Veronica Brown Removed from Father UPDATED

By on 9-23-2013 in Corruption, Domestic Adoption, Dusten Brown, ICWA, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Trafficking, Unethical behavior, Veronica Brown

Veronica Brown Removed from Father UPDATED

After Oklahoma Supreme Court removed the stay at about 3 PM local time on Monday September 23, the Capobiancos went to Cherokee land to take Veronica. I fear for her emotional well-being and physical safety. The exchange happened in the dark moments ago according to Tulsa World who has been covering the story from the beginning.

Oklahoma Supreme Court

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has lifted an emergency stay in the fight for Veronica Brown, potentially opening the door for a South Carolina couple to take custody of the girl while the appeals process plays out.

At 2:40 p.m. Monday, the decision was posted to a docket sheet on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, just hours after mediation efforts ended between Veronica’s father, Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown, and Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a couple from James Island, S.C., who have been attempting to adopt his child for four years.

The failed mediation now means the case will go before the state’s Supreme Court, but apparently the Cherokee child might not be staying in Oklahoma while the appeals continue. The stay was initially issued on Aug. 30 after a Nowata County district court judge upheld a South Carolina adoption decree that awarded custody of the girl to the Capobiancos.

However, Veronica and her immediate family are currently living on trust property adjacent to the Cherokee Nation’s tribal complex in Tahlequah, which means a court order from either the Cherokee Nation or a federal court may be needed to remove the girl.

All parties involved the case are still under a gag order. It is unknown when or if Veronica Brown will be handed over to the Capobiancos, as attorneys for both Cherokee Nation and Dusten Brown filed responses with the Oklahoma Supreme Court within an hour of the stay’s dissolution.

Thanks to a court-ordered seal, the responses’ contents, along with the details from the six days of negotiations, are not public information.  However, a copy of the Supreme Court decision was posted online late Monday afternoon and shows five of the nine judges ruling to dissolve the stay.

Two ruled against dissolving, one abstained and the ninth, Justice Tom Colbert, split his decision.

In her dissent, Justice Nona Gurich cited the lack of a recent best interest hearing in her hesitance to dissolve the stay. One of the primary arguments from Cherokee Nation and the Brown family, a best interest hearing in the case has not been conducted since Veronica rejoined her biological family almost two years ago.

“More importantly, South Carolina courts failed to hold any kind evidentiary hearing concerning the best interests of Baby Girl and the likelihood of psychological harm to the child resulting from a severance of the parent-child relationship,” she wrote. “Additionally, Father’s parental rights were terminated without proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. Everything in the life of Baby Girl has changed since 2011, and therefore, I cannot join the majority’s decision to dissolve the temporary stay and to deny original jurisdiction.

“Although this is a complicated case, we should accept our legal responsibility to follow established law in making a determination having such a profound impact on the life of this child.”

It is also unclear what, if any impact, Monday’s decision to dissolve the stay will have on a decision handed down earlier this summer by the Cherokee Nation District Court that awarded guardianship of Veronica to her stepmother, Robin Brown, and her paternal grandparents, Alice and Tommy Brown. That ruling was handed down just prior to a Charleston County, S.C., family court judge finalizing the adoption decree in the Palmetto State.

In a released statement, Cherokee Nation attorney general Todd Hembree made it clear that Monday’s decision would have to be filed with the tribe’s judiciary before the Cherokee Nation takes any action.

“This order, just like any other order from a foreign jurisdiction needs to be filed for domestication with the Cherokee Nation District Court,” he said. “There is a conflicting Cherokee Nation order concerning a Cherokee Nation citizen on Cherokee Nation land. We are a sovereign nation with a valid and historic court system.

“As Attorney General, I will require that our court system be honored and respected. I took an oath when assuming this office to uphold the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Nowhere in that oath is it required that I defend the laws of South Carolina.”

The four-year-old has been living with her father in Oklahoma after spending the first two years of her life with the Capobiancos. In addition to two South Carolina courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the case has gone before judges in eight different Oklahoma courts.”

Okla. court lifts stay in Veronica case, giving Capobiancos chance to take her

{Native American Times 9/23/13 by LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON]


See the Capobianco fans and news sources on Twitter :

Stand Our Ground for Veronica Brown Facebook:

“Baby Veronica’s biological family handed over the 4-year-old girl Monday night, giving her back to the adoptive parents, multiple sources told the Tulsa World.

The child’s transfer of custody has not been confirmed on the record by Cherokee officials or any family members.

Dusten Brown’s attorney, Clark Brewster, confirmed that the Brown family was negotiating the possibility of giving up the girl late Monday.

With supporters gathering near the scene, Cherokee Nation marshals are stationed at intersections, with media and about 20 onlookers — some with signs of support for Brown — being kept about 100 yards away from the house.

Earlier in the day, after a week of negotiations failed to reach a settlement between the biological father and the adoptive parents, the Oklahoma Supreme Court cleared the way to send Veronica to South Carolina.

It’s not clear what prompted the possible handover Monday night, after Brown’s representatives had promised earlier in the day to continue pursuing legal options to keep the girl.

Brewster had confirmed that the girl may be handed over late Monday to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who would take her back to South Carolina.”

Source: Capobiancos take custody tonight of Veronica from biological father

[Tulsa World 9/23/13 by Michael Overall]

REFORM Puzzle Pieces




See the rest of our coverage herewith the most comprehensive post here.

Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown Facebook group says “They came in with armed Federal Marshalls. 6 unmarked cars. 9 marked and 2 SUVs and took her as she was screaming to stay and as an ambulance took her grandfather who didn’t get to say goodbye because he had a heartattack.” Twitter feed says Veronica was screaming “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!”


Statement from Cherokee Nation Attorney General

“TAHLEQUAH, Okla –Tonight around 7:30pm central time, Veronica Brown was peacefully and voluntarily transferred to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The transfer was completed at the will of Dusten Brown, after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted the stay of transfer of custody for four year old Veronica.

The transfer, although emotional for the Brown family, was peaceful and dignified. It was not ordered or supervised by law enforcement, rather Dusten Brown willfully cooperated with today’s order.

Dusten and his wife Robin packed two bags for Veronica, one with clothing and one with toys. Dusten told Veronica how much he and the rest of the family love her, and that he would see her again. Following their emotional goodbyes, Veronica was transported from her home by a Cherokee Nation attorney, to a location approximately a quarter mile away where the Capobiancos were waiting.

She was strapped into a car seat by that attorney, told again how much her father loved her and left with the Capobiancos.

Dusten Brown was just as brave today, as we he was when he fought for our country in Iraq. Although this is not something any parent should ever have to do, we could not be more proud of the dignity and courage with which he carried himself.

We are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today, but we will not lose hope. Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts.

We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica’s life. We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed. –Todd Hembree, Cherokee Nation Attorney General”

Photos of transfer can be seen at State court orders Baby Veronica to adoptive parents[Tulsa World 9/24/13 by Michael Overall]

“Dusten Brown told his daughter Monday night that he loved her and would see her again.

He packed two suitcases, one for clothes and one for toys, according to a source familiar with Monday night’s hand over.

Brown broke down in tears as Chrissi Nimmo, the Cherokee Nation’s assistant attorney general who had led the tribe’s fight to keep Veronica in Oklahoma, drove the girl a quarter mile to the Cherokee Marshal Service headquarters, where the adoptive parents were waiting.

Nimmo buckled the 4-year-old girl into a car seat, reminded her that her father loved her and told her that Matt and Melanie Capobianco would be nice to her.

The adoptive parents drove away, apparently escorted by three South Carolina law enforcement officials who had arrived in Oklahoma earlier in the day.

The transfer came just after 7:30 p.m. Monday, hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an order that had been keeping the girl with Brown while he appealed decisions to give her back to the Capobiancos.

With the state Supreme Court clearing the way, a lower court issued an order at 4:30 p.m. demanding that Brown surrender Veronica immediately.

The child was staying with her father and his family at a house on tribal land near Tahlequah, and the Cherokee Nation was ready to insist that the court order be “domesticated” in tribal court before handing her over to the Capobiancos, Todd Hembree, the tribe’s attorney general, told the Tulsa World.

But Brown himself decided that it was best for Veronica to go ahead with a “peaceful and respectful transfer,” Hembree said.

“Dusten proved himself to be a strong man this evening,” Hembree said. “He put aside his own desires and did what he thought was best for his daughter.

“I respect him for it.” The transfer won’t necessarily end the epic custody battle, which started when the girl was 4 months old and reached Monday’s turning point just a week after her fourth birthday. It’s not clear if Brown will get to see her in the future.

When the Capobiancos lost custody in December 2011, they appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and eventually got Veronica back. Now, Brown still has the right to continue his appeals, Hembree said.

“We will assess our legal options in the morning,” he said Monday night. “Is this over? I would say not.”

As the Brown family prepared for the hand over, an ambulance took Veronica’s grandfather to a hospital after he suffered what a source described as either a heart attack or a severe panic attack.

His condition was not known Monday night.

A few dozen supporters watched the ambulance come and go, but Cherokee marshals kept the crowd and the media about 100 yards away from the house.

Meanwhile, the Capobiancos’ spokeswoman shared photos of Veronica smiling with her adoptive parents during recent court-ordered visits.

“It was really a sweet thing to finally see after all this time,” one of the couple’s attorneys, James Fletcher Thompson, told Charleston’s Post and Courier. “The transition seemed to go without incident. That in itself is very good news for all involved.”

It’s not clear when the Capobiancos will return to South Carolina.

The state Supreme Court’s decision came after a week of negotiations had failed to reach a settlement.

Brown had been asking the Oklahoma courts to have a hearing to determine what was best for Veronica before sending her to South Carolina.

And two Oklahoma Supreme Court justices wanted that kind of hearing, too.

“Baby Girl deserves her day in court,” Justice Noma Gurich wrote in her dissenting opinion.

Justice John Reif also dissented, while Justice Tom Colbert dissented in part and concurred in part.

Justices Yvonne Kauger, Joseph Watt, James Winchester, James Edmondson and Douglas Combs voted in the majority.

Justice Steven Taylor did not vote.

The court’s decision was posted at 2:41 p.m. Monday.

By 5 p.m., the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office had received a court order from an Oklahoma district court demanding that Brown give up custody.

“The court order was directed to us, so we served it,” Undersheriff Jason Chennault said. “We gave the Browns time to say goodbye and pack some things for Veronica, some clothes and things.”

It’s not clear how Monday’s transfer of custody will affect a criminal case against Brown, who is facing extradition to South Carolina on a felony complaint of custody interference.

His attorneys have argued that he was under no legal obligation to obey the court orders from South Carolina while appealing the case in Oklahoma.

It’s also not clear how the transfer will affect a separate federal lawsuit that was filed this summer in South Carolina by a coalition of Indian rights groups.

Veronica’s civil rights were violated when South Carolina refused to consider her “best interests” before taking custody away from her Cherokee family, according to the lawsuit filed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association and other groups.

“Any other child would have had her or his best interest considered in a court of law,” said Terry Cross, the association’s executive director.

“The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”

The Capobiancos arranged a private adoption with Brown’s ex-fiancee and came to Oklahoma for Veronica’s birth in September 2009.

Brown has said he was tricked into signing away his parental rights when he thought he was only giving custody to the birth mother.

He won custody two years later, when courts in South Carolina decided that he had not given voluntary consent to the adoption.

This summer, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Brown didn’t have standing under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to keep Native American children with their tribes.

The decision required South Carolina’s courts to reconsider the case, and the Capobiancos regained custody.

Nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, however, “states or even hints” that Veronica herself didn’t have rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Oklahoma Justice John Reif wrote in his dissenting opinion Monday.

“Veronica was entitled to this special best interests inquiry and determination under the settled law of the case,” he wrote, “and as a matter of due process.”



9 a.m.: Veronica’s two sets of parents are at the Civil Court of Appeals in downtown Tulsa. They leave less than an hour later.

10:15 a.m.: A judge says a week of mediation has not produced a settlement agreement between Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, and her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

2:41 p.m.: The Oklahoma Supreme Court rescinds its ruling that kept Veronica with Brown while he appealed a South Carolina court order that required he give custody of the girl to the Capobiancos.

5 p.m.: The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office receives a court order that Brown immediately relinquish custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos.

Approximately 7 p.m.: Brown says goodbye to his daughter at the Jack Brown House, where they had lived since July on the Cherokee tribal complex in Tahlequah.

Approximately 7:30 p.m.: Veronica is taken to the Capobiancos at the Cherokee tribal headquarters.”

Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown Facebook page says “Veronica cried to stay and didn’t want to leave but she was NOT forcefully pulled from anyone. Her father did this as peaceful as he could under the circumstance. They prepared her and handed her over … It was extremely chaotic, not sure where the violent scenario came from but it did not occur that way. The two SUV’s were escorted back out by the 15 vehicles we are told were marshals, some marked and some unmarked.”

Most news stories are not reporting accurate details of the case nor the transfer.

Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family [Indian Country Today Media Network 9/24/13 by Suzette Brewer] says ”

In the end, it came down to one simple strategy: Waiting. As Dusten Brown faced the Damocles Sword of jail time and a felony warrant, Matt and Melanie Capobianco only had to wait.

Last week, as the clock was running down on the stay that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had granted him, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate even a bare minimum of visitation with his daughter. At the beginning of the week, there was a hopeful offer that included three weeks in the summer, one weekend every other month in South Carolina, and with alternating Christmases, which seemed like a solid deal. But as the parties returned to court on Wednesday morning, the Capobiancos again reneged and the negotiations started all over again.

By Friday afternoon, they made one last half-hearted offer in which Brown would get to see his daughter roughly 10 hours a month in South Carolina, with supervision. But even that, according to insiders, was not written to include any kind of enforcement.

Even before they were virtually forced into mediation in a courthouse in Tulsa last week, Dusten Brown had tried to negotiate a settlement with the Capobiancos for months, which they outright rejected.

In spite of their public proclamations that they had “always” insisted that they would allow Veronica to stay in contact with her paternal biological family, behind the scenes insiders say it was apparent to the Brown family and their lawyers that the Capobiancos weren’t interested in negotiating any kind of deal at all. This fact alone is one of the reasons Dusten Brown had fought so vociferously and publicly to force them to the negotiating table.

But even then, the negotiations were merely photo opportunities in which they were photographed arriving and leaving the courthouse in downtown Tulsa. Once inside, they had no pretense about their intentions. All they had to do was wait; no matter what Dusten Brown did or did not agree to, he was going to jail, say insiders.

After the “negotiations” failed again on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted their stay, which allowed Veronica to remain with Brown while he continued to seek legal redress in Oklahoma.

Exhausted and left with few options other than jail time and the loss of his military career and pension, he discussed her peaceful transfer with his family, legal team and tribal officials. He and his wife, Robin, packed a few bags for Veronica, who had just turned four-years-old last week. Before the family gathered to say their last goodbyes, Tommy Brown, Veronica’s grandfather, began suffering chest pains and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

At 7:30, a caravan of federal marshals made their way to the Jack Brown House in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a guest residence near the Cherokee Nation tribal complex where the Browns had been staying for several months to maintain their privacy.

Chrissi Nimmo, the assistant attorney general for the tribe, took Veronica’s hand and led her to the waiting SUV that was to take her to the Capobiancos.

After a four-year struggle to keep his daughter, one that led the shy, unassuming soldier all the way to the Supreme Court and beyond, it was over.

As the Brown family went to the hospital to visit their patriarch, the Capobiancos went on another media blitz, starting with a live interview on CNN.

As word of the transfer began to go viral, condolences for Dusten Brown and his daughter began pouring in from all over the country.

“We are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today, but we will not lose hope,” said Todd Hembree, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts.”

“Our hearts are heavy at this course of events,” said Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. “Any other child would have had her or his best interest considered in a court of law. The legal system has failed this child and American Indians as well. Our prayers are with everyone concerned, but most of all with Veronica.”

Experts say that because of Veronica’s current age, she will experience trauma and homesickness. But adult adoptees who have been watching from the sidelines are all-too-familiar with the challenges that lay ahead for a little girl who is cognizant enough to know what has transpired.

In Oklahoma, she was surrounded by her large extended family, which included her grandparents, her father and stepmother, her sister, Kelsey, from Brown’s first marriage and a chatty phalanx of half a dozen cousins, with whom she had grown close. She had made friends at pre-school and loved her pets. She was a spark of lightning with a sharp mind and quick to giggle, a girl who loved pink and shoes.

In South Carolina, Veronica will be the only child on both sides of her adoptive parents’ families. The Capobiancos, both of whom are in their mid-40s, have no other extended family nearby, save for a stepmother who was divorced from Melanie’s father before he passed away.

“This is not a win for anyone,” said a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who had been monitoring the situation since January. “And certainly not for the Capobiancos, who had the force of the court system behind them, including Chief Justice John Roberts, who is now the de facto head of the U.S. adoption industry. With this case, from which he should have recused himself, his name and legacy are forever stained with the injustice that was done to Dusten Brown, his biological daughter and Indian tribes in general. He alone pushed this case before the Supreme Court.”

Time will tell what the ultimate outcome will be for Veronica, who will undoubtedly be given the best of what the Capobiancos can afford in terms of education and the trappings of an older, upper middle income childless couple. Nonetheless, so far in her young life, she brought attention to the corrupt and broken system of illegal adoptions that are taking place every day throughout Indian Country. In spite of her removal from Oklahoma, Veronica Brown paved the way for other children to remain with their communities and families, bringing attention to the loopholes and cracks in the Indian Child Welfare Act that allow attorneys, social workers, guardian ad litems and judges to continue profiting from a very profitable industry adoption and foster care industry that traffics Native babies and children.

“We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica’s life,” said Hembree. “We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed.”

Update 2/September 22,2014:”

Phones rang nonstop. Tears flowed. An ambulance came for her grandfather, who apparently suffered a severe panic attack.

And Cherokee marshals set up roadblocks near the house to control the press and keep protesters away.

But in the chaotic final hours of the Baby Veronica saga last year, her family stayed calm in front of the girl herself.

“It was very emotional and very traumatic, but everyone did their best to not let it show around her,” remembers Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation.

When the time came, it was Nimmo who carried the 4-year-old girl away from her biological family and delivered her to the adoptive parents, who were waiting a few blocks away.

Veronica’s fate was sealed Sept. 23, 2013, a year ago this week, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a ruling that cleared the way for her to go back to South Carolina with her adoptive parents. Ending a legal tug-of-war that stretched across two states and seven courtrooms across Oklahoma, the handover came within hours of the court order.

In the year since, both families have been conspicuously absent from the limelight, steadfastly refusing or, most often, simply ignoring requests for interviews. Dusten Brown is still “in communication with” Veronica, according to sources close to the biological family, although it’s unclear what form that communication takes, or how often it happens.

Either way, just like the night of the handover, Veronica is apparently being sheltered as much as possible from the uproar that surrounds her. Because, in some ways, that uproar has never stopped.


Analyzing the arguments on both sides in early 2013, as the case was heading to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jay McCarthy thought it looked fairly simple.

Under South Carolina law, Brown wasn’t a legal parent and “this should have been a straightforward decision,” says McCarthy, an adoption attorney in Flagstaff, Ariz., who has handled hundreds of cases under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act across the country. He also chairs the ICWA committee for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Brown and Christina Maldonado were engaged to be married when she became pregnant. And Brown, according to his version of the story, wanted to move up the wedding, partly to let his National Guard benefits help with medical expenses.

But Maldonado broke off the relationship and — again, according to Brown — rebuffed all of his efforts to help during the pregnancy. Veronica was born in September 2009. She was 4 months old and already living in South Carolina before Brown found out about the adoption.

Days before deploying to Iraq in January 2010, Brown signed a document that would later become the focus of a lot of media attention. He says he was tricked into thinking he was only giving full custody to the birth mother, but in fact, the document gave up his rights for an adoption that was already in place.

Ultimately, that signature didn’t have much impact on the legal outcome. Courts in South Carolina ruled it didn’t count as “informed consent.” But the courts also decided that under state law, Brown’s consent wasn’t necessary.

Brown, however, didn’t fight the adoption under state law. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, he claimed rights under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which does require the father’s consent for an adoption.

He won in front of the South Carolina state Supreme Court, and Veronica came to Oklahoma with the Brown family in December 2011.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where McCarthy helped write an amicus brief in support of their adoption.

“The Supreme Court could have issued a very narrow opinion,” McCarthy says. “That’s what most attorneys and judges would have expected.”

Instead, when the 5-4 decision came down in June 2013, the court jumped headfirst into ICWA, and “the ruling is so broad that it affects every Indian adoption,” McCarthy says.

“And not just adoptions,” he says. “This has had a profound and far-reaching impact on cases involving children in foster care.”

ICWA was designed, in part, to prevent the breakup of an Indian family by the forced removal of children, a common practice before the law took effect in 1978. But ICWA didn’t apply to Brown, the Supreme Court decided, because he didn’t have custody of Veronica when the adoption was filed. There was no “intact Indian family” and no “continued custody” to protect.

But the court went further.

ICWA includes a set of guidelines for the “preferred placement” of an Indian child if, for whatever reason, the biological parents don’t have custody. First, the child should go to the extended family or, if suitable relatives aren’t available, to a member of the child’s tribe. The third preference is for other Native American families to take custody. Non-Indian parents are, essentially, a last resort under ICWA.

The law, however, allows a court to deviate from the preferred placement “for good cause.” Adoption attorneys have typically argued that the birth mother’s wish for an adoption is itself a good cause.

“For 30 years, we did that in every case,” McCarthy says. “The Supreme Court said we didn’t have to.”

Now, unless someone files a “competing petition” to adopt an American Indian child, ICWA’s preferred placements don’t apply, McCarthy says.

‘More awareness’

Tribes consider that a gaping loophole in a law meant to defend their sovereignty. And in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, activists vowed to lobby Congress for changes to ICWA, hoping to minimize the ruling’s impact on future cases.

Now, the law’s supporters have reconsidered.

“We don’t really want Congress touching it,” Nimmo says, “when maybe the changes wouldn’t be for the better. There are people who would want to see ICWA weakened.”

Advocates are turning to state legislatures instead, starting here in Oklahoma.

Stand Our Ground for Veronica Brown began as a Facebook page where supporters of the Brown family vented their outrage. Over time, it evolved into an organized movement that staged rallies and protests. Some members were outside the house in Tahlequah where the Brown family was staying on the night of the handover.

After that, Stand Our Ground faced an identity crisis.

“We had to ask ourselves if this was really just all about one little girl,” says Linda Kats, a professional counselor in Broken Arrow who is one of the leaders of Stand Our Ground. “Or was it more than that?”

The group dropped Veronica’s name and refashioned itself as Stand Our Ground for Children, advocating for broad adoption reforms — not just for Native Americans, but for all children.

Kats helped draft the proposed Oklahoma Truth in Adoption Act, which would require biological fathers to appear in front of a judge to relinquish rights before an adoption could proceed. The bill languished in committee this session, but a legislative commission will continue studying the issue.

The legislation, in some form, seems likely to resurface in 2015.

Adoption should be about finding parents for children who need them, not finding children for couples who want them, Kats said.

“The one positive outcome in Veronica’s case,” she says, “is that it brought more awareness, more attention, to the way our adoption laws get the issue backwards.”

Meanwhile, Veronica turned 5 on Sept. 15. Whether she knows it or not, the controversy around her will continue for many more birthdays to come.”

One year later, Baby Veronica case still resonates[Tulsa World 9/22/13 by Michael Overall]

Update 3: “Since losing the epic custody battle over “Baby Veronica,” a four-year ordeal that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Dusten Brown has steadfastly avoided media attention.

So when the girl’s biological father was invited to speak Thursday in south Tulsa, where federal officials were discussing the way Indian adoptions are regulated, he chose instead to send a written message, read aloud by an attorney.

That’s partly because Brown and his wife have a new baby boy to take care of in Nowata, an hour north of Tulsa, the attorney explained.

But it’s also because coming in person would have made a much bigger splash in the media.

And until now, Brown has avoided making even a small splash.

That he spoke out at all reflects how seriously the Cherokee Nation is taking a new set of proposed federal regulations, designed to avoid another custody case like the one over Veronica.

“Hopefully, these regulations keep other Indian children, families and tribes from suffering the heartbreak that we experienced over the last 5½ years,” Brown said.

The proposed regulations, drawn up by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs partly in response to Veronica’s situation, would tighten enforcement of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.

BIA officials came to Tulsa to hear public comments about the proposed regulations, drawing a standing room-only crowd to a hotel ballroom, where tears were sometimes shed and voices were occasionally raised during nearly three hours of emotional testimony.

Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, described the chaotic night of Sept. 23, 2013, when the Brown family handed Veronica over to her adoptive parents.

Nimmo and Veronica, then just a few days past her fourth birthday, sat on the floor playing games while her biological father agonized over a decision. Face near-certain jail time to keep the custody battle going, or send his daughter back to South Carolina?

The adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, had spent weeks going to several different courtrooms across Oklahoma to finally secure an order granting them physical custody. And Nimmo was ultimately the one who took the girl to them.

“It was a modern-day forced removal of an Indian child,” she said. “It was the opposite of everything ICWA is meant to prevent.”

The Capobiancos arranged a private adoption with Brown’s ex-fiancee and came to Oklahoma for Veronica’s birth in 2009.

About to deploy to Iraq with the Oklahoma National Guard, Brown didn’t find out about the adoption until the girl was 4 months old. And he claimed he was tricked into a signing a document that acknowledged the adoption.

With help from the Cherokee Nation, he went to court in South Carolina to argue that the adoption violated ICWA. And he initially won the case, bringing Veronica back to Oklahoma in late 2011.

The Capobiancos appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices decided in their favor. Since Brown didn’t have custody at birth, there was no “existing Indian family” to be protected by ICWA, the court decided.

Now, the BIA’s proposed regulations would specifically close the so-called “existing Indian family” loophole.

In trying to overturn a Supreme Court precedent, however, the BIA is overstepping its power, said Paul Swain, a Tulsa adoption attorney who represented the Capobiancos.

“An agency doesn’t have authority to make laws out of thin air,” Swain told BIA officials Thursday. The proposed regulations would “essentially redefine what is an Indian child and impose rules on Indian adoptions that simply don’t exist in ICWA.”

Like the Brown family, the Capobiancos have largely withdrawn from public view since taking Veronica back to the East Coast. And it seems the two families have reached some kind of understanding with each other.

Brown’s statement — his first public comments since October 2013, when he gave a tearful press conference to announce he was ending all legal challenges to the adoption — confirmed that he still has contact with the girl, although he didn’t explain what kind of contact or how often it occurs.

“Veronica, again I say to you, my home will always be your home,” Brown said. “I miss you more than words can express.””

Dusten Brown makes first public comments since ‘Baby Veronica’ custody battle[Tulsa World 5/15/15 by Michael Overall]


  1. The Capobianco’s are sick.

    • They are whisking her off to South Carolina tonight according to one source. Ugh! My heart aches for her and her REAL family. I have a bad feeling about Veronica’s safety.

  2. Yet when a blond, blue-eyed child is found with a dark-skinned couple, it makes worldwide headlines. Also note that the APs story of a birthmother voluntarily handing off her baby to strangers of a different culture without bothering with legal formalities is being received with extreme skepticism.

    Also note that the child was immediately removed from the suspected kidnappers, without any burble to the effect that it’s in the “best interests of the child to remain with the only family she knows”, even if the biological parents didn’t legally surrender her.

    • Update on the blonde Roma girls:

      DNA testing showed that the seven-year-old Irish girl WAS the biological child of her Roma parents, and she has been restored to them. (I hadn’t known that she’d been taken into state care before the DNA tests even came back, but I hadn’t followed her story as closely.)

      In Maria’s case, a Bulgarian Roma(!) couple with several blonde children has come forward claiming to be Maria’s birthparents. Their names are Sasha Ruseva and Atanas Rusev, and the mother reportedly told a neighbor that she’d sold the girl in Greece for $350.

      Well, if the birthparents are also Roma, that DOES explain why they’d choose to place her with another Roma couple. Not why the Salises initially lied about her being adopted, though. The story doesn’t relate whether DNA testing is complete yet.

      But if the Rusevs are proven to be Maria’s biological parents and verify the Salises story, it’ll be interesting to see what the Greek government does. Will they allow Maria to go back to the Salises on the condition that a legal adoption is completed? Or re-patriate her to the Rusevs in Bulgaria?

      Or will they moralistically proclaim that BOTH sets of parents have lost all legal claim to the girl for their law-breaking, and flog their hot adoption property to the highest-bidding agency so that she can be placed with a “proper” family? As you can tell, I’m feeling a bit cynical right now.

    • Update: It has been confirmed that Sasha Ruseva and her husband Atanas Rusev ARE Maria’s biological parents. Sasha Ruseva admits giving the girl to the Salises, but denies taking any payment from them. She would like Maria back, though she already lives in desperate poverty with her other nine children in a one-room mud floor house with an unfinished roof.

      As expected, the Bulgarian government has expressed its willingness to take Maria back and pay for her to be cared for in a foster family, rather than offer financial assistance to the Rusevs, who at least speak her native language. Hey, she’s a blonde girl with celebrity status– ergo prime adoption material. Who cares if she has to leave everything she knows and learn a new language from scratch? /sarc/

      Rather than that, I think the Greek government should allow the Salises to continue parenting her, since their story has been proved out and they seem to have cared for her lovingly. That is, since the various allegations of abuse are contradictory and ever-changing, I’m assuming no one has come up with anything solid impugning them. Though I believe Greek social services should continue to monitor them closely– AND see that she goes to school.

    • New twist in the Maria Salis/Stanka Ruseva case– Saska Ruseva denies ever meeting Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulo. Instead she says she gave her baby daughter to a Bulgarian woman with dyed blond hair who offered to care for her until the Rusevs were able to. This woman gave them a phone number to call when they wanted their child back, But when the Rusevs called the number after returning to Bulgaria, it was “turned off”.

      So– are the Salises lying, or did they believe this faux blonde woman to be Maria’s birthmother?

      I just hope this story opens people’s minds and hearts to the reality of how poor, uneducated parents are exploited by the lucrative world of adoption trafficking. PAPs should think hard about what lies behind that soothing, no-fault explanation “Her parents gave her up because they were too poor to care for her”.

    • Annnddd it’s official: An American PAP has offered to adopt Maria. Check the comment left by “Richard smith”[sic] on this story:

      “…Tracey, My wife and I offered to adopt Maria in the US. With all the responsibilities and expences incurred . It would have been a blessing. A priceless experience…”

      If you click on his name, you’ll see he first mentioned adopting her 6 days ago– I think that would have been around 10-26-13. He first wondered if this angelic-looking girl was “well-behaved”. Hello! The kid’s gonna have MASSIVE PTSD from what she’s been through, AND without being able to express her feelings in her native language, you can pretty much predict she’s going to do some intense acting out.

      Well, at least the Greek government seemed unimpressed by this random American couple offering to take their marquee child off their hands, so THAT particular train wreck was averted.

      Of course, Bulgaria is now a major “sending country” to rescue PAPs, so we can only hope it remains averted. Still, they apparently had enough sense to say “No!” to Denise Davis in her quest to adopt a replacement for poor Gennie, who died from her AP’s stupidity, so there’s cause for optimism.

  3. @Astrim Ymris
    It’s true that Roma people in Europe suffer from prejudice but there is more to this story than a cultural battle. The couple is being investigated for a big fraud to the Greek welfare agency.
    “Police allege the woman said she gave birth to six children in less than 10 months, while 10 of the 14 children the couple had registered as their own were not found. Investigators said it is unclear whether all the children exist or were falsified to qualify for child care payments from the Greek welfare system. Police say the two suspects received about $3,420 a month in subsidies from three different cities where they had registered the children.” Very fishy..

  4. Source for it (but you could find the same in many European newspapers).

    • not so simple,

      BTW, I found this news story, too.

      Aside from the casual way the Roma woman talks about children being “bought for adoption all the time”, don’t the rationalizations given sound eerily similar to the ones Laura Silsby and her defenders advanced? “Yes, this was technically illegal, but the birthparents willingly surrendered the child so that she could have a better life! Ignore the fact that there’s no documentation that the putative birthparents DID know they were permanently giving up their child to the APs, because the people who had the child were obviously trying to do something good.”

      The Roma interviewee gave no explanation as to why the APs lied that this was their biological child at first, or why this Bulgarian birthmother didn’t place her child with Bulgarian APs who shared her language and culture so that she could visit and speak with her daughter. She also doesn’t explain why– if the APs were so benevolent and good-hearted– they didn’t give assistance to the Bulgarian birthmother so that she could parent her OWN child.

  5. A blonde, blue eyed, seven year old girl has been removed from a Roma family in Dublin today

    • just so,

      I saw that, though so far DNA tests haven’t definitively settled the issue in the case of the the Irish girl. The fact that the hospital where she was supposedly born has no record of her birth is suspicious, though.

      It makes me wonder how many Roma kids with less dramatic coloring might also be no kin to their putative parents. Heck, it makes me wonder how many non-Roma parents may have bought… excuse me, “paid adoption fees for”… children without bothering with any legal formalities, and just claiming them as biological offspring. Let’s face it, most people aren’t going to ask awkward questions about a lack of family resemblance between a kid and their supposed parents.