OKLAHOMA CITY — A Cherokee Nation attorney said Friday that a 3-year-old girl will be devastated if she is adopted by a South Carolina couple and taken away from her biological father, who is a member of the tribe, in a case tribal leaders say could affect native children and their families nationwide.
Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for the Oklahoma-based tribe, said Dusten Brown has been raising his daughter, Veronica, for the past 19 months and the legal battle over her adoption has been emotionally draining.
“I can’t imagine that it is anything other than miserable,” Nimmo said.
Brown has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the adoption of his daughter that was finalized by a South Carolina judge on Wednesday. Matt and Melanie Capobianco, hand-picked by the girl’s birth mother to adopt her, raised Veronica for two years following her birth in 2009 and have sought to adopt her since birth.
But Brown, who had never met his daughter, challenged that adoption, arguing that federal law favored the girl being raised by him and in cultural traditions. State courts initially sent Veronica to live with Brown in Oklahoma in 2011, citing the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, which seeks to keep Indian children from being taken from their homes and placed with non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.
The Capobiancos appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which earlier this year said South Carolina’s courts should decide what happens to the girl.
Nimmo said the Cherokee Nation supports Brown’s attempt to retain custody of his daughter.
“It is absolutely undisputed that he is a fit parent,” she said. “It is unfathomable to me that an adoption of a child who is currently residing with a fit biological parent can be finalized. Adoption is for children who need homes. Veronica does not need a home. It will be devastating for her if she is removed from her father.”