Published on Sep 28, 2013
This 40-minute documentary explains the reason for and the process of creating and implementing the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA). This historic piece of Wisconsin legislation passed both houses unanimously in 2009, a rare feat, especially given the opposition its enactment faced.
By Trace A. DeMeyer
I've had a hole inside me for my entire life. Veronica will, too.
I was born in Minnesota in 1956. In 2013, Minnesota still has my original birth certificate locked away in a file somewhere. Because of archaic adoption laws, I am NOT able to have a copy of my original birth certificate with my birth name Laura Jean Thrall and my mother's name Helen Thrall. Until laws change, I have to live with my amended "fake" birth certificate which lists my adoptive parents as my biological parents. Veronica will have a fake birth certificate, too.
In 1958, I was adopted in Wisconsin. In 2010, I paid for a court order in Wisconsin to have my adoption file released to me. I wrote about what was in this file in my memoir ONE SMALL SACRIFICE (the second edition) and on this blog. Years earlier I went to a judge in Wisconsin and at his discretion, he let me read my sealed adoption records when I was 22 years old. I didn't get to keep a copy of any papers, just my notes. I started my search for Helen and my unnamed father that day.
Since I was illegitimate, there was nothing about my Native father or his ancestry or history in my adoption file. As this video describes, I was denied truth. I was lost. I was denied my birthright. I was deprived of my family stories. I was denied my culture which would have been handed down by my father and grandparents. I was denied medical history of both my birth parents because I was placed in a stranger adoption and no vital information was given to my adoptive parents to give to me.
Did a closed adoption consider my rights? Absolutely not.
Because the Veronica Brown case threw a light on the atrocity of her adoption, we see how her father lost custody of her, and how adoption lawyers cleverly bypassed ICWA federal law. How? The adoption attorneys made sure Veronica's mother cut off all contact with Dusten - so the Supreme Court could rule he didn't support his pregnant girlfriend or their baby and was a deadbeat.
According to South Carolina court records, Christy Maldonado (Veronica's birthmother) and the Capobiancos were connected by the Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency. It is a fact the adoption lawyers connected to the adoption of Veronica filed error-filled ICWA paperwork to the Cherokee Nation. Even the original South Carolina Supreme Court decision stated that though Maldonado alerted the agency of the father’s status as citizen of the Cherokee Nation, “It appears that there were some efforts to conceal his Indian status.”
Private adoption lawyers like Raymond W. Godwin and private adoption agencies like Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency will continue to work behind the scenes to profit from adoptions - but they will lose money if ICWA is understood and implemented nation-wide. Godwin's wife Laura is the director of the adoption agency that handled Veronica's adoption.
Many more tribes need to unite like in Wisconsin to draft new legislation in their states to layout how to implement the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and make ICWA stronger and clearer for judges. Social workers and courts in EVERY STATE need to ask if it is an Indian child (even with one Indian parent like me and Veronica) and then abide by ICWA.
No child should ever be lost to her own father and tribal nation. I was lost. Baby Veronica was lost.
As Cassi wrote on her Adoption Truth blog:
"...Veronica deserved better than this. She deserved protection from an industry that used her for gain. She deserved her rights to her family to be recognized instead of trampled on...."