A fascinating story that got buried by other news today was another Supreme Court ruling in a case called Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.
The adoptive couple in the case are Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The baby girl is Veronica. The Capobiancos adopted Veronica when she was a newborn through an open adoption agreement with her biological mom. Her biological dad, Dusten Brown, was estranged from her biological mom at the time of the adoption. Throughout the length of the court proceedings, Brown has argued that he didn’t know Veronica was being put up for adoption and once he learned about it, he fought the adoption.
Veronica’s biological dad is part Cherokee. Veronica herself is 1.3% Cherokee. Because she has Cherokee blood, her adoption case fell under a 1978 law called the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA gave Veronica’s biological dad special rights to challenge her adoption, which he did.
A South Carolina court granted custody of Veronica to her biological dad after she had been living with her adoptive parents for the first two years of her life. The Capobiancos were forced to give her up. But they appealed that decision and today the Supreme Court ruled in their favor in an interesting 5-4 split that has Justice Scalia siding with Justices Kagan, Sotomayor and Ginsburg.
It can be tempting to look at court cases in terms of clear winners and losers. In this case, even now, even with a Supreme Court ruling, it feels difficult to say absolutely definitively, who is in the right and who is in the wrong here.
The public radio show Radio Lab reported on this case beautifully. One of their producers, Tim Howard, interviewed all the principles including a rare interview with Veronica’s biological dad, who is the person most often vilified in the retelling of this story. This is a fascinating and heart breaking story and just a really wonderful radio piece. Listen to Radio Lab’s story below and take a look at their lengthy collection of research links here.