July 26th, 2012
10:27 PM ET

Court gives baby Veronica to biological father

Jeffrey Toobin and Areva Martin look at the ruling in a complex custody case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Laura

    I believe that all Native American families work the same. It is true that in the Native American culture the entire tribe is responsible for the rearing of a child. If I was unable to raise my children a sister brother aunt uncle grandma would step in and do it not put it on "outsiders" to do. Tribes are very tight knit communities everyone knows everyone everyone takes care of everyone. It has been passed down genereationally as a result of the past violence and wrongs that happend to Native people. I see it every day people saying let go of the past it happend decades ago. That is an easy comment to make but hard to act on. As a result of the past the Native Culture has become very protective of whats theirs (children land, soverniegty). Not treating children as a material item but as a part of them that the "white" cultre can no longer take. Listen to some stories read some books of how children daily had to run and hide because if caught by the social service worker you would be sent away. It is instilled in them generation after generation. I can imagine the hurt of these adoptive parents becasue i have heard this type of story over and over again from native familys. A 70 year old Native man or women could tell you many stories of ABDUCTION from parents. Every one in this situtation was done a diservice by the ADOPTION AGENCY. Veronica should have never been available for adoption in the first place without first exhausting all tribal avenues (family) first. Regardless if she was a "drop" of native blood or not. As far has her having a larger Hispanic ethanticty well maybe they should work on law to help them until then she is Native first no matter the amount.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  2. Will

    I'm with Gary, when I saw this story it was very incomplete. You didn't ask ONE Native American his or her thoughts on this. Furthermore why don't you look up Native Americans like my father who was adopted into a non-native american family and how much of a identity crisis it was for him throughout his entire life. How he never got to meet his real family and come to know his heritage. I don't know if many know this but Native Americans are the most Federally regulated minority group in this nation. There are federal laws out there to protect our children from ending up in a white home against biological parents wishes, like my father.............

    July 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  3. Holly

    I don't know how I feel about the decision, but I have faith that with the whole world watching this man raising his child–he won't put one toe out of line. I hope.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:32 am |
  4. Elizabeth

    I think that the perspective on this story does not take into account the relationship between the United States government and Native American people and their children. The history of Native children being taken from their Native parents does not just go back 30 years. To my knowledge, most Native children in the early part of the 20th century where placed into Indian Boarding schools, where they were forced to give up their Native identity and language. They were only allowed to see their parents 3 months out of the year. All four of my grandparents attended these schools, some of them did not even learn English until they were 9 years old. Two generations later, the language and traditions have been lost for many Native families. The biological mother broke the law when she withheld information from the tribe that the baby was being put up for adoption. I empathize with the adopted family, I feel like they are the real victims in this case. What the biological mother did was very unfair to the adopted family.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  5. Dana

    How awful for this child to be taken from the only parents she knows. It is obivious that the adoptive parents and the child have bonded, and to take her away from that is not in Veronica's "best interests". I hope this case goes to the Supreme Court. The biological parents signed away their right to the child; they didn't want her. Now the father changes his mind? It's just not right.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Chuck

      The father did not agree to this adoption. He did not give up his rights to his child. He's been fighting since she was four months old to get her back (we don't even know if he knew the mother was pregnant, or knew about the adoption before that). He's been fighting for her for over a year. Of course they bonded with her. If the adoptive family had not fought to remove his parental rights for so long, it wouldn't be heart breaking for the little girl. I have no pity for the parents.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  6. Elizabeth

    An important aspect of the Indian Child Welfare Act reftlects a cultural difference between Mainstream culture and Native American culture. In Native American culture, if for any reason both parents are unable or unwilling to parent their child then the aunts and grandmothers would step in to care for the child. This would, of course, include uncles, grandfathers, cousins, and it would extend to the entire tribe. Thus Veronica is the entire tribe's responsibility. She should be placed outside the tribe only if the entire tribe is unwilling or unable to care for her.
    If every last Indian child were adopted out, tribal membership would one day be reduced to zero. The sovereign nation would cease to exist. Native culture would be lost. There are those in the culture currently in power who would like to see this happen. Perhaps now you can see the interest of the tribe that is at stake here.
    May the spirit of brotherhood be over us all.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  7. BETH

    It in not the fathers fault that his child was placed for adoption, Why should he be punishe, just because a white family in a good neighborhood with a job wants to keep this little girl, nor is it reason to go all the way to the supreme court...are you kidding. The law is the law, Why look for loop holes to make a wrong thing to do out of what has been righted. Leave this man alone to raise his child!

    July 30, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  8. brenda

    The right thing has been done. Perhaps visitation my be done for those that "adopted" the child, but her best interests are with her blood father.

    July 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • linda Operle

      Brenda childrens best interests are to be with the parents they know & love not to be sent to some stranger. Try to imagine how terrified and confused this child is to be ripped from her parents arms. This father is thinking of himself not his daughter. It's him who should have visitation not the other way around. Biology does not make you a parent, parenting does.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  9. jada

    The ruling specified that the two years the child was with the adoptive parents should not count against the father because the case started when the child was 4 months old. The judges said it would not be fair to say he should lose his child because it took the courts 2 years to make a final ruling. The judges were right. Good lawyers can keep a case for years through appeals, while their clients keep physical custody, even if under the law they should not have had custody to begin with. What the judges also said was that the ICWA was intended for cases like Veronica's, and had the adoptive parents lawyers correctly proceeded with the adoption, they would not have been given custody of Veronica when she was a baby.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  10. Diane

    He was in the military and deployed fighting for his country and his life. He was not in his right frame of mind when he made his initial decision and changed it 2 weeks later. Its his baby the right decision was made no if ands or buts. Its a clear decision not even factoring in the Indian law (which was put into effect for a reason) Sorry Native American babies r not ez for the takings anymore. No im not sorry bout that just a fact.

    July 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Chuck

      The father never signed her over for adoption. He never agreed to it. Regardless of his Indian heritage, they took her without his consent.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Kara

    This case is about the child's best interest. We have all seen many cases of adopted children or know someone who has been adopted who wonder, at the very least, where they originated from. Some adopted children grow up to be adults and always wonder about their biological parent. How great for this child, that they can someday look at the facts and have their own biological father tell that child, " I fought for you, because I wanted you." That speaks volumes to a child's and even an adults self esteem. That is what this is about. I am sure that family took great care of that child for how ever long and they are having to deal with their personal loss and I empathize with them as I have been there in their shoes, but in the end, that child has been given the best gift, the ability to be automatically connected to their biological family and not have to wonder about one side of their biological family. That is one less issue she has to face and we all know that daily life is hard enough without having those particular issues. She will have to someday come to terms about not having her biological mother and dealing with that personal issue but at least now, she will have her biological father who can hopefully, in a supportive and positive manner, help her comes to terms with that issue as well. This is a win for that child.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • linda Operle

      Kara – Visitation with her biological father would have given her the same genological information without ripping her from the only parents she's ever known. Separation anxiety, failure to bond, living with a stranger how terrifying for this baby all these things will beset this poor child and could leave lasting trauma none of which the father seems to care about. How selfish!

      July 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  12. L MacPherson

    Has anyone given a thought to what this is doing to this baby's soul ? She is not an object that can be OWNED,given and retrieved like a THING.
    I'm surprised that a native Indian would even want to do this. The Indian babies that I have seen here in Canada are loved and nurtured.
    You wouldn't treat a baby animal like they are doing to this poor baby, simply because she needs to know native culture. Eventually she could have the oppotunity to learn about her cultural history.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  13. Cam

    These and other similiar stories is why I will NEVER adopt a child. I would prefer to remain barren than to have to worry that I would lose the child due to some legal wrangling. I will try other medical avenues to achieve my family.

    July 28, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  14. Kelly

    I do not understand why the best interest of a tribe is more important than the best interest of the child. How come the wishes of the birth mom are being ignored? There are no winners here at all.

    Lynn- adoptive parents are real parents, thank you very much. I honestly cannot believe that you have written such an awful thing.
    Lucas – I believe you need to do your homework as well, regarding this case.
    It really kills me that so many are taking the side of the birth father. Poor Veronica, that's all.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • aubrie

      Veronica IS INDEED a member of that tribe. so being in the best interest of the tribe is also in her best interest as a member herself. She is entitled to her cultural heritage. She is entitled to a natural, biological father who loves her. She is entitled to extended family and the support of her own tribe. She is entitled to the financial benefits of being a tribal member. Education, medical care. Why would ANYONE deny her that? This IS in her best interest.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Chuck

      The wishes of the birth mother are ignored because she is not the only parent involved. The birth father has rights too, and no matter what the mother wants they do not just disappear because she wants to give the baby to someone else.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  15. Jeannie

    Although her book may be viewed as fiction, there are incredible parallels between this story and the story told by Barbara Kingsolver, author of Pigs In Heaven. The story includes the Cherokee Nation and its rights in raising its children in the heritage, and the angst of a mother for her adopted child when dealing with this law.
    The court in this instance ( Veronica's case) might have learned something from the wisdom of the tribe that was exhibited in Kingsolver's book ( you'll have to read it for yourself ! )

    July 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  16. Anisah of South Dakota

    "There was a time"? Really, have you looked into South Dakota's recent behavior where the STATE is taking children & putting them into a privately owned group home that has ties to the Governor..making money for the WHITE stock holders who are paid by federal govt to "care" for the Indian kids. These Indian kids are not being encouraged to stay culturally connected to their culture or their tribal communities. To top it off the group home is hundreds of miles from the tribal communities whereby denying families the means to stay connected. Its the new/old form of stripping Native American kids of their cultural identity and financially benefiting White politicians.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  17. Carie

    I hope they take this to the SUPREME COURT. This was NOT in the best interest of the child.

    July 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Diane

      Guess u have no love for the military or what they go through. And the child obviously is his. It would not have taken this long for him to get his daughter back had they done the right thing n not drug it out in court. Sorry i dont feel sorry for the selfish non adoptive (they did not legally adopt her) family that didnt do the right thing and give her back when he changed his mind 2 weeks later.

      July 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Janice

      Of course this was in the best interest of the child! Her father wanted her and fought for her! Thank God he did so she wouldn't have to go through her life wondering who she REALLY is and why no one wanted her!
      Just ask any of the millions of adult adoptee's! Think before you speak!!

      July 29, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Chuck

      I guess it's in the best interest of the child to take her from her father without his consent and make him fight a legal battle for two years to get her back?

      July 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  18. Lynn

    The biological father and the little girl were wronged severely. The "adoptive" family who never actually adopted her and could not legally adopt her anyway have been draining Charleston dry for donations. They've gotten thousands of dollars and their supporters vandalized the biological father's home. These people do not deserve a child. I'm glad that the little girl is with her real father and family.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Debra Belford

      Lynn, you are so wrong. This little girl wiill have issues in regards to trust and bonding with others. I am sorry that someone vandalized his house but it was probably someone that took advantage of what was going on and not anyone from the Coalition. I will pray for Veronica and her family, that she be kept safe and be allowed to know how much she was loved the first 2 years of her life.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
      • Chuck

        She was loved the first two years of her life... by her biological father. If she was loved by her adoptive (supposed) parents, they would have reunited her with her father who never signed over his rights for her to be adopted instead of dragging it out for two years.

        July 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  19. Shannon

    This story absolutely breaks my heart for everyone involved … but mostly little Veronica. So many legal and adoptive systems failed in this situation it is mind boggling. I have to wonder … was there ever the consideration for shared custody, or at least visitation rights for the adoptive family? Did the Capobiano’s have the knowledge, legal information prior to the adoption to avoid this situation? And are there laws/ services in place in the USA to protect adoptive parents from situations like this? I also feel the birth father should take some steps towards the Capobiano’s to involve them in Veronica’s life, he should be thankful for the 2 years of love and care they provided to his daughter despite any legal wrangling.

    Shannon (Victoria BC Canada)

    July 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Chad Rancher

      Shannon, Why should the biological father have to thank the adopters for caring for HIS daughter, when he spent years wrangling with the US legal system to get her back from them. Just because he was in the military on active duty is not a reason to take a man's own flesh and blood baby, is it? If you think adoption is so great and so loving, why don't you give the couple one of your own kids. I am sure they would appreciate YOUR sacrifice. In fact, the other commenters here and on other sites, who claim to support infant adoption even though there are no health or safety issues, could each sacrifice one of their own newborns to this couple. Now, that is truly the loving option of adoption.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
      • Debra Westling C

        Chad, very well said. I could not agree more!

        July 31, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Robin Mokma

      In the court ruling it states that the FATHER made it known when the child was 4 month old that he wanted to PARENT his daughter. At that point, the Capobianco's could/should have returned her to her father, thus avoiding her being in their home and care for TWO YEARS and setting HER up for all the trauma of "being ripped from the only family she's known". Instead, they made the father fight for 2 years to regain custody of his child. Also included in the court ruling; the bio mom repeatedly claimed the father was a member of the tribe. However the attorney the C's hired to represent the bio mom (conflict of interest maybe?) made "clerical errors" when inquiring about his membership, the outcome of which meant the tribe wasn't able to identify him as a member (b/c they were given incorrect information). The C's KNEW he was an active member. Further, paperwork completed after V's birth failed to ID the dad's tribal affiliation. By Oklahoma law, V would have never been allowed to leave the state had the paperwork been accurately completed. Mom admitted knowing that could derail the adoption plan. "Protect the adoptive parents"? How about protect natural parents, especially fathers who have little to no rights to their children, and protecting children from the numerous deceptive adoption practices; from the so called "clerical errors" that are far too COMMON but have life altering effects on all 3 sides of the adoption triad. Adoption is a billion dollar industry!

      July 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Lucas

    Native American childeren need to stay with their people, to learn their traditional culture. These people never should have had this child in the first place. Reservations are sovereign nations. Countries within states. Do a real story, like how like Old cheif Joseph would not sighn the treaty of 1863 cause he did't want his lands chopped into three states ( Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) and when young cheif Joseph and ollakaut continued their fathers wishes to never sell the land where your families were laid to rest. They were massacered and never allowed to see their lands again. Look up what was done to the Natives when they were indoctrinated in the bording schools. How bout the Indian relocation programs through the 60's and 70's. The last native American massacre was the Pine Ridge innocent in the 70's, the same decade that the Indian child welfare act was sighned. You east coast people imprison us all with your fear mongering in the name of security. This story is incomplete. Do more homework.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • Debra Belford

      Lucas, I sense alot of anger in your comment. I agree what happened in the past was horrible but it is now time to move on, but not forget. ICWA when put in place was relavent, not anymore. It's a law that is now hurting children and families and does not allow a native child the same protection under our constitution. Children of today should not have to keep continue to pay the price of the past. A childs best interest should always be the most important thing, not the tribes. I do not believe that any of this has to do with perserving culture as it does with money. There is no gaurantee that if a child is placed with a native on oroff the reservation that he will learn his culture. Unfortunately there are not enough native american homes to take in these children. Most of these children are born drug and alcohol affected and taken from addicted parents. Then placed in foster care and many times they are their for years until another home can be found that is native. It is not fair to these children to yank them from the only home they know and have fully bonded. These children will have issues when it comes to trusting others, attaching to others along with all the problems that comes with being affected by drugs and alcohol. The law needs to be ammended. Native parents should have soul say so over what goes on with their children and not the tribe.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
      • Chuck

        Regardless of whether you think ICWA is relevant anymore, the fact that he was deployed at the time of the adoption and never gave his consent for his child to be adopted makes this matter very simple. Charge the adoptive parents with kidnapping his child and be done with it.

        July 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • April

      This child is 1/16 American Indian. What about the other 15/16 of her blood lines.? The ICWA was used by the sperm donor to manipulate the system. He only wanted the child so he could get more money from the military.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
      • Chuck

        Really April? You know this how? He never consented to the adoption and was apparently not even in the country. What would you do if you came back from a trip for your employer to find that a couple had adopted your child? Roll over and take it? He fought for his child, I assume you would do the same... He's not a sperm donor, he's a father. The egg donor was simply an incubator.

        July 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
      • Will

        do you know for a fact that the father is using the chlid for additional money from the military, or are you just blowing smoke?? If a child fits into the definition of how the particular tribe defines its membership then the the 15/16 really doesn't matter when claiming indian preference.

        July 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Ana

      Atrocities were committed on all sides back then, though. My own ancestors were abducted by members of a PA tribe, along with their three children. When the infant became ill, the Native Americans held her under river ice until she died. They later attempted to burn my 5x great grandfather alive, but he was rescued by French traders at the last minute. He and his wife escaped, but it took them 8 years to get their older children back from the tribe: their son didn't even remember them by that point. MY point is that people are people, no matter what color their skin is. Some are good, some are bad, but it dehumanizes any race paint them all one way or another.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Shari Ghalayini

      I cannot agree with you more Lucas!! I work everyday with ICWA and it kills me that Non-Native people do not understand how detrimental it is to our cultural and to the child to be taken from our people and our lands.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Letty

      Well Said

      July 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Heather

      Yes they are, and they have worse crime stats and worse education then most of America. This poor little girl had a chance; now she'll be sent to a worse situation. And as a military spouse, I don't see a lot of great single dads in the service.

      July 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  21. tvoeltz

    My mom was the director of a child welfare and adoption agency, and I was her Admin Asst. for awhile. There are a number of things that need to be dealt with when a child is potentially placed for adoption. For example, even in the case of rape, a good faith effort has to be made to locate the bio. father, even going to the extent that ads are placed in possibly several different newspapers. Another thing is that in the event of Native American heritage, the TRIBE, not just the bio. mom and dad, must sign off on any adoptions. This is serious. At the agency my mom helmed, no adoption could go through w/out the tribe signing off. In fact, at this particular agency, they had the tribe sign off on every adoption, simply because the proximity of the reservation might allow doubt. As the 1978 law contends, the best interests of the TRIBE must be considered. I contend that whatever agency facilitated this adoption did not do their due diligence. Either they ignored the Native American connection, or they did not do enough research to discover this link. I encourage AC360 to research this aspect of the case.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  22. Gary

    I applaud the adopted parents for taken care of this child however; being a father of four children and also being Native American the child should be with her Dad. CNN never interviewed the Mother and made it seem as though the Father never even cared about his daughter without given the entire story or mitigating circumstances that might have happened in the past. The child is Native American and should be with her own culture to learn and understand the realities of the past. I believe the child will be loved and cared for through family and those of her culture so it was the right thing to do.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Debra Belford

      Gary, I ask you about the mother's Latino heritage, is that not as important. How can we in this day and age say that sher is better off with one or the other. The law needs to be ammended. A native child is not any different then any other child. They have the same and needs and wants as any other. To be loved and cared for, but most of all a stable family. Veronica is over 50% Latino and I believe only 1-3% Native, if anything she should be raised with that heritage in mind. This is a tragedy and should not be happening.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
      • Chuck

        Thank God for the law, or this kidnapping masquerading as an adoption would have stood. He didn't consent to the adoption. He wasn't here to fight it, and when he was able to fight it, they fought him long enough for it to "break her heart" to have to leave them. They aren't parents, they are vile IMHO. Thank God she was put with the person who loves her.

        July 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |