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Thursday, July 18, 2013

ICWA dismantled puts other Native kids at risk #Baby Veronica Case

Jul 1, 2013 Another big decision made by the Supreme Court was on the Baby Veronica case, a lawsuit dealing with custody rights between an adoptive couple and the child's Native American father. As much as the case dealt with custody, it dealt with a little-known law--the Indian Child Welfare Act. OU law professor Taiawagi Helton explains.

By Trace A. DeMeyer

My thoughts on Baby Veronica:

It strikes me as relevant that Veronica's birthmother Christy stated that she wished for her daughter to be adopted by the couple she chose (not Dusten) and with her op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday - the timing of all that - helped the pre-adoptive parents and lawyers to convince the South Carolina Supreme Court to take Veronica away from Dusten yesterday... (there could be an appeal if it's filed in 5 days.)

Christy made a binding contract to give up her daughter and accepted financial support from the couple who wishes to adopt Veronica. After the baby was born, the couple whisked Veronica away to South Carolina.

Dusten was living in Oklahoma and he wasn't even aware of the birth of his daughter.
Much of this case hinged on Dusten Brown not having contact with his daughter Veronica right after she was born...and the fact that the Supreme Court based their decision on Dusten not supporting Christy financially (though he said he went to her house but she wouldn't speak to him or take his calls).

It also came out that Dusten's mother made Veronica gifts and wanted to give Christy money which was also refused. Little things like this were not factored into the court decision at all. It has to be documented to be considered as proof or evidence.

If Christy made the deal to give up her baby for adoption and accepted money and signed the adoption deal, then this is what the lawyers and courts use as evidence.

Biological fathers do not have the same legal rights as biological mothers apparently. Dusten did not relinquish his rights to his daughter in front of a judge. Christy didn't allow his participation after they sent text messages saying she could raise their baby.

The Cherokee tribe was contacted by adoption lawyers who provided inaccurate information: the wrong spelling of Dusten's name and a wrong birthdate - was this on purpose to thwart the Cherokee tribe from invoking ICWA and taking the custody case to tribal court?

Dusten didn't know Christy was putting up his daughter for adoption until he was served papers in a parking lot - by then Veronica was four months old and living in another state. Dusten, in his 20s, was heading to Iraq for a year since he's in the Army. He hired a lawyer immediately but left on his military tour.

Christy has two children already. Apparently this is why she didn't want Veronica? Or was it because she broke up with Dusten while she was pregnant?

Christy, while pregnant, consulted with an adoption agency and chose a couple. She also chose an open adoption, which we know from documented experience, is never truly open.
In Indian Country, families who cannot raise their children have other relatives raise them. This is kinship adoption. The Indian Child Welfare Act addresses this. If a parent cannot raise their child, then another family member will adopt the child, or someone in the tribe, or someone in another tribe.

Dismantling the Indian Child Welfare Act, at least a part of it, will endanger other Native kids.
Speaking with a retired tribal court judge last week, she handled at least a thousand ICWA cases. She fought to have tribal children raised by their relatives if parents were unfit or unable. She admitted to me that most states do not fully understand or abide by ICWA - even today. That is the problem we are facing with Baby Veronica, and the fact that this couple was unmarried when Veronica was born.
Tribes are watching this case closely since many young couples are unmarried and the parent who is a member of a sovereign tribe could lose their child based on this Supreme Court decision.
As I wrote earlier, Veronica is the one we need to be protecting. She is a Cherokee child. Being raised by non-Indians will effectively assimilate her, erase her culture and language, as it happened to me and many other adoptees.

How does adoption serve this child? It doesn't.

In the end its about money and a billion dollar adoption industry that finds children for infertile couple to adopt.. It's about who paid their money and who the courts appoint to be parents.

Link to Washington Post and the decision yesterday to allow Veronica's pre-adoptive parents to file for adoption:
"The case has been a wrenching one that divided the nation, as well as the judges asked to decide where the little girl should live. In a 5 to 4 vote last month, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal law does not apply when “the parent abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.”

and my earlier post about this case: I AM THINKING *(June 28)

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.


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As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

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