Many readers may have heard of the now-famous “Baby Veronica” adoption case, in which a child of Cherokee birth became the center of an incredibly long and complex series of child custody litigation. Thankfully, after four years of hearings and judgments, the issue has finally been resolved.
The case began in 2009, when a Hispanic woman put her infant daughter up for adoption. The child was swiftly adopted by a couple from South Carolina. The girl’s biological father, however, objected to the adoption. He sued to have the girl brought into his custody.
The legal basis for this action was the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which was passed in part to ensure that Native American parents could prevent losing custody of their children. The law gives Native Americans the right to prevent the forceful removal of their children from their household.
As both father and daughter were part Cherokee, the adoption was halted. The South Carolina family then contested the decision, stating that the biological father had never had custody of baby Veronica, and thus could not assert his rights under the Child Welfare Act.
What followed was a four-year slog through several courts and court decisions. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the adoptive couple, though the biological father still did not turn over custody. The issue was finally put to rest earlier this month, as the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the child must be given over the adoptive family. They are now free to return to South Carolina at any time.
Observers here in Minnesota have been viewing the case with interest, especially due to our relatively high Native American population. Though legal experts are unsure exactly how the law would be applied in our state, the legal precedents set by the historic court case will likely simplify any Native American adoptions in the future. Thankfully, this case was not the norm, as child custody cases should normally settled quickly, because lengthy litigation rarely serves the best interests of the child.
MPR, “After ‘Baby Veronica’ case, a look at Minnesota’s tribal adoptions” No Author Given, Sep. 25, 2013