The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of the adoptive parents of baby Veronica, the adopted daughter of a South Carolina family that has fought to maintain custody of the toddler.
Veronica's biological father, Cherokee Nation tribe member Dusten Brown, argued in court that the toddler's mother gave her up for adoption without his consent. Initially the South Carolina Supreme Court sided with him.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the adoptive parents Tuesday 5-4, saying he was a non-custodial parent and he could not invoke his parental rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The federal law gives tribes and relatives a say in decisions affecting children with Native American heritage, but as a non-custodial parent the law doesn't apply to Veronica's biological father, ruled the Supreme Court.
According to a Cherokee Nation spokesperson, Veronica, who is now 3 years old, will remain in her father's care while the case returns to a lower court.
Below is an excerpt of the Supreme Court's ruling:
The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted to help preserve the cultural identity and heritage of Indian tribes, but under the State Supreme Court’s reading, the Act would put certain vulnerable children at a great disadvantage solely because an ancestor—even a remote one—was an Indian. As the State Supreme Court read §§1912(d) and (f ), a biological Indian father could abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother—perhaps contributing to the mother’s decision to put the child up for adoption—and then could play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother’s decision and the child’s best interests. If this were possible, many prospective adoptive parents would surely pause before adopting any child who might possibly qualify as an Indian under the ICWA. Such an interpretation would raise equal protection concerns, but the plain text of §§1912(f ) and (d) makes clear that neither provision applies in the present context. Nor do §1915(a)’s rebuttable adoption preferences apply when no alternative party has formally sought to adopt the child. We therefore reverse the judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
See the complete ruling here: http://bit.ly/147o7hZ
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