January 8th, 2012
12:14 AM ET

Indian family protection law central to emotional custody battle

For the first few moments of her life, Veronica was with her birth mother.

For the next two years, she was with her adoptive parents.

And for the last week, the toddler has been with her biological father, over 1,000 miles away from the only home she'd ever known.

It's been a long, complicated journey for young Veronica - one made possible by a federal law meant "to protect the best interests of Indian children" that, in the process, has tugged at the heartstrings of all involved.

The story began in 2009, when Veronica's biological mother and father, Dusten Brown, signed a legal document agreeing to put the girl up for adoption. Brown's attorney, Shannon Jones, says that her client signed the waiver but didn't quite understand it.

Soon after the girl was born, Brown - a U.S. Army soldier - headed off on a 1-year deployment.

It was then that the baby moved on as well, to the Charleston, South Carolina, home of Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

It was an open adoption, family friend Jessica Munday said. That meant the girl's birth mother could and did maintain a relationship with the girl.

But Brown, the biological father, wasn't on board. Four months after Veronica's birth, he began legal proceedings seeking custody of her.

"My client has been fighting for custody of his daughter since shortly after her birth," Shannon Jones, Brown's Charleston-based lawyer, said by e-mail. "He loves this child with all his heart."

Brown appeared to win that battle late last year. On New Year's Eve, he arrived in South Carolina, picked up Veronica from her adoptive parents, and headed west to his home in Oklahoma.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. joe

    it took me 3 years to get my girl she is five now! the corts do move to slow. the familey she was with does not get to talk to her now.couse thay played the same game of not letting me se or talk to her for a year.and when we went to court thay said she did not know me!!!!

    January 8, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Sonia

      You're practically illiterate.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jazzy

    @ JOE, Every girl should have a Father like you that loves them. 🙂

    January 8, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |

    @joe... i can't even imagaine the pain you went thru... having a baby stolen from you and raised by baby nappers... .
    i'm sure glad you got her back..

    January 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike S.

    If you adopt a child there is always this possibility. You should consider this before adopting. Maybe that is why may go over seas. The biological father certainally does not have his child's best interest at heart. Just it is mine mine mentality. So sorry for the parents. Hopefully they can get it over turned.

    January 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lwg

    Good job father,,, its patience on ,y part i didnt have to fight for custody. They just came to me , so im lucky,after 5 years of divorce, my girls continously asked me when can we live with you? My response was when the time is right youll know!! So one mom got drunk and that was it they have not looked back

    January 8, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lwg

    Yes joe its painfull all right. The judge gave my ex custody and the x is on several meds for psych issues so of course the judge felt sorry for her .but never thought of the out come for the children its hard when you have a legal right to see your children and the mother schedules something on top of you , and the kids think you dont care any more will one day that changed and the girls got smart on there mother ,let us see dad or else well turn you in for vioilating the court papers and wala ere we are

    January 8, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. Saoirse

    People should never sign anything that they don't read or fully understand. I hope everything works out alright for this kid and she's not tossed back and forth between the adults that are fighting over her.

    January 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CLawson1955

    We all know the biological father wanted nothing to do with Veronica or her mother at the beginning. What father would not want to be there for his own daughters birth? The adoptive parents loved her and raised her as their own for two and a half years, they are all Veronica has ever known. This is such an injustice to both them and Veronica. This sweet little girl deserves to be with parents that wanted her from the beginning. I believe in my heart that she will be with them again soon. I will continue to pray for them.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • boisegee

      According to his lawyer, the mother blocked calls and visitors to the hospital at the time of birth. The adoptive parents were notified when the child was 4 months old, not 2 years old, that he was contesting the adoption. Their adoption attorney should have pointed out that the adoption had not been finalized by the court and was not in compliance with federal law. The child could have been returned to her father when she was months old.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mlindsey

    The icwa was abused in this, and many other, case. Veronica's best interests should have been the primary concern of the courts. This law needs to be abolished and Veronica needs to be returned to the only parents she has ever known. To the parents that have been there for her every need since the day she was born.

    January 9, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. PCVA

    The father knew what he was doing when he signed the papers. This isn't his first rodeo with a child. He's also a grown man who should think about what he is doing to the baby and to the adoptive parents and to the adoption processs. Was he "tricked" into signing on with the military. I think not.

    January 9, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Iron Creek

    Before congratulating the "father", ask him a few questions such as, "Do you have any other children and have you tried to get custody of them?" "Have you ever been involved in, or arrested and convicted for, involvement in any type of actions involving controlled substances?" "What percent Native American are you and what is the cultural heritage of the birth mother?" In other words, get the facts!

    January 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • boisegee

      You could ask the US Military, since he spent the past year serving his country in a tour of duty in Iraq. I guess he needs to prove his worth in order to parent his child. But we don't take children from their parents because someone else may be smarter, or richer. The standard is whether the person is a fit parent. Whenever the argument but we're married, but we have more money, but we can give her a better life, you know that they are trying to take a child from a fit parent.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. CJ Merry

    None of what were talking about here matters and this story is a scam and shame on CNN for making it look this way. If the father signed off his rights in the first place he still would have had to state his ethnicity. The main reason is that anyone in law and especially in Family Court knows about this law and that Native American Children can not be adopted out without notifying the Tribe of that child. They would have to be notified and here that clearly was not the case until after the father posed interest. For all we know the bio mom may not have even told him knowing that she might get stuck paying child support or for other reasons. Maybe she believes he is violent, maybe she is psychologically unbalanced. Either way this story is meant to have us sympathies with the adoptive parents when clearly there lawyer failed. You can tell by looking at the child that it would be suspect that this child is Native American. So what's the deal?

    February 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Becky Nettleton

    I feel Vernoca was loved by her South Carolina family but, beileive Oklahoma will be a great place to grow up. Cherokees are different than Indians in the Wester US. I am a Non-indian who grew up in Oklahoma. There is a museum in Barlesville started by Frank Phillips an Cherokee who founded Phillipps Petrroleum, Will Rogers memorial is close. She is not asking the questions ,now. She would eventially ask questions about where she came. It is confusing and many need to know wherre they are from. The Social Worker and Judge felt like the llaw did not apply. WRONG. I wish both families happiness

    July 27, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Elizabeth Williams

    My question is will this father receive money from the indian reservation and if this is the case is this the reason he finally filed to get custody of child?

    July 30, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |