Tribal Rights and Child Custody in the Supreme Court

Baby Veronica is has been the subject of much debate recently because of her unusual circumstance. When she was a baby, her biological mother gave her up for adoption, as she was unwed and the biological father signed away custody of the child to not pay support.

Once the baby was born in 2009, she was placed with a South Carolina couple who raised her for two years until she was suddenly taken from them. Biological father, Dusten Brown had a sudden change of heart come 2011 and decided to fight to get his daughter back. The state of South Carolina quickly denied his motion because he was considered an absentee father in the eyes of the law.

Brown was then able to get his child back because of the Indian Child Welfare Act and aid from the Cherokee Nation. Brown is 3/128th Native American and was therefore able to take back the child despite his past.

The Child Welfare Act was created in 1978 as a way to keep Native American families together by placing barriers on adoptions outside of the tribe. Many of the children decades ago were being taken from their families and being placed into foster care with non-native people, an act they cited as “shameful”.

Baby Veronica is only 1.12% Cherokee, and her mother is Hispanic, but critics are opposed to putting race and tribal origins in front of a child’s well being  Psychologists say that removing a toddler from their home can cause severe psychological trauma in their future, but because of the Child Welfare Act it is not an uncommon practice.

The outcome of this case will likely be a big determinant for the future of other children who will face similar challenges.

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