There is one thing I understand in Adoptive Couple vs Baby Girl, which is currently being heard by the Supreme
Court: If Veronica was the daughter of rich white folks, we would not even be talking about her in the first place. Ain’t no rich kids embroiled in messy adoption.
But Veronica is the daughter of Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee nation, and Christy Maldonado, an Oklahoma resident. At some point, their relation turns sour. According to Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indian (NCAI), when Brown learnt about the pregnancy, he asked Maldonado to marry him, move with him in a military housing – Brown is a military- and quit her job. He pledged to financially support her and their unborn child.
That’s not the Nina Totenberg’s version of the story, tough. According to Totenberg, Brown texted Maldonado he was giving up his parental rights and would not support the girl. Maldonado then decided to put up the child for adoption. Through an agency, Maldonado found a couple she liked, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Through her lawyer, she notified the Cherokee nation, but not Dusten. Why? There is a law, the Indian Child Welfare Act from 1978, that prevents Indians, who have been stolen everything, to have their children taken away by adoptive parents with the blessing of family courts always eager to work in “the best interest of the child,” understood as a childhood outside Indian nations. This law establishes that in case neither parent can claim custody, preference should be given to other Indian family members.
What bugs me with Totenberg’s story (and also, to some extent, Adam Liptak’s from the New York Times) is that Brown would have renounced his father’s rights to Maldonado and then changed his mind, when Maldonado renounced hers to the adoptive parents. That’s an interesting piece of news: we fathers have parental rights we can just forfeit through text message. Second nugget: the adoption lawyers working on the case knew Brown was a Cherokee and knew about the Indian Child Welfare Act; they were also lawyers seeking to win. Hence when they inquired if Veronica was an Indian Child, the paper they submitted to the tribe had Brown’s first name misspelled, and the wrong date of birth. At this point, the adoption case moves to South Carolina, where the Capobiancos live. Last but not the least telling information about the way US family laws value parental rights, especially fathers’ rights: just before he ‘s about to be deployed in Irak, Brown is served with the paper about the adoption of his daughter, Veronica. Minor detail. The striking thing of the story is that without the Indian Child Welfare Act, Brown would be fried. The case would not be before the Supreme Court.
Is it too much to ask – for children’s sake- that regardless of race, income, religion, sexual orientation etc… adoption require the formal consent of both living birth parents before any procedure be undertaken?