|Veronica and her father, Dusten Brown|
Then Chris Cuomo on CNN is arguing the "legal rights" in this case this morning, and how it has been settled--thus, the father of Baby Veronica (now Toddler Veronica, as she will be four next month), Dusten Brown ought to just get with the program, and turn over his child to the would-be adopters. He nods to the another member of the New Morning show, Michele Pereira, whose family "has embraced" adoption. (How, I do not know.)
THAT OLD, OLD LAW--FROM 1978
Then CNN's legal analyst Ashley Banfield is talking about how the law that presumably should apply in this case, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), is an "old, old law." Since since the girl in question is merely "three hundred and fifty-six percent Indian," Banfield dismisses the old, old law, implying it shouldn't apply anyway--though she does offer a soupcon of sympathy for Brown, noting that he was about to ship off to Iraq when he signed the papers. But give the girl to the parents, the court has decided is the overall message I heard this morning. That old law Benfield is talking about? It's from 1978. As for the percentage of Indian blood? That is not the issue. However it was the only legal loophole Brown had after he was tricked into signing off on his daughter's adoption. Human compassion on the part of the adopters, the Capobiancos, did not enter the equation, or presumably, their self-righteous minds.
We are not going to argue the points of the ICWA law--that's been done earlier and elsewhere--but discuss the bulk of the media coverage which has been biased in favor of the people who want to take a child from her natural, biological father because they can. Because we live in a society that favors adoption, almost without question and nearly whenever possible. Because an addled Supreme Court gave the Capoibiancos their unholy blessing.
What Dr. Phil and Anderson Cooper and now Chris Cuomo (brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo*) fail to acknowledge is that when the girl's natural father signed an "Acceptance of Service" form, he thought he was giving his daughter's mother, Christy Maldonado, custody. Brown was presented the form in a parking lot shortly before he was to deploy to Iraq. His story--and I believe his story--is that as soon as the Capobianco's laywer made clear that that "Acceptance of Service" papers he had just signed would allow her daughter to be adopted, he tried to grab them back and rip them up. The next day, Brown began his legal fight to regain custody of his daughter.
THE RIGHT TO BE WITH YOUR OWN KIN
Yet if you were to listen to the general media hype about this story, he comes across as someone who changed his mind about wanting to raise his daughter. He did not, not once he learned that her mother was not planning to raise her. What Dusten Brown did not want is that his daughter be given to genetic strangers.
The Capobiancos knew from the beginning that there might be an issue with this adoption, but they ignored that. They have said something vague about letting Brown be "involved" in his daughter's life, without promising anything concrete. We know from hearing from first mothers promised "involvement" in their childrens' lives after adoption, how often and how easy it is to ignore that prescription.
The Capobiancos want what they want, and what they want is Brown's child. Veronica has been living with her natural father and his wife for 19 months. With Brown, she has an older sibling (being raised by Brown's first wife) who would continue to be part of her life. Veronica's maternal grandmother is also a factor in her upbringing. We are not going to argue here that she has to stay with her natural family because she has been there for so long--we've seen cases of father's rights drag on for years before the child is returned to the father and his family, and we've argued that is the right decision.
What matters here is the right on an individual to grow up with a natural parent who wants to raise that child, and the right of a father who was, in effect, tricked into agreeing to her adoption. That the Capobiancos have turned their backs on these basic human rights is the great crime here. Every individual, no matter the legalistic issues, or how a particular court decided, should not be denied the right to be with their own people, folks who look like them, and whose carry traits they will soon find in themselves. As soon as Brown made his desire known to raise his own daughter--and by all accounts he is a good father--the Capobiancos should have had the heart and compassion to bow out, and let the child go home to daddy. Her real daddy. That would have happened when she was four months old, not when she was two. And though these cases do not usually make the news, it does happen. We included a blog recently by one such adoptive mother. I once read the story of the food writer Ruth Riechl returning a child to the birth mother. Certainly there are other examples.
THE REAL FOES OF UNSEALED RECORDS
We have noted before the inherent bias of Justice Roberts in this case. Not only is he an adoptive father through suspicious means though, strictly speaking, probably legal, he is a friend to the lawyer, Lori Alvino McGill, representing the girl's mother, Christy Maldonado. We presume McGill, who has posted some very nasty things about Brown on Facebook, is presenting Maldonado pro bono, as Ms. Maldonado is not a woman of means. McGill, who works for a top-drawer law firm in Washington, DC. (Latham & Watkins), is a former clerk of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her husband clerked for Justice John Roberts when he was with the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. District. One website, Above the Law, has them competing with another couple for the October 2006 "Couple of the Month" designation during the month they married. We read elsewhere that Roberts attended the wedding. Ginsburg, no matter her connection to Lori McGill, signed the minority opinion in this case, which would have allowed Veronica to remain with her father. Roberts signed the majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito. Perhaps both Ginsburg and Roberts, if they have continued close ties to the case through Maldonado's lawyer, should have recused themselves. To be clear, McGill, though not the lawyer for the Capobiancos, or the adoption agency, represents Maldonado and filed an amicus brief. We'd love to know how McGill, who should be 37 now, got involved in the first place. Is she hoping to adopt from Oklahoma herself? Or use the same agency? Was her place in line moved up if she would do this little favor, i.e., represent Maldonado? All right, I'm suspicious, but sometimes paranoia is knowing all the facts.
Others elsewhere have argued that Roberts, as an adoptive father, thus has a bias for adoption, and should have recused himself on that ground alone. I am going to let that be an open question. However, it is worth noting that in the many decades I have been involved working to unseal original birth certificates, and if necessary, adoption files, to adoptees and their original parents, the staunchest foes of open records often turn out to be attorneys who are also--adoptive fathers.
NOT A FIRST MOTHER TO BE ADMIRED
As for Christy Maldonado, Veronica's biological mother, while we have not heard much about her, she comes across as a woman who only wants to do best by her child--and that is, give her to someone other than the her father. She wrote a heavily edited piece for The Washington Post claiming that. In fact, according to Indian Country, a review of court documents in Oklahoma, and in interviews with those who knew Maldonado before and during her relationship with Brown, she has a less than stellar history. Her previous liaisons indicate lots of turmoil, featuring restraining orders, lawsuits, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and ongoing custody and child support disputes with her two older childrens' father:
“All along, she has been painted by the adoption team as this saintly, Thomas Kinkade-hued single mother who was raising two kids and selflessly gave her child to an infertile couple,” says a former friend. “That's been the narrative. But the reality is that it's common knowledge in Bartlesville (OK) that Christy Maldonado does not have custody of her two other kids. They are living with their paternal grandmother in Oklahoma. She's actually the one who pays child support and has visitation.”We have yet to see how this case will finally turn out. After the Supreme Court decision, Veronica's adoption by the Capobiancos was finalized in South Carolina, where they live. The couple has traveled to Oklahoma, where Brown lives, and as I write their attorneys are meeting. Since Brown failed to show up at a court-mandated appointment with them, a warrant for his arrest was issued Saturday for felony "custodial interference." Brown turned himself in to Sequoyah County (OK) authorities on Monday and was released on bond. He refused extradition unless ordered by Oklahoma authorities. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin initially said she would give Brown until Sept. 12, allowing him a chance to fight the legality of his arrest. But after hearing Brown denied what the Governor called a "reasonable request" from the Capobiancos to visit Veronica on Wednesday, Fallin said she would have no trouble speeding up extradition. And another similar case involving a child with Indian blood in Oklahoma being illegally whisked to South Carolina has cropped up. Raymond W. Godwin--who was the original adoption attorney for Matt and Melanie Capobianco--is the very same South Carolina attorney involved in this case. Something is indeed rotten in Godwin's office, and it's not rotting fish.
It is almost certain that the heartless Capobiancos will not do the right thing by the daughter they claim is "theirs": allow her to stay with her natural father and grow up with people to whom she is related, by kith and kin. The Capobiancos are dug in too deep. As for the deeply flawed decision of the Roberts Supreme Court? Anybody remember Dred Scott? That 1857 decision of the Supreme Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court. This decision, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, falls in the same category. A little girl, and her father, will pay the price.--lorraine
*And if anybody wonders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done nothing to repeal New York law dating from 1935 that sealed the original birth records of all adopted individuals, despite heavy lobbying and many many supporters in the legislature. See Letter to the Editor: Adoptees deserve greater access to records | Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Matthew D. McGill
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Adoptive father John Roberts: Not impartial in the Baby Veronica case
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Supreme Court rules against Indian father, limits Indian Child Welfare Act
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One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir (Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects) Award-winning Native American journalist Trace A. DeMeyer has published her updated memoir, an exposé on generations of American Indian children adopted by non-Indian families. Known for her exceptional print interviews with famous Native Americans such as Leonard Peltier, John Trudell and Floyd Red Crow Westerman, DeMeyer started research on adoptees in 2004, which lead to this fact-filled biography that includes congressional testimony, evidence of Indian Adoption Projects and how the Indian Child Welfare Act came to exist. Her long journey to find and meet her father and other relatives offers the reader a glimpse into the struggle of an adoptee and how to never give up hope. --Amazon (Order by clicking on title or book jacket above.)