The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a petition for rehearing and reiterated in the strongest terms that a Native American child must be returned to her adoptive parents.
Eighteen months ago the state court ordered 2-year-old Veronica removed from her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, and turned over to her biological father, Dusten Brown. The Capobiancos had adopted the child at birth, and provided what all agreed was a good home. The state court said it was acting reluctantly in transferring custody but was required to do so under a federal law aimed at keeping Native American families together.
In June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that since Brown, the biological father, had refused to provide financial support for the biological mother and child when told of the pregnancy — and because he had renounced his parental rights at that time — he could not later object to the adoption. The high court rejected Brown's argument that the Indian Child Welfare Act trumped state law in such circumstances.
The justices ordered the case remanded to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which subsequently, earlier in July, ordered the child returned to the adoptive parents. Brown then petitioned for rehearing, and at the same time initiated proceedings in the tribal court in Oklahoma, where he lives.
But on Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered the adoption finalized and told the family court to transfer custody of the child to the adoptive parents, using whatever transition plan is in the best interests of the child.
When Veronica was taken from the Capobiancos 18 months ago, there was no transition period, and she cried and screamed when taken away. The Capobiancos have proposed a one- to two-week transition in Oklahoma before taking full custody and have offered to let Brown visit his daughter in South Carolina.
Brown's lawyers have said they plan to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop any transfer of custody, but few expect that effort to be successful.