Manataka American Indian Council

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Editorial

 

 

 

What-is-best for the child?

Cherokee Baby Veronica

and the Indian Child Welfare Act

by Lee Standing Bear Moore

 

“The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture, and by providing for assistance to Indian tribes in the operation of child and family service programs.” (Indian Child Welfare Act 25 U.S.C. § 1902)

 

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is Federal law that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian children. The law was enacted after recognition by the Federal Government that American Indian children were being removed from their homes and communities at a much higher rate than non-Native children. ICWA established standards for the placement of Indian children in foster and adoptive homes and enabled Tribes and families to be involved in child welfare cases. https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/courts/icwa.cfm

 

For countless years this country has continually raided American Indian families and stolen their children in the name of

'"what-is-best for the child".

 

In the old days, prior to large corporate adoption agencies and computerized bodies of religious zealots, the War Department was in charge of supervising American Indian children.  Thousands of children were shipped off to block-wall institutions and incarcerated in abusive and corrupt Indian schools.  Hundreds of children died without seeing their families again.  Thousands more were physically, psychologically and spiritually tortured.  It was a terrible chapter in American history.

 

Then came along highly organized churches and state sponsored agencies who assumed the task of relocating and reeducating thousands of Indian children -- all in the name of  '"what-is-best' for the child".  .  Over the years these institutions learned nefarious ways to avoid public scrutiny and maximize profits from trafficking in Indian children. 

 

Armies of fast-buck lawyers cloaked in a veil of religious and private do-good adoption agencies, all protected by state bureaucrats, descended on Indian Country like locusts.  They wrapped themselves in volumes of regulations that effectively prevented Indian families from participating in adoption hearings.  The so-called legal adoption of American Indian children is today a multi-million dollar industry.  The lawyers, clerics and state love it.

 

According to Brittany Kellerman, a reporter at the University of Minnesota,  "...Indian children today face many challenges in both public and private child welfare systems. They are removed from their homes at 2–3 times the rate of their white counterparts and often are not placed with relatives or other Indian families, even when such placements are available and appropriate. In private adoption systems where little regulation or oversight is present, Indian children and families can face practitioners who have little incentive to consider their cultural or tribal citizen rights and instead are focused on financial incentives or operating from narrow understandings of what is in an Indian child’s best interest."

 

In 1978, after decades of their voices being muffled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal leaders finally spoke loud enough and the Indian Child Welfare Act became law.  The tribes wanted to be left alone by these scavengers and demanded the government put a stop to child raids and abuses.  The highest blessing of every family and tribal culture is their children.  Tribes do not want their children to disappear into mainstream white culture while every Indian family is robbed of their future.  It is called genocide people! 

 

The tribes want their children to be free and loved in their own communities. 

 

Baby Veronica Case

Oklahomans held a candlelight vigil for the adoptive parents of Baby Veronica

The most controversial adoption case to arise out of the ICWA law is baby Veronica  who was secretly removed from her home in Oklahoma and moved to South Carolina before her father, Dusten Brown, could stop legal proceedings while he was on a tour of duty in Iraq.  A great deal of national media coverage has generated a tremendous amount of misinformation about this case. 

 

We will not go into all the ugliness and Hollywood stereotyping piled on Dusten by South Carolina adoption officials, the media and lawyers for Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who paid thousands of dollars for the right to adopt baby Veronica.  Dusten's ex--fiancee, and mother of Veronica is Christine Maldonado, a non-Indian who secretly plotted to sell the baby and lied to adoption officials about the father. 

 

Brown supporters hold signs saying

"Not For Sale: Cherokee Children.

Dusten Brown was painted to be like all other Indians who are ignorant, lazy, dirty, and low-class.  Brown and the court were told lies by adoption lawyers and state authorities. He was demonized by Matt and Melanie Capobianco.  That is when Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation stepped up and defended Veronica and her father Dusten Brown.

 

“The Capobiancos have requested the Cherokee Nation and Dusten Brown to follow the South Carolina court's order, but they forget that Dusten Brown has the same rights to have his arguments heard before our Oklahoma courts and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court. We respectfully ask the Capobiancos to allow that due process. The Cherokee people throughout time have stood our ground and for the rights of our people, and this is no different. We will continue to stand by Dusten and his biological daughter, Veronica, and for what is right,” said Chief Baker.

 

Dusten Brown, his wife Robin

with Veronica in Oklahoma,  Courtesy Cherokee Nation

 

Hooray for Chief Baker!

 

After nearly two years of fighting in South Carolina courts and the US Supreme Court, the matter of "Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl" may be coming to an end. 

 

In August 2013, a sealed  mediated settlement was reached between Brown and the Capobiancos after a hearing before the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. 

 

Brown is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and because the ICWA was written to preserve  American Indian culture, South Carolina courts agreed Veronica should live in Oklahoma near her native roots.  The Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who reversed the lower court ruling in June 2013 saying that Brown, was not married to Veronica's birth mother and had provided no support, had no parental claim.  On August 12, Brown surrendered to Cherokee Nation marshals on a warrant charging Dusten with failure to appear in South Carolina.  The same court had ordered them to give up Veronica to Brown more than a year ago under the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is intended to keep Native American children from being separated from their families. Brown will be extradited within a week. 

 

The Capobiancos on Monday publicly pleaded for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller to help get Brown to comply with the July South Carolina Supreme Court decision that gave them custody of Veronica.

 

So, a resolution to this case may still be months or years away.

 

Matt and Melanie Capobianco in Charleston, South Carolina adopted Veronica at birth and raised her for two years before the court ruling.

Custody of Baby Veronica should be awarded to her biological father. Dusten Brown is a hard-working, descent and loving parent who maintains a modest but clean home in the Cherokee Nation.  He is a good citizen and veteran who loves his daughter. 

 

We feel compassion towards the Capobiancos who raised Veronica for over two years before the South Carolina ruling.  They were sucked into an adoption system that considers Indian children easy prey.  They spent thousands of dollars helping to defend sleazy adoption methods and practitioners.  The Capobiancos fed a system that has become a monster. The Capobianco family deserves our respect for trying to do the right thing, even if they did take poor advise from so-called professionals who are nothing more than human vultures.  

 

 

The case of Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl should serve as a warning shot across the bow of adoption agencies and lawyers who will realize 'business-as-usual' is a thing of the past.  American Indian tribes and families will no longer tolerate unscrupulous operators, including welfare bureaucrats who conspire to remove Indian children from their homes using the 'what-is-best' for the child excuse.  We will fight you in your own courts and win!

 


 

Another Approach

Along with finger and footprint identification, the DNA of every new birth is being collected by hospitals across the country. Should we go one step farther and identify which children have American Indian DNA?  Should that identification be provided to the National Congress of American Indians who would act as a national clearinghouse for American Indian adoptions? 

 

Do we need a stronger law that will require all adoptions involving DNA proven Indian ancestry to past a higher test of 'what-is-best' for the child? 

 

'What-is-best' for the child means more than housing, food, clothing, and other physical requirements.  The concept of 'What-is-best' for the child needs to be examined from a broader viewpoint that includes social, cultural and spiritual values of American Indians -- not just the opinions of religious zealots, greed-motivated lawyers and mindless bureaucrats.  There should be strong penalties for adoption practitioners and social agency bureaucrats who fail to observe and respect American Indian rights.  Without penalties, the vultures will continue to challenge the rights of American Indian families and deteriorate their communities. 

 

The Indian Child Welfare Act is a good start and it will hopefully play a positive role in the final disposition of the "Adoptive Couple Vs. Baby Girl" case.  We pray that what is best for Baby Veronica is being settled after a long, expensive and painful fight.  Maybe the families can return to a place of peace in their respective communities.  But, probably not. The lawyers and children's welfare bureaucrats know there is blood in the water and they will keep stirring this pot for a long time.

 

The social welfare cops are alive and well hanging around the back allies on reservations across the country.  They patrol the playgrounds for kids ripe for taking.  There is money involved.  Big money.  

 

What happens to the hundreds of American Indian children who remain in constant danger of experiencing the same nightmare as Baby Veronica and her family?   Will the ICWA be sufficient to protect them?  No.  We need strong penalties against social workers and lawyers who bend the law. 

 

We also need more education for Indian families so they will understand their parental rights.  We need more compassion from courts who routinely rubber-stamp wholesale adoptions.  We need more parent-advocates like the American Indian Parent Network; National Indian Parent Information Center;  Pathfinder Parent Center and others.

 

Sources:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/12/us-usa-southcarolina-adoption-idUSBRE97B0TO20130812

http://www.counton2.com/story/23155184/capobiancos-browns-arrive-in-oklahoma-courtroom

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/05/06/fight-baby-veronica-part-i-149219

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cascw/adoption/2013/03/native-american-families-continue-to-face-significant-challenges-and-discrimination-in-child-welfare.html

http://www.counton2.com/story/21975557/cherokee-nation-release-new-pictures-of-baby-veronica

communications@cherokee.org 

 

 


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