Baby Veronica case twisting toward a child custody resolution

The case of “Baby Veronica” is staying stubborn against final resolution. One court outside of Texas recently said the baby can stay with the natural father pending a further decision on child custody. The home state of the adoptive parents ordered that the baby be returned to the adoptive parents, and the governor of that state has issued extradition papers against the biological father to have him return to that state to face criminal obstruction charges.

He was arrested on the extradition papers but released a few hours later on bond, a procedure that is unusual and inexplicable. All of this has occurred in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the Indian Welfare Act did not apply to give the father, a registered Cherokee, any special custody rights in the child. The Court remanded the case without clear-cut instructions.

The father, who is a very small percentage American Indian, claimed that the adoption in South Carolina violated the Act by not recognizing Indian rights when an Indian baby is involved. The child herself has an extremely small amount of American Indian blood. In any event, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed all of that argument as being inapplicable to this situation.

The justices ruled the adoption to be proper and said it didn’t intrude on the father’s rights. The court said the father could not rely on the Indian Child Welfare Act for relief because he never had legal or physical custody at the time of adoption proceedings. The case pits the rights of American Indians to not have their children taken off the reservation and adopted, against the rights of adoptive parents to have finalization of a duly completed adoption.

Veronica’s birth mother expressed satisfaction when the high court ruled in June. She says that the adoptive parents have treated her like a part of their family. A point against the father’s crusade for child custody, both to observers here in Texas and nationwide, would probably be the fact that he signed off his rights in the child early in the adoption in return for not having to pay child support. He later changed his mind, saying he didn’t know that there was an adoption.

Source: CNN, New twist in Native American child custody dispute, Bill Mears, Sept. 3, 2013