Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
PORTLAND, OREGON As more American Indians became aware of Thursday's episode of the Dr Phil show that focused on the disputed custody case involving a young Cherokee girl named Veronica, outrage has mounted in Indian country at Dr Phil's lack of understanding and insensitivity of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Dr Phil Ignored the Fraudulent Process
Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under the Indian Child Welfare Act was to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families."
Dr Phil hosted the Capobiancos, a South Carolina a non-Indian couple who lost their rights to young Veronica after her biological Cherokee father fought to get her back. The truth of the matter, the biological non-Indian mother unscrupulously worked with the Capobiancos so they could adopt her. Her father is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Veronica's biological parents never married even though they were engaged. Soon thereafter, he was deployed to Iraq where he was awarded a Bronze Medal.
Veroinca's biological father has been continuously erroneously portrayed as a deadbeat father, which is not true.
However, Dr Phil took up the band wagon for the adoptive parents on Thursday.
On Saturday, the National Indian Child Welfare Association issued this statement:
Veronica's father, who has been relentlessly vilified in the media as a "deadbeat dad" is, in fact, a loving parent and a decorated Iraq war veteran. Rather than acknowledge his right to protect his daughter from a media firestorm that has proven deeply biased, the Dr Phil show instead allowed personal attacks on his character and speculation on his parenting - from those who admittedly have had no contact with him - to continue unchallenged. We find these attacks unsupported by court records and unacceptable.
Veronica's pre-adoptive placement was kept secret by her mother and attorneys representing the Capobiancos. Her placement with them was not revealed to Veronica's father for four months - just days before he was sent to Iraq. Upon learning of his daughter's proposed adoption, the father quickly moved to affirm his rights to parent Veronica. After three decisions supporting his rights in the South Carolina courts, he has been parenting her since January 2012.
Dr Phil and several of his guests ignored the fraudulent process attorneys representing the Capobiancos used to help them gain custody of Veronica during their unsuccessful attempt to adopt her. That Veronica is American Indian was known by the Capobiancos and their attorneys, as was the fact that any adoptive process involving her would be covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Instead of delving into why the Capobiancos were advised to circumvent the law, putting Veronica at high risk, Dr Phil instead chose to rebuff the two guests with the most knowledge of this case and experience in such matters, Assistant District Attorney of the Cherokee Nation Chrissi Nimmo and Les Marston, attorney and tribal judge.
The show's characterization of the Indian Child Welfare Act was also filled with misinformation and inaccuracies. The Indian Child Welfare Act is a law that has helped protect thousands of American Indian children and keep them with their families. Veronica's story illustrates the clear ongoing need for federal protections like the Indian Child Welfare Act for American Indian children who continue to be the victims of questionable, and sometimes illegal, attempts to adopt them out.
posted October 22, 2012 8:20 am edt