Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON The US Supreme Court announced on Friday its decision to review "Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl" may prove to become a test of the Indian Child Welfare Act that was passed by Congress in 1978 due to the large number of American Indian children that were removed from their homes.
Cherokee Baby Girl v. US Supreme Court
At issue is the custodial preference of a three-year old Cherokee girl who was illegally adopted by a South Carolina couple at birth. According to court documents, the natural mother, who is non-Native concealed the fact that the baby was American Indian.
The father, Dusten Brown, and the child's mother never married even they were engaged prior to the birth of the child. The engagement was broken off and Brown was deployed to Iraq where he earned a Bronze Medal. Brown is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
For a span of time Brown was unaware his child was put up for adoption. It was discovered that the adoption papers never disclosed Brown was a tribal citizen.
Upon his return from active duty, Brown went to court seeking custody of Veronica, using the Indian Child Welfare Act. He won in court.
Last summer, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that granted custody to the Cherokee father in a 73 page decision.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association issued the following statement on Friday:
In response to the decision of the United States Supreme Court to review Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl:
Today the United States Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari in the v. Baby Girl case where a couple in South Carolina unlawfully attempted to adopt an American Indian child, Veronica, in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Veronica's loving father, Dusten Brown, is a decorated Iraq war veteran who has been fighting for custody of his daughter since learning of the proposed adoption while trying to honor his responsibilities to his country while in military service.
The questionable practice of placing American Indian and Alaska Native children away from their extended families and communities persists today as illustrated by this case.
Today's decision only reaffirms the National Indian Child Welfare Association's commitment to continue working with our partners and our broad coalition of supporters to demand full compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
We are confident that as the United States Supreme Court delves more deeply into this case they will uphold this important law and that Baby Veronica will remain with her loving father and extended family in Oklahoma.
The US Supreme Court did not have hear to this case, but did so because of its national implications according to Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law.
“It didn't have to, but it decided that it's an important enough case with national implications that it would review it. And since about 70 percent of cases it hears it reverses, it stands to reason that most grants are made with an eye toward reversing the lower court,”
posted January 5, 2013 8:50 am est