Cherokee Child Baby Veronica Returns to Adoptive Parents

Image: Cherokee Child Baby Veronica Returns to Adoptive Parents Four-year-old Veronica, left, with Melanie Capobianco.

Tuesday, 24 Sep 2013 10:21 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Baby Veronica, the 4-year-old Cherokee child at the center of a years-long adoption battle, was returned to her adoptive parents Monday after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it did not have legal standing to decide the child's custody arrangement.

She was returned to adoptive parents Matt and Melanie Capobianco Monday night, CBS News reported.

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"She's safely in her parents' arms," Jessica Munday, a spokeswoman for the Capobiancos, said in a statement.

The Capobiancos, who live in Charleston, S.C., have been locked in a legal battle with Baby Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, for years. The child's mother reportedly handed the girl over to the Capobiancos shortly after her birth in 2009, and they filed adoption papers in South Carolina. Brown had initially given up his parental rights.

But months later, Brown, who is part Cherokee, filed for custody claiming that he was entitled to his parental rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, which makes adoptions by people outside the tribe very difficult.

The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed with Brown, and Veronica was placed with him in Oklahoma in December 2011.

A series of flip-flopping court decisions followed, with the U.S. Supreme Court throwing out Brown's Indian Child Welfare Act argument, and a South Carolina court siding with the Capobiancos. Brown then turned to the Oklahoma court system for a last attempt at gaining full custody of his daughter.

Now, the Oklahoma courts have bowed out, ruling that they do not have jurisdiction over the Cherokee child. The only court order that now stands is the Capobianco's valid South Carolina adoption.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association said it is saddened by the outcome of the custody battle.

"The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica," Terry Cross, the group's executive director, told CBS News.

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