Cherokee child handed over to adoptive parents
By Kristi Eaton, APOKLAHOMA CITY--A South Carolina couple who vowed last month to not leave Oklahoma unless they went home with a 4-year-old Cherokee Indian girl they have been trying to adopt since her birth were given custody of the girl Monday night after the Oklahoma Supreme Court said it didn't have jurisdiction over the child.
September 25, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
“She's safely in her parents' arms,” said Jessica Munday, a spokeswoman for Matt and Melanie Capobianco of Charleston, South Carolina.
Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton confirmed that the girl named Veronica was handed over to the Capobiancos hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved a temporary court order leaving the child with her father and his family. Until the Monday night transfer, the Cherokee Nation had insisted the girl would remain with the tribe.
The Capobiancos and the girl's father, Dusten Brown, had fought for years over custody of the girl. The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and a federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.
Veronica, whose biological father is a member of the Cherokee Nation and whose biological mother is not a Native American, had lived with the Capobiancos from birth until she was 27 months old, when Brown was awarded custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision later went against Brown, and a South Carolina court finalized the Capobiancos' adoption of the girl earlier this year. Brown then turned to Oklahoma's courts.
It wasn't known if there were any conditions attached to the Capobiancos gaining custody, including whether Brown would be allowed to visit the girl. At attorney for Brown did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree released a statement late Monday describing the scene as Veronica's custody was transferred. He said it was emotional but “peaceful and dignified.” He said Brown and his wife, who is not Veronica's biological mother, packed clothes and toys for Veronica before a tribal attorney drove her a short distance to where the Capobiancos were waiting.
“Dusten Brown was just as brave today as he was when he fought for our country in Iraq,” Hembree said. “Although this is not something any parent should ever have to do, we could not be more proud of the dignity and courage with which he carried himself.”
Hembree added that Veronica will always be a Cherokee citizen and that he hoped “the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica's life.”
This July 21 file photo provided by Shannon Jones, attorney for Dusten Brown, shows Brown with his daughter, Veronica.