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Tonight on AC360: Parents appeal to U.S. Supreme Court for baby Veronica
November 30th, 2012
04:20 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: Parents appeal to U.S. Supreme Court for baby Veronica

3-year-old Veronica may be too young to realize she's at the center of a contentious legal battle between her biological father and the parents who thought they had adopted her. She was taken from Matt and Melanie Capobianco's home on New Year's Eve 2011 after they had raised her for two years.

Since then they've been fighting a South Carolina court's decision. They appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, but the justices upheld the ruling. Now, they're petitioning the United States Supreme Court to overturn the verdict.

The couple had arranged to adopt Veronica from her birth mother before the child was born. They were told the father, Dusten Brown, waived his parental rights and he signed a document saying he would not challenge the adoption.

In a surprising turn of events, when Veronica was 4 months old, her father filed for paternity and custody citing a federal law from 1978 called the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Brown's lawyers say Veronica is "happy, healthy and thriving." But the Capobiancos argue the law intended to protect children with Indian ancestry was misused in their case because Veronica was never removed from an Indian home, but was with them from the start of her life. Others argue federal law shouldn't override state law.

Will the U.S. Supreme Court take the case? Who should have custody? What's the legal precedent? At 8 and 10 p.m. ET we'll get expert legal insight from Jeffrey Toobin, and hear from the Capobiancos.


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soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Samantha Smith

    I think it is not fair that their daughter has to be taken away from them because of a stupid act. This is bull crap. Where was the biological father during those years? How is she going to do when she is spending with people she hardly remembers? I pray to God that the couple gets their child back.

    December 8, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  2. Darrell

    I live in Manitoba in Canada and we are in the midst of a horror show over whether Indian cultural desires trumps white parents who have raised children as their own. I have just had my four beautiful kids ripped out of the only home they have ever known to be split up as a sibling unit and handed over to complete strangers, all because of a false idea that self esteem and well being stem from being one race or the other. We have had spectacular cases of Indian murdered by biological parents who got them back merely due to race while ignoring their alcohol issues and abusive lifestyle. Dividing kids up by race is a quick root to piles of dead kids. Be careful.

    December 8, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  3. Ryan

    Yea father's rights. What did the birth mom get compensated? I'm glad he fought, and lucky for him there was this native American law that helped out. A women can not cut off contact and adopt out from under the known birth father. He's been fighting since the child was 4 months! Leave them alone now.

    December 7, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  4. Tara

    This little synopsis doesn't do the story credit – last year, when a lengthier article was released, the comments section was largely in favor of the father. If I remember right, which I'm not totally sure I do, the father did NOT sign the form and he did want to give up his child, but he was overseas (I think maybe with the military? He was away though) when everything happened. It's just a bad situation all around for everyone, and even though I think adoption laws are sometimes too stringent, this just underlines why it's so important to make sure everything is right and legal when you adopt a kid. I hope they figure out a compromise between themselves.

    December 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  5. Linda

    My son is adopted. I went International for this very reason. I find it disturbing that 3 years later, the paternal father comes forward. Where was he during the pregnancy? It is so unfair that the courts favor some biological link as if stability, love and nurturing take a back seat. I don't doubt that he loves her on some level. But if he did, he should let the adoption stand. My son wanted to know his birth mother. He told me this when he was 15. I helped him find her. I flew him to the country where he was born, not alone of course. He had enormous support with him since there was no way to know how this would go. He and his birth mother received closure. My son feels complete and his birth mother is more convinced than ever that adoption was the right thing to do. She never once tried to interfere. She is there as a friend. This paternal father needs to own the mistakes he made that led to this decision and not use that little girl as a pawn. He needs to step back and be happy that she is loved, that she is wanted and she is happy. If he were to just step back and respect the adoptive parents, they might have a more favorable view of him and his motives. In time, a blended family might be possible. But to rip that child away from all she knows to be stable is a crime- one that I made sure would not happen to me.

    December 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Andi

    Did any of you see the part of the article "In a surprising turn of events, when Veronica was 4 months old, her father filed for paternity and custody citing a federal law from 1978 called the Indian Child Welfare Act." If the mother has time to change her mind when giving a child up for adoption so should the father.

    December 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  7. John Lotus

    This clearly points out the double standard folks have about moms VS dads, this guy is refereed to as "the sperm donor", not a dad! It like that's all guys are... yeah.... Just maybe and just perhaps this guys motives are the same motives of a momma bear and someone trying to get between her and her cubs, any chance any of you could sense this? This IS his child and he IS her dad and IF he want his child back go ahead get between the momma bear and her cub. If the other folks suffer, their problem, for not doing all their homework which clearly was not done!

    December 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  8. Clare

    When Veronica's father was preparing to ship out to Iraq, he had piles of paperwork to fill out and sign. Tucked in among all his expected paperwork was a document consenting to adoption. Should he have looked over every peice of paper before he signed it? of course. Have we all at times initialed papers without reading them through? of course. Veronica was four months old when he received notification from JAG that he had actually signed away rights to his dughter and that she was living with the Capobancos who intended to adopt her! He immediately began fighting for his child but was never allowed any visitation during the legal battle and by the time he brought her home to Oklahoma last December she was already almost two. In the year since, she has lived with her father, stepmother and sister in Oklahoma.

    December 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  9. Barbara

    I married into a family with adopted Native Americans. Their adoptions took place before the ruling regarding Native American's staying within their tribal homes. We learned that children who are not shown love in their early lives have a hard time adjusting . Veronica certainly has been shown and experienced love with her adopted parents and is hopefully still receiving love from her natural parent. I think the adoptive parents should not go forward with the Supreme Court case and try instead, to bond with the natural dad. By the time the case is tried Veronica will be a year older, and will not be the same little girl they let go. The stress of being passed back and forth between hostile adults will influence her and confuse her. Without the stress of a court case pending, The natural father can know that, if things go bad, there are parents out there who will be able to raise her with love, also. What happens now, at Veronica's age will influence her behavior for many years. Our ancestors have not set the greatest example in keeping promises to Native Americans and having another Supreme Court case won't help to build trust, now.

    December 1, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  10. Carol

    As she was taken from the adoptive parents almost a year ago, they are not the only parents she has ever known anymore. We can't tell from the information provided what the circumstances surrounding the father's change of heart were. But if he had regained custody at 4 months when he first filed the papers the child would have been better served. Poor thing.

    December 1, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  11. patriciaa

    Having been a former child welfare worker on a Native American reservation, I have seen both sides of the argument. In that capacity, I was charged with following through with tribally sanctioned protocols when it came to placing children either in temporary foster care or more permanent placements. With each step, the child's heritage was always paramount. A non-native placement was always the last option. Yes, in certain instances a Native American home,espescially if with relatives or other tribal members, was sometimes the best option. However when I had to place with a non-Native American home,were just as safe and good for the children. The non-Native American families had to insure that they did everything possible to assure child's inherent ties to his/her tribe. But irregardless,no matter with the best of intentions, it is always the children getting hurt.

    November 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  12. Christine

    From the details of the story, the sperm donor signed away his rights when the child was originally adopted THREE YEARS AGO. It makes we wonder what his motives are–would love to know if he now wants the kid to get some kind of financial assistance.
    If I were the parents, I would prepare a detailed, itemized invoice of every dime spent on this girl and bill the sperm donor. Sue him in civil court. If he wants the kid back, he should have to reimburse the adoptive family for their expenses. So what this says is in this country, even though you place a signature on a document, it doesn't mean a damn thing. Some judge (aka God) can say that signature is void because of some other circumstance. Unbelievable!

    November 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Ken

      I couldn't have said it better myself Christine. This is an excellent example of why my Wife and I went to China.

      November 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Paula

      From the details of the story, the sperm donor signed away his rights when the child was originally adopted THREE YEARS AGO. It makes we wonder what his motives are–would love to know if he now wants the kid to get some kind of financial assistance.
      If I were the parents, I would prepare a detailed, itemized invoice of every dime spent on this girl and bill the sperm donor. Sue him in civil court. If he wants the kid back, he should have to reimburse the adoptive family for their expenses. So what this says is in this country, even though you place a signature on a document, it doesn't mean a damn thing. Some judge (aka God) can say that signature is void because of some other circumstance. Unbelievable!

      The child was not adopted 3 years ago. This has been in court since the child was 4 months old because the father petitioned for paternity and custody BECAUSE HE NEVER SIGNED IS RIGHTS AWAY. THIS WAS PROVED NOT TO HAVE HAPPENED IN THE SUPREME COURT RULING. A sper donor wouldn't have spent two and a half years fighting he would have walked away from this illegal adoption and that is what it is a failed adoption that has been sent to appeal after appeal because the couple who wanted her cant accept the fact that the father has the right to raise his daughter.

      December 2, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Paula

      As a last point she has been living with her father and bonding with her sister for a year now, and is said not to remember the paps at all. So all of you who want her back now want to take her away and give her to strangers.

      December 2, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Kendall

      Christine,

      While I very much understand your frustration about the actions of Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, I would ask you refrain from referring to him as the "Sperm Donor" in public forums. I too am a supporter of Matt and Melanie and very much want Veronica to return to them. I also find Mr. Brown's actions or his inaction to demonstrate parental love and responsibility for Veronica even prior to her birth to be utterly disgusting. However, referring to Mr. Brown as the "Sperm Donor", in my opinion, hurts the message of Veronica's adoption story and, quite frankly, appears petty and mean-spirited. I understand your feelings, and I know how emotional this is, but we don't need to state the obvious about Dusten Brown; his behavior says it all.

      December 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  13. Marty Rogers

    OMG this man needs to let the only family she knows raise her. She looks like a very well cared for child and he needs to think about her interests not his own if he is a good christian. This family has also grown to love her. He can have many other children, this couple probably can't. He needs to do the right think and stop torturing that little girl.

    November 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Padric22

      What does being "Christian" have to do with it... or anything for that matter? "Torture"? Really? It may confuse the child a good bit, but torture?

      December 1, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • Lila

      It's the "Good Christians" who destroyed Native American culture, murdered Native families and way of life and caused all the problems NA's endure today. So, I'd hardly call them good anythings. She belongs with her own people....!.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  14. Karen

    This is why so many Americans adopt children from other countries-. When one adopts child from other countries, there isn't anyone trying to take the child away from you

    November 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Dawn

      Yes, We tend to protect human rights a bit more than many countries. Slavery is illegal here too.

      December 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Paula

      Why would you want to adopt a child that the father wants to raise? He had fought for her since she was 4 months old and is now raising her having got custody of her a year ago.

      December 2, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  15. Vianna

    This is an excruciating story. We don't know all the details, so it's impossible to know what the "right" decision would be. Either decision seems to do some level of harm, but it seems to me that keeping this child with the people who she knows to be her parents, and perhaps giving some visitation to her biological father, would be the most healthy option for the little girl. Not to mention the people who raised her from infancy. If the father had a change of heart, it's understandable, but there are consequences to decisions like this.

    I had several miscarriages and stories like this (as well as trafficked babies) are the reason I decided in the end to do surrogacy. I had gone down several paths to adoption, and they all led to real difficulties and roadblocks. When Guatemala closed down for international adoption due to kidnapped babies, I totally lost heart and faith and couldn't follow through with any more work toward adoption. A friend of mine recently had a birth mom change her mind and disappear with the child and it tore her apart.

    I wish all parties involved in this difficult situation all the best, but especially baby Veronica. I shudder to think of what being taken away from her family is doing to her, and I hope her dad is equipped to deal responsibly and honorably and lovingly with the consequences.

    November 30, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  16. Tina Tyra

    The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has become a joke. A law that was originally intended to preserve tribal cultures is frequently misused. In this case, a father is using it as a means to retain custody, but it's not about keeping the child within a tribe. In recent years, tribal gaming has changed how it is viewed and there is no consistency. It's interesting how the desire to preserve tribal culture changes quickly when tribal gaming makes a tribe rich. Much of the time, they don't want to share a piece of the pie with a new tribal member and release their hold very quickly. In other situations, the tribal gaming has enabled members within a formerly poor tribe to have the means to retain a native American baby, but that happens only when there is a couple within the tribe wishing to adopt. Fathers who don't support the mother or show interest in the child until later can use this as a method of trying to get custody, but it really has nothing to do with the tribe or their interests. This child is obviously mixed (Native Americans have straight hair), so then it comes down to quantitative percentages of Native American blood. Perhaps someone should look at the best interest of the child. Laws are there for a reason, but there should be no "blanket" that covers every situation. Each child is an individual and their particular situation should be assessed accordingly. Very sad that a child is at the center of this tug of war. She only knows her adoptive parents, so for her that would likely be in her best interest. However, the father did petition when she was only four months. If they had been my clients, I would have advised them to give the baby to him at that point (presuming he was capable of caring for her). Now, there will be nothing but heartache all around.

    November 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  17. Kathy

    I think Veronica should be left in the care of her adoptive parents (the only parents she knows) but her biological father should be able to keep contact with her. When she is old enough she could be told the whole story and I think she will feel VERY loved and wanted.

    November 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Dawn

      She has been with her father for quite some time now, so don't you think it would be traumatic to take her away from him to give her to people who she may barely remember?

      December 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Paula

      She is not in the car of the potential adoptive parents (the adoption was never legal) she is with her father who let them speak to her on the phone but they recorded it and put it on the internet without his permission. In the two years that they had her they never let him see her once despite his asking and when the child was handed over they called the press to make it as hard as possible for the child because having lots of cameras shoved in the face of a child isn't good.

      December 2, 2012 at 9:00 am |