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January 5, 2013

Court to review Native American adoption case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review a ruling that sent a South Carolina couple’s adopted Native American daughter back to her biological father in Oklahoma.

The high court agreed to hear an appeal by Matt and Melanie Capobianco over the fate of 3-year-old Veronica.

The couple’s adoption of the girl was overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which said the girl must go back to Oklahoma to be with her biological father, Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation.

The state court said the federal Indian Child Welfare Act gives custodial preference to the girl’s father. That act was passed in 1978 because of the high number of Indian children then being removed from their homes by public and private agencies. The act gives the child’s tribe and family the right to have a say in decisions affecting the child.

The Capobiancos want that decision overturned. Because it is an adoption case, the appeal to the Supreme Court does not mention specific names for privacy reasons, although the South Carolina couple identified themselves in media interviews and released the name of their adopted daughter.

The Capobiancos, who live on James Island just outside Charleston, adopted Veronica after attending the girl’s birth and caring for her thereafter. But Brown later went to court seeking custody, which was granted by the South Carolina court. He then took the girl back to Oklahoma in 2011.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said he was surprised that the Supreme Court chose to hear the case, especially since the South Carolina court had already ruled.

“This is a matter that is of utmost importance to all of Indian Country,” Hembree said in a statement Friday. “Our children are our future, and the Cherokee Nation stands ready to defend the rights of Native American children to be raised in Native American homes.”

The case will be heard by the Supreme Court later this year.

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