions of the state courts of South Carolina have deprived the plaintiff (Veronica) of a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the matter of her current best interests before being transferred from her father to an adoptive couple.”

Native American Baby Veronica

Native American Support

More than 40 tribes, attorneys general, scholars and organizations signed a letter in support of the lawsuit, including the Inter-tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, of which Veronica and Dusten Brown’s tribe, the Cherokee Nation, were a member.

Through a spokeswoman, the council released the following statement: “A severe injustice has been committed to an innocent Cherokee child and her loving family in Oklahoma. The Brown family, including Veronica, deserves their due process. They do not deserve to have their lives forever transformed by the South Carolina judicial system without cause or consideration. Indian children being removed from their families and homes is not a new story in Indian Country. Those dark days have reared their head again sadly in South Carolina. We will stand with Veronica, the Browns, and national tribal organizations fighting for fairness and justice.”

Veronica Brown continued to live with Dusten.

Native American Baby Veronica

August 2013

August 1, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to intervene.
The week of August 4, 2013: Veronica’s transition was scheduled, but Brown never showed up. A family court judge ordered her immediate handover.
  • August 6 – Judge Martin issued an enforcement order for Brown to immediately transfer Veronica back to her lawful parents and asked for assistance from law enforcement if needed.
  • August 11 – Matt and Melanie Capobianco held a press conference in Charleston asking for help locating their daughter.
  • August 12 – SC Governor Nikki Haley signs extradition warrant for Brown. “Gov. Haley has been working with law enforcement and the solicitor’s office to issue a requisition warrant today,” said spokesman Doug Mayer. “She stands in support of the Capobiancos and shares their desire to bring Veronica home safely.”
  • August 13 – Brown turned himself into authorities in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.
  • August 13 – Matt and Melanie left for Oklahoma.
  • August 14 – a press conference held at the Hyatt Regency in Tulsa. Immediately following the press conference, OK Governor Mary Fallin released a statement asking Brown to let Matt and Melanie see Veronica.
  • August 15 – Matt and Melanie determined that the Cherokee Nation was hiding Veronica on tribal land and requested a writ of habeaus corpus in Cherokee County, Oklahoma.
  • August 16 – Court hearing held in Cherokee County. Mediation is ordered and a gag order put in place.
  • August 30 – Nowata County, Oklahoma recognized Veronica’s adoption. Biological father appeals to Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Native American Baby Veronica

Oklahoma Supreme Court

August 30, 2013: the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted an emergency stay to keep Veronica with Dusten Brown and planned to hear arguments from his lawyers and those of the girl’s adoptive parents.

  • Sept. 4 – Governor Mary Fallin signed extradition warrant.
  • Sept. 5 – Dusten Brown turned in himself and he is released on bail.
  • Sept. 12 – Oklahoma Supreme Court assigned case to court of civil appeals.
  • Sept. 16 – Mediation hearings begin in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Veronica Capobianco

September 23, 2013: after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it would not intervene, Veronica, now 4-years-old, handed over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco

Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton confirmed the announcement via social media: “It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm Veronica Brown was peacefully handed over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco (this) evening,” she tweeted. “Updates will be forthcoming, but the transition was handled peacefully and with dignity by all parties. Please keep Veronica in your prayers.”

Native American Baby Veronica

Statement from Capobiancos

Nearly 21 months ago, we vowed to do everything legally possible to reunite our family. While we are overjoyed to bring Veronica home, we sympathize with the Brown family during this difficult time. Despite our differences, and everything that has happened over the last several months, we all love Veronica and want what is best for her. We are grateful that the visits we’ve enjoyed with our daughter allowed us to reconnect as a family and ease her transition home. We are all doing well and our focus now is on healing and getting our life back to normal. While we recognize there are many who have taken a strong interest in Veronica’s case, we ask for privacy during this precious time with our daughter. We are eternally grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of prayers and support for our family.

Native American Baby Veronica

Dusten Brown ends fight

October 10, 2013: Brown said he and the Cherokee Nation were dropping the legal fight to regain custody.

I know we did everything in our power to keep Veronica home with her family,” Brown said in Oklahoma. “Veronica is only 4 years old, but her entire life has been lived in front of the media and the entire world. I cannot bear for [it to continue] any longer…. I love her too much to continue to have her in the spotlight. It is not fair for her to be in front of media at all times,” he said. “It was the love for my daughter that finally gave me the strength to accept things that are beyond my control.”

Bitter aftermath

November 26, 2013: Matt and Melanie Capobianco filed a motion to collect more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees from Brown and his tribe. Court documents filed by the Cherokee Nation state it would be “inappropriate, unreasonable and unconscionable” for the adopted parents of a 4-year-old Cherokee girl to seek the legal fees.

The Capobiancos dropped the suit in January 2016.

Native American Baby Veronica
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30 thoughts on “Native American Baby Veronica”

      1. A child should have an opportunity to to be with their biological parent especially if they live a healthy lifestyle for their child. That his baby they need to have their own child. And native American Indian children should be with native American family. It bad enough we we’re killed almost to extinct. and our children stolen and beating in late 1800 early 1900s to speak and act a way that fit the non native people thought we should be, and forced to hide our believe in long houses. 2years old is young enough to where she would not be traumatized.. too bad non native American don’t acknowledged anything, but their own selfish feeling from beginning to end. We fight hard for the belief of our ancestors and fight hard to keep our children in our communities and our treaty rights. We should still be fighting in 2000s. What’s best for our children is our people

      2. The mother did what she thought was best for herself. She received a new car, rent payments, and money to pay back child support she herself owed.

    1. He didnt want to father this child, period. He was okay signing away his rights, periods. He refused to help raise this child period.

      1. No you idiot, didnt you read the case? The birth mother lied to him and said she wanted him to sign his parental rights over to her so she could have custody since he was about to be deployed to Iraq for war in case he died. She never once told him it was because she was giving up their daughter for adoption.

    2. If anyone stole that child its the non birth people. Veronicas father looks like a healthy man and every child deserves an opportunity to be with a biological parent. We fought hard for our life to almost Extinction. Our ancestors were taken from their homes as children beaten and forced not to speak their language and act and speak in a way that non natives felt we should be.. those days we cannot leave in the past especially if we still are put in situations like this.. that’s his child they should have there own child…. Oh! wait , I bet they can’t so they want that young mans child. We have s small Tribe and we fight everyday for our beliefs and even our language, my father has made the dialect to bring the language back to our people. Not only take our children, but shoved us of the land our creator put us on. If these people truely loved Veronica they would let her stay with her father. But wanting want you should not have and loving are two different things. Loving is letting go even how much it hurts. But if you have a child put your self in this man’s shoes!! I hope to our creator we as Native American Indians will someday keep us together… But it takes other’s to stop taking our children and lively hood away.

  1. The mother sold that child to a wealthy and well connected white family. It’s a story as old as this nation. The child and her father were both deprived of due process. The father never stood before a judge to abdicate his parental rights, as is required by both states. And a needs of the child hearing was never conducted to ensure her rights were secure and needs addressed. This was and continues to be a case of human child trafficking. She was stolen from her tribe and father, sold by a greedy mother, and taken by a barren couple with deep pockets to fill the void they felt in their lives. Veronica was never considered. The fading light of a diminished People was not considered. And a father’s right to love his child was ignored, belittled, and ultimately callously disregarded. The Capobianco family is pure scum and a salient example five years on of why we tribal citizens can’t “just get over” the genocidal history of European dominance.

    1. I’m sorry you feel that way. But as a white, adoptive mother, I can assure you that the Capobianco’s love that little girl. Just because they are barren and could afford a private adoption (if that was the case) does not make them scum. They just want to love and raise that little girl. Why did he give his rights away when the birth mother was pregnant? He didn’t want the responsibility. Well, actions have consequences.

      1. They did not get the permission of the Native American nation. They did not get the fair signature for the dad to consent to the adoption. That story is different from the one listed here. Can’t wait for the child to grow up and read what happened to her. The SCOTUS decided the man wasn’t Indian enough. It was a wrong decision.

          1. He was tricked into signing because he truly believed it was in the baby’s best interest at the time. He was being deployed to Iraq. Why is everyone so quick to assume a father doesn’t want his own baby? But what’s he supposed to do when the mother pushes him away? She called off their engagement, not him. He wanted that baby from day one! Well, at least Veronica knows who her daddy is, so she can choose to have a closer relationship with him when she’s 18.

      2. They are scum. He did want the responsibility. Read the court documents. Adoptive buyers of human flesh are the most selfish evil people on the planet.

      3. Peggy,
        As a white adoptee, you sound like every other entitled adopter I’ve ever met, including my own adoptive parents. Just because you have money to adopt doesn’t mean you should. If you’re barren maybe God got it right the first time and you shouldn’t meddle with His plans by buying a kid. You’re not any better a parent of some one else’s child than they are just because you have more money, you narcissistic twit.

        1. Maybe it’s God’s plan? That is off the scale in terms of cruelty. Every time I hear it opined that bad things are God’s plan I want to punch the lights out of the person who says it.

      4. I am also am adoptive parent, but I did not steal my child from her biological parents. I believe this couple did. The fact that they are white is not the primary issue, However thos case does resonate with a mind set I often see among wealthy white folks. It is a mind set of entitlement and privilege. It appears rather clear to ke that this couple
        sought out a poor Hispanic woman who
        would produce white in appearance child.
        They befriended her with the intention of
        adopting her baby with no thought to the
        father’s rights. This is predatory and classic
        white privilege and entitlement. It is very
        suspect that the original adoption filing
        reportedly failed to note that the child had
        Natice blood. The attorney was Native
        American and well versed in the
        requirements. Also suspect is the fact that
        the biological father was not told until after
        he flsigned the final termination of rights
        that the child was being adopted, not
        remaining with the mother. Lastly, he was
        presented the final paperwork days before
        he shipped.out to a war zone. It seems so
        clearly devious and calculated. As soon as
        the biological found out the mother was
        not.keeping the baby he filed for custody. 8 believe he was deliberately duped.

  2. Usually with most things im on native americans’ side, especially considering im 1/4 native american, but this time I wasn’t maybe it’s just my experience with dead beat father/step-fathers’ but him refusing to financially support the mother and child then signing his rights away, and then all of a sudden deciding he wants her and dragging her into a legal battle when the child already had a loving adopted father and mother for over a year it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and brings back and memories and makes me despise him.

    1. He was tricked into signing because he truly believed it was in the baby’s best interest at the time. He was being deployed to Iraq. Why is everyone so quick to assume a father doesn’t want his own baby? But what’s he supposed to do when the mother terminates their engagement and pushes him away? He never even got to meet the baby and then the Mom wants money… he was probably pissed at her. He wanted that baby from day one! Well, at least Veronica knows who her daddy is, so she can choose to have a closer relationship with him when she’s 18.

  3. LMAO! you all act look like they bought this child!! This case has nothing to do with the history of terrible acts of injustice that were committed against the Native Americans. Let’s not blur the lines.

    1. the trouble it does have to do with what they do to Indians-every law was broken. okla has a best interest for the child law-mary fallin gov of okla-ordered veronica to be returned-the way it should have gone-veronica should have been left with the Cherokee tribe-dustin brown said he would do that. the ICWA law was broken-the us supreme court broke a indian treaty indian children belong to Indians if they can support them.

    2. Yes it did. The adoption agency is part of a greater plan to strip Native peoples of laws made to compensate for the past that they don’t want to adhere to. It is conservatives and this case was a beginning. Just like the Bakke case and now the Harvard students’ they don’t like the laws and get cases so they can be incrementally dismantled. Unlike Affirmative Action, I hope the Native peoples win. They were screwed royally. African Americans should have received reparations but the US govt took the cowards way out.

  4. I watched Dr.phil and I don’t always agree with him although in some cases , but on this case I felt upset. I am a full blooded native American Indian my father created the dialect of our language back to our people so it would not be lost.. we fought for our lively hood to almost Extinction!! We fight for keeping our children close to who they are we fight for our treaty our self governance and what little land we have… Veronica father looks healthy and should not have to fight to be her father. If these adoption people truely love Veronica she’d let her be with her father her people and learn of her culture. But the non natives can not see past their own selfish ways and that is sad 😞 is it love or is it that they want a child so bad that they can not see the difference ?? We as Native American Indians will never be acknowledged as real people we are people that non natives feel should be just like them .. take our language take our children take our land take our hope take our lively hood destroy the land when will we live in peace.. I f the father agreed to adoption to a non native is one thing , but it’s not he wants to he s father that’s his baby and then he should have that right!!!

  5. It is another way of wiping out a race: Adopt a child of another race and erase their heritage by forcing them to conform to a way that is unnatural to them; changing their religious beliefs and erasing precious traditions passed down for generations. It is genocide without actually killing the person(s).

  6. It seems pretty clear that this wealthy adoptive couple were desparate to have a child and found a poor woman they could befriend in hopes of getting her unborn baby. There is nothing wrong or evil with wealth except when you use it to take advantage of people less fortunate. Their actions appear premeditated amd predatory. The facts of
    this case are both suspect and extremely
    disturbing suggesting deceit from the start.
    The adoptive couple’s attorney was Native
    Ameerican and experienced in adoptions of
    such. His reported failure to specify that
    Veronica was Native American on the original
    adoption filing is very telling. I believe the timing of having the biological father sign the
    termination of rights days before he shipped
    off to a war zone and not telling him until
    after he signed the final paperwork that the child was being adopted, not simply
    remaining with her biological mother speaks
    to the degree of.calculation that was
    employed to steal this child from her father.

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