' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Returning a child to her father is the right decision

Friday, August 24, 2012

Returning a child to her father is the right decision

Finally, a voice of sanity in a contested adoption case. South Carolina law professor Marcia Zug defends the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court last month to return two-year old Veronica to her father, Dusten Brown, cancelling the adoption to Melanie and Matt Capobianco in a article in Slate.

Zug's August 23 article in Slate, "Two year old 'Baby Veronica' was ripped from the only home's she ever known. The court made the right decision"* is a welcome change from the media blizzard chastising the South Carolina Court. The popular refrains "ripped from the only family she has ever known and "what about the best interests of the child"? repeated endlessly in this and similar cases are simply wrong.

The essential facts of the case are simple. Veronica's natural mother consented to her adoption. Brown, a Cherokee Indian, contested the adoption based on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  This 1978 law is designed to keep Native American children within their community if possible. It was passed in reaction to horrific acts of forcible removal of native American children, about a quarter of all such children, for adoption by white families. As well as devastating the Indian community, this practice did untold damage to these children. In Australia, tens of thousands of aboriginal children were forceably removed from their single mothers to be adopted and raised by white families for a century, a practice that only came to an end in the 1970s. Australia has formally apologized.

When the South Carolina Court held last month that the ICWA required that Veronica be returned to her father, the media reacted--as it always does in cases like this--with biased coverage trumpeting this message: Let the almost always white, almost always better off family keep the child, "the only family this child has ever known." It happened in 1993 in the Baby Jessica/Anna Schmidt case in Michigan and Iowa; it happened in 1995 case in the Baby Richard case in Illinois; it happened in 2007 in the Anna Mae He case in Tennessee; in happened in 2010 in Ohio in the Grayson Vaughn (Wyrembek) case. All of the above children were returned to their true families of origin, but at the time, only a few sane voices broke through the din, as does Professor Zug in Slate

Melanie and Matt Capobianco's were not the only family Veronica had ever known. She knew her mother for nine months before her birth, and recent research has given credence to the strength of that bond. She was connected with her Indian ancestors when her father's sperm met her mother's egg. Absent proof of abuse or neglect, child welfare experts--the Child Welfare League of America, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform--social worker and adoptive mother L. Anne Babb agree that a child does best raised by his natural family.  The children in the Baby Richard and Baby Jessica cases, for example, have grown up and done fine; Anna Mae He is still a youngster and returned to China with her family; the Wyrembek boy is still a boy. Anna Schmidt/Jessica DeBoer was the same age as Veronica, while the other were older when they were returned to their fathers and real families.

If the South Carolina Court had ruled in favor of the Capobianco's, it would have legalized kidnapping. Keep a kid long enough, and he's yours. In sum, the South Carolina Court did the right thing, not only legally, but humanely. To prevent this travesty in the future, adoption practitioners need only follow the law.
*Doing What's Best for the Tribe: Two year old 'Baby Veronica' was ripped from the only home she's known. The court made the right decision.
Baby Girl, a minor under the age of fourteen year v. Birth Father, and the Cherokee Nation

**For more on pre-ICWA practices, The Lost Child starring Mercedes Ruehl is a compelling story about an Indian woman, stolen from her native American family and adopted by a white couple, who returns to her true family. It's based on a true story. Coincidentally, Ruehl is a first mother.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is an amazing movie about the resiliency of children taken by force from their aboriginal mothers but who find their way home. Highly highly recommended. Kenneth Branagh plays the Australian bad guy. Have tissues ready.

And the book: Following an Australian government edict in 1931, black aboriginal children and children of mixed marriages were gathered up and taken to settlements to be institutionally assimilated. In Rabbit-Proof Fence, award-wining author Doris Pilkington traces the story of her mother, Molly, one of three young girls uprooted from their community in Southwestern Australia and taken to the Moore River Native Settlement. There, Molly and her relatives Gracie and Daisy were forbidden to speak their native language, forced to abandon their heritage, and taught to be culturally white. After regular stays in solitary confinement, the three girls planned and executed a daring escape from the grim camp. Order any by clicking on the icons.

From FMF:
When "best interests" of the child violate reason and decency
Fathers Day 2010: Unmarried Fathers Who Fight for their Rights to be a Dad
May the Richest Parents Win--The DeBoer Case
Biological Father Wins in Court, Again; Will the Vaughns Comply?

Favorite Adoption Quotes

Destined to be seminal in the fields of ethics and adoption, Ethics in American Adoption offers numerous case studies describing what is wrong with America's adoption system, illustrating what the lack of applied ethical standards in adoption does to adoptees and those who love them, and raising many questions about what adoption facilitators are doing, who is accountable for what they are doing, and whose interests they are serving.


  1. Wonderful resources. I loved Rabbit-Proof Fence.
    I wrote about the Veronica case myself and boy did a nasty firestorm ensue. Would love to have anyone here take a peek. Perhaps a friendlier audience.

  2. Sad to see latest update on Jake Strickland case however. That there is legally sanctioned kidnapping. I am curious at what stage did the bio dad contest adoption in the Veronica case--I guess he was was better protected than Jake bc of the federal Native American law? How is it that basic human rights are ignored for Jake? I've been following the Stickland blog since first learning of his case; I am simply devastated for him.

  3. Hey Lily Sea, great piece, thanks for posting the link here.

  4. I do believe dad's rights were preserved because of his Native American hertitage. If he did not have that to claim he would be thrown aside like many dad's or mom's that have lost their fight to keep their kids.

    If an adoptor has a baby in their home and decides whatever court orders they chose to keep the baby they
    think their rights superced the child true family. After, all they are the only family the child has ever known because of their contempt of court order.
    It's all about them and not

  5. Had the ICWA not applied in this case, it is unlikely that the adoptive parents would have lost custody of Veronica. The case was not decided based on "basic human rights" or according to South Carolina adoption laws. The adoption violated the ICWA according to the SC courts.

  6. Anon, you are probably right.

    But letting the father raise his child is also a matter of state law. In this case, he had very specific federal law on his side.

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, I didn't finish evidently.

      It's all about them (adopters) it's not even about the child as the child is used to fix them, help them feel good about themselves after all adoption is self sacrificing. Anyone that adopts is wonderful , saintly, special.
      Who cares about the adoptee what he wants or needs. It's not about the adoptees needs.
      The mother well she is just a by product once baby is born she is no longer
      needed by adopter. Or by adoptee or in their minds that's the thinking when it comes to adoption.

      We as moms know different. Our children know different.

  8. Just an aside but I've noticed how most people are horrified at the thought of twins being separated but never seem to be as equally appalled at the thought of a child being separated from her mother.

  9. In one article I read about the case it was suggested that the father had not met the SC requirements for an umarried father to establish his rights.

    In any event, the Slate article was only about the application of the ICWA.

  10. Jake Strickland's motion to intervene in the adoption was denied because he knew, by his own admission, about the birth father registry for 3 full months before the baby was born and did nothing. The legal father (the birth mother was married at the time) informed him that he relinquished his rights for an adoption, showed Jake the papers, and still Jake did nothing. Was it right what the birth mother did? No. Absolutely not. But he also did nothing for four months after the baby was born. So there is 7 months there that Jake could have done something and he didn't. Also, if Jake was so invested in getting his child back, why isn't he writing his blog? Why isn't he showing up to court? Why isn't the one attending all the House committee meetings at the Utah legislature to testify about changing the law? He's never there. It's always his mother and sister.

    I'm not saying what happened was right. And I do hope that laws are changed in Utah to make notification of the father a requirement for an adoption and not allowing birth mothers from other states to place there. But when it comes to the Strickland case, Jake did not follow the law and that is why he lost his case. Maybe it will be won on appeal and laws will be changed? Who knows. But with Utah I wouldn't count on it.

  11. So then annon..because this father didn't do the legal thing..the biology doesn't matter? Rip that baby from their father from their chid...child from REAL family FOR LIFE over 7 months? Oh wait..the adoptive parents paid more money...need to protect them don't we?

  12. I know of a case in MN where a child- who had been in a foster/adopt home - was given to the father even though she had been with the family since birth. Mother's rights were TPR and the father wanted the child even though he hadn't met her for the first 12 months of its life. It was horrendously painful for all involved - the foster mom was grieving. But the child went to her father. It was a good thing. ICWA was not involved. It took an atty, a GAL and a Judge to make sure the right thing was done. Children do best when raised by their natural parents - when at all possible.

  13. Jondy:


    Our readers are not all fluent in computer shorthand or insider lingo. thanks.

  14. the child belongs with her family, culture,father ..whomever is blood and capable of raising her correctly. sad for the adoptive parents. it is for the childs best interest to be part of her real family and culture. maybe they could give birth to their own natural child ? as always, taking what is not yours is stealing...even if you pay for it and know it has been Stolen/
    For life, family is right

  15. I have to go to court tomarrow as dcfs took coustady of my 7&1/2 mounth baby based on false accusations god i hope i can get her back! Our dcfs worker implyed that people wit disabilities can not parent or lack the abilty to have the skills to parent the mouther had let het fall off a bed too many times, but she has low vision the baby has neaver fallen im my care i am on the birth certificat but we aren't married we cleaned up/fixed the house but caseworker states nouthing is good enough



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