An intense and drawn-out custody battle over a four year old Cherokee girl has finally come to an end.
A South Carolina couple was finally victorious in their attempt to adopt a four-year-old Cherokee girl, known to the public as "Baby Veronica." The fight for custody over Baby Veronica pitted her adoptive family against the Cherokee nation and laws meant to protect the children of American Indian tribes.
On Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to intervene and dissolved a court order keeping four-year-old Veronica with her biological father, Dusten Brown, an Iraq war veteran and member of the Cherokee Nation. Veronica lived with Brown and his family for two years. Prior to that, she lived with her adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who took custody of her shortly after her birth. Veronica was put up for adoption during her mother's pregnancy.
The tribe had also granted temporary custody of the girl to Brown's family while he was at National Guard Training earlier this year.
Brown was able to gain custody of his daughter thanks to the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law meant to help tribes retain custody of their children who were being adopted by non-natives at a high rate. In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the law did not apply when a parent had been absent from a child's life.
"The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica," said Terry Cross, the executive director for the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
Despite concern that the custody transfer would be disrupted or that the tribe would refuse to honor the decision, representatives for both sides said that Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents peacefully.
A representative for Brown said that he hoped the Capobiancos would honor their word and allow Veronica's father to remain a part of the child's life.
Brown now faces extradition to South Carolina for charges stemming from his refusal to give the girl up.