Jun 252013
 

Therese's baptism 1994

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) issued the following statement today in response to the
United States Supreme Court’s decision in
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl:
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The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is relieved that the IWCA was rightfully limited today. This opinion confirms that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply where an Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child. The case has been sent back to the South Carolina Supreme Court because the State Court had erred in its reading of the federal law. Although we are deeply disappointed that this case is not over, Matt & Melanie will continue to fight for their daughter and we believe that they will prevail and Veronica will return to her family.

There is more work to do. CAICW further appreciates the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas in his citing of the work of Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute, concerning the unconstitutionality of the ICWA.

Apr 142013
 

Baby VeronicaChristinna Maldonado chose Matt and Melanie Capobianco to love, nurture, and raise her soon-to-be-born child. The Capobiancos had long wanted to be parents and after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts, made the decision to enter into an “open adoption” of Baby Veronica. On all accounts. Veronica was a happy, thriving, child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. To this day, Maldonado remains committed to her choice.

On or around Jan. 4, 2010, Dusten Brown, the biological father, signed away custody of his daughter in exchange for not having financial responsibility. Brown later changed his mind and sought custody of Veronica. Initially, due to South Carolina law, he was denied standing because he was considered an absentee father.

However, because he was 3/128th Cherokee heritage, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to Brown under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. Baby Veronica, only 1.12% Cherokee heritage, was ordered removed from the Capobianco’s care and placed in Dusten Brown’s custody. On Dec. 31, 2011, despite abundant evidence from child psychologists and attachment experts that removing toddlers from care-givers they’ve bonded to could cause long-lasting psychological damage, Veronica was handed over to her biological father.

Though supporters of ICWA say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it – many of whom have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs. Some opponents of ICWA question the motivation for seeking after children whose families have chosen to be disconnected from Indian Country. The Cherokee Nation alone had over 100 attorneys targeting some 1,500 children across the country in 2012.

Now Veronica’s case has reached the highest level. On February 26, 2013, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Matt, Melanie and Veronica. SCOTUS will hear testimony of the case on April 16th and will make a ruling by the end of the term in June 2013.

CAICW is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision made by the high court of South Carolina and return Baby Girl Veronica to the Capobiancos, family chosen for her by her birth-mother. The statutory and constitutional issues addressed in this case impact the equal protection, due process, liberty, and state rights provisions of children in need of care. A child’s best interests should be considered in every child custody determination. There is no presumption that residing with members of a child’s tribe is in the child’s best interests, particularly when the child is lives off the tribe’s reservation. Further, tribal governments lack inherent jurisdiction over nonmembers. Application of the federal ICWA to cases involving the parents who are not tribal members violates the equal protection provision of the U.S. constitution, even if a non-member parent lives within reservation boundaries.

If you have any doubts to the how justice should rule in this case – consider Christinna, who is 50% Hispanic (if her heritage isn’t important, but another persons supposed minute heritage is, isn’t that….racism?)

SHE was the one in the position of being an unwed mother – told by the biological father that he was not going to help support the baby she was carrying. No one else in this case was in that position. (But if what she went through isn’t important, but the father’s belated “pain” is, isn’t that….sexism?)

Then imagine if this had been your daughter, sister, or niece who had made the mistake of sleeping with a man who later refused to help with a child. Now pay attention. This man appeared to be Caucasian. So at some point he mentioned that he has Cherokee ancestry. However, in the time your daughter was with him, he never made an issue about being Indian, practiced anything traditional, or gave any cause to assume he was anything other than the myriad other Caucasians across the United States who claim to have Cherokee blood. Yes, those people of minute heritage who many tribal members of significant heritage mock as “wannabe” Indians.

Now, imagine you and the rest of your family had supported her decision to move ahead with adoption and helped her find a good home for this child. Then imagine a tribal government coming in weeks, months or years later, and telling the courts that this man has 3/128th heritage, and based on this tiny bit of blood quantum, this man many tribal members would have mocked if it weren’t for Veronica – is now “Indian” and they are there to invalidate the decision your family had made.

What the Cherokee Nation is pushing for and the South Carolina Supreme Court erroneously overlooked – is that any woman, of any heritage, who sleeps with any man of any apparent heritage – even a one night stand – CANNOT go ahead with an adoption without somehow ensuring that this man does not have a smidgen of tribal heritage.

WHAT does this kind of ruling do for the rights of women – of unwed mothers? What kinds of hoops will teenage girls now have to go through if the Supreme Court rules for the tribal governments? Where is the outrage from women’s groups over this case?

And yet – no one would say a thing of she opted to abort her baby instead. The tribal government wouldn’t – couldn’t stop her from doing that. Just consider the ramifications of a tribal government victory in this case.

Our Families are NOT Chattel for tribal governments – no matter how many claim them to be. As parents, we will continue to fight for full rights and freedom for our families – every one of whom is a United States Citizen – even if this Supreme Court makes the wrong decision.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, former Chair, US Commission on Civil Rights (1989) & Emeritus Professor, Political Science MSU, “… we are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…”

 

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY NOW THROUGH TUESDAY – for Veronica, her parents, and all involved with this important decision.

 

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country: A Family Journey From Self-Destruction To Opposing Tribal Sovereignty.”

Jul 262012
 

Veronica RoseCharleston, SC [7/26/12]

by Jessica Munday, Trio Solutions:

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled today that the 2-year-old adoptive daughter of Matt and Melanie Capobianco will remain with her biological father Dusten Brown. After seven months of living without her, the Capobiancos of Charleston, SC received word that South Carolina’s high court ruled in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law that allowed Brown and the Cherokee Nation to retain custody of the child on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Despite public outcry that the child should be returned to her adoptive parents, the federal law granted the Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a registered member, the ability to argue that the child is best served with her father’s tribe.

The law was originally intended to preserve Native American culture by keeping Indian children with native families as opposed to non-Native American families. Even though Brown would not be considered a parent by state law because of his lack of support to the birth mother during and after the pregnancy, Christina Maldonado of Oklahoma, the federal law trumps her wishes to select a non-Native family to raise her child.

Brown filed for paternity and custody four months after the child was born in September 2009. He filed for custody with Oklahoma family court. The case was dismissed and jurisdiction was granted to South Carolina. Brown eventually utilized the Indian Child Welfare Act to remove Veronica from her adoptive family on New Year’s Eve. The Capobiancos immediately appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

After learning about the Capobianco’s case, the author of the law, former U.S. Senator Jim Aborzek of South Dakota, was quoted in Charleston’s daily newspaper The Post and Courier as saying this situation is “something totally different than what we intended at the time.” Additionally, he said, “That’s a tragedy. They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume the child was attached to them.”

The adoption case caught national attention on New Year’s Eve when the Capobiancos were forced to hand over the toddler to Brown. The way the family court handled Veronica’s transfer sparked outrage from child advocacy and mental health communities around the country. Prior to the transfer, the 2-year-old had never met Brown. He refused offers for a transition period, placed the toddler in a pick-up truck and drove more than 1,100 miles from the only family the child had ever known.

Oral arguments were heard on April 17. The court hearing was closed to the public. All parties involved in the case remain under a gag order until clearance from their legal team.

Contact: Jessica Munday

jessica@trio-solutions.com

843-708-8746

Jan 262012
 

Haley Hernandez Reports on the Veronica Petition - 20,000 Signatures
Reporter Haley Hernandez followed @Save_Veronica to Columbia today, look who they spoke with about the Indian Child Welfare Act … http://ping.fm/MWk43

Delivering the Petition with 20,000 signatures to South Carolina leaders –

By: Haley Hernandez | WCBD

On New Year’s Eve, Jessica Munday watched helplessly as her close friends, Matt and Melanie Capobianco were forced to hand over their adopted little girl, Veronica, to her birth father.

Now Munday and Stephanie Brinkley (a Charleston adoption attorney) are on a mission to “save Veronica.”

“Rather than sit on the sidelines and just say ‘how sad’, I wanted to say ‘how sad, what can I do?’” Binkley said.

Tuesday they went from one government office to another, starting in Charleston and driving up to the State House in Columbia, delivering a petition from supporters of the organization.

Kathy Crawford, the district director at Congressman Tim Scott’s office said it’s a shock that this could happen to a family, “a child could be taken away from the only mom and dad that they’ve ever known and you know, we hope that the courts will do the right thing.”

The organization delivered the petition to lawmakers with more than 20,000 signatures. In an unscheduled visit, Governor Haley spoke with Munday and Brinkley and empathized with the Capobiancos.

“If you have a child you know that’s just like the precious part of your life and so my heart breaks for them, I will be happy to take this,” Gov. Haley said taking the petition. “The federal delegation and I communicate about a lot of things, because it is a federal issue doesn’t mean I can’t at least say “what are y’all doing about this?” so I’ll be happy to ask the questions, be happy to see what’s going on if anything.”

“I’m thankful that she was so receptive to us being there and so compassionate about what’s happened,” Munday said after speaking with the governor.

“This is a matter that affects the people they represent, it represents a South Carolina couple and a South Carolina child and that child needs to be heard so it’s great that they are receptive that we’re trying to be a voice for Veronica when she can’t represent herself,” Brinkley said about lawmakers listening to their concerns.

SaveVeronica.org is still taking signatures for their petition. Lawmakers said they will try to get a copy to the Senate committee that will hear the case.

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My Question: When is the Senate Committee going to hear it? I doubt they have any plans to put it on their agenda – we will need to do lots of pushing to get it there – and lots more to get a fair hearing!

Someone on the ‘Save Veronica page’ asked what one would ask the President about ICWA if one had the chance. As a birth mother, I have had several questions. These are questions that my husband and I felt disturbed by ever since our children were small:

– “Mr. President, what part of the Constitution gave Congress the right to give jurisdiction over OUR children to another government when my husband chose to raise our children apart from that government, and I have had no part in that government?

– Why is it that if I should die, another government would have the right to take our children and place them in a home neither my husband nor I would approve of?

– Why is it that strangers within that government would have more right to raise my flesh and blood children than my flesh and blood brother or sister have?” –

The bottom line is – both my husband and I had always held that OUR Children were NOT the tribal government’s children – as the NICWA logo attests. They aren’t the federal government’s children, either.

My husband did not feel his reservation was a safe place to raise children and thus raised them elsewhere. Further, we are not alone. Many tribal members have left the reservations on purpose and taken their children with them. As U.S Citizens, we have a right to choose how and where we want our children raised. We had personally chosen the friends and family we would have liked to be guardians should the need arise.

The ICWA law is poorly thought out – stepping on the lives of U.S. Citizens in order to benefit tribal leaders, not children. Which is why it is continually misapplied and has been as hurtful as it has been to many children and families – and why there are so many parents writing to you on this page wondering why they aren’t getting help to keep their kids. They mistakenly believe that ICWA was actually meant to help them.

For those who are concerned that the Veronica case involves a birth father – let me clarify:

The adoption wasn’t finalized because the tribe had intervened, but M&M were ‘parenting’ Veronica from the moment she was born. They were at the birth. The bio-dad was not. Matt cut the umbilical cord – the bio-dad did not. Melanie stayed in a room at the hospital where she could parent/mother Veronica right away. The bio-dad did not. The bio-dad made no effort during the pregnancy or after birth to contact or support the mother, and made no real effort or request to see the little girl at any point in her life. She had never met him up until the evening she was handed over to him in the attorney’s office. The judge had allowed only ½ hour for Veronica to meet this man before he was free to take her. But it took two hours for the transfer to complete because she kept crying for M&M every time they tried to leave the room.

Matt and Melanie are the only parents she has ever known.

Had South Carolina law been applied to this case, the bio-dad would not have had any standing. By state law, he has essentially abandoned her and would not have had any parental rights. He had also signed a paper sometime after her birth giving up any claim to her. But after Veronica had been with M&M for four months, he changed his mind. And because he has a small percentage of Cherokee heritage, he was able to get the tribal attorney involved.

Veronica wasn’t the only one in tears. Matt & Melanie are emotionally devastated.

And this family isn’t a rare case. This actually happens quite often, especially when dealing with the Cherokee Nation; it’s just that for some unknown reason, this time it got attention. Read letters from more families – and how they were hurt by ICWA at /family-advocacy/letters-from-families-2/ and watch the story of James on the CAICW YouTube Channel ~

This does not need to happen to another child. Please Call your Congressmen and tell them this has to stop.

Find information for contacting Congressmen at SaveVeronica.org

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Dec 142010
 

Indian Kids treated like Second Class Citizens
Mickey came home an hour early from classes one day.

“What are you doing home?” I asked him.

“My advocate let me out.”

“What do you mean, ‘let you out’?”

“Well, I didn’t like my art teacher, so a month or so ago my Indian advocate let me drop the class and go to study hall in his office instead. He’d ask me a couple questions and stuff, but I wasn’t really doing anything there so now he just lets me come home instead.”

I called the advocate. “In the first place,” I told him, “I don’t agree with letting him drop art. He has to work out his problems with his teacher. But in the second place, Mickey got two ‘F’s’ last quarter! How come you’re letting him cut out of school?”

“What are you worried about?” the advocate, also a tribal member, responded, “He’s got three years of school left. He’s got time to catch up.”

About ready to blow up and getting nowhere with this man, I called the principal, who agreed Mickey shouldn’t be leaving school early. It was too late to get Mickey back into the art class, so placed him into the real study hall. Unfortunately, the principal didn’t have the cojones to fire the advocate for being the idiot he was.

Later, Mickey confided that the Indian advocate had told him the following day, “Don’t listen to Beth, all white people talk like that.”

‘What a jerk,’ I thought angrily, ‘why isn’t that so-called advocate helping Mickey apply himself? Don’t they think an Indian kid can be expected to work hard? Do they lookl down on Indian kids that much? If anybody dares treat Andrew that way when he gets to school, expecting less of him just because he’s Indian, I’ll knock em to the moon!

Many places do still treat kids of tribal heritage with lower expectations. Worse, the attitude is encouraged and propagandized by tribal government itself.

One tribal attorney in an Arkansas court just 3 yrs ago – while fighting to take 2 children from a safe, loving home where they were well-cared for and place them in an overcrowded, troubled (documented issues) home that had connection to the tribe – said that Indian children shouldn’t be expected to live by “European standards.” He said Indian children are used to sleeping on floors – and that was okay.

Who is he kidding? Why is tribal government allowed to make racist statements like that? I can tell you with absolute certainty that given the choice, every single child I raised, as well as every relative child that I know, would choose a good bed over a floor. What a bunch of garbage.

The propaganda that children of heritage are somehow different than other kids is in effort, we believe, to keep jurisdiction (and power) over them. The idea put forward is that kids of heritage have an intrinsic attachment to the reservation and will be spiritually destroyed if detached from it.

An article ten years ago said something about looking into the eyes of an Indian child and seeing ‘past generations.’ Was that writer able to look into the eyes of children of other heritages and see the same thing? Why not?

It’s so easy to put one’s own expectations and romanticisms onto a child. People do it all the time. And in doing so – they neglect who the child really is – his/her individuality.

I’m very tired of what boils down to racist rhetoric.

Personally, I looked into the eyes of the nine I raised and saw THEM. I want the ‘powers that be’ to quit pretending these kids are somehow different than others. It’s an excuse to control them as if they are chattel.

This brings us to the Indian Child Welfare Act. It’s a terrible law. Current laws governing placement of children of other heritages already cover the need to keep families connected if possible. At the same time, they protect children from being subjected to abusive and neglectful family, which is something the ICWA does NOT do well because it gives tribal governments the right to decide placement, and they have a conflict of interest. I have seen children placed in inadequate, if not downright terrible situations for the sake of keeping the kids within the system,

The real purpose of ICWA as far as we can tell has nothing to do with the ‘welfare’ of children. It has everything to do with the ‘welfare’ of tribal government. The last census showed that a majority of enrollable people now live off the reservation. Some are still connected, but many no longer choose to be part of the system. But as people move away and don’t enroll their kids in the tribe, tribal governments lose federal money. They also lose people over whom they can rule. That’s the bottom line for ICWA.

This is why the ICWA includes language that claims jurisdiction over “enrollable” children, not just “enrolled” children. They are also free to decide their own membership criteria. For the Cherokee tribe, all that is required is a direct line to the Dawes rolls.

Put those two facts together, and federal government has created a terrible situation for children. Example: Six years ago, a firefighter in Texas, with his wife, took in a newborn baby boy to adopt. After a few weeks, during the process of adoption, it was discovered the child had less than 2% heritage in the Cherokee tribe. The tribe then decided it wants the child, who is more than 98% non-tribal. The child is still unadopted as of today, and the family has spent years and tens of thousands of dollars fighting for him. We have many stories like that.

It’s a genuine crime against these kids.

For more info:

CAICW Facebook ‘Cause’ page: (Advocacy, Petition, support for families) http://www.causes.com/causes/537834

The “Fund Attorney Retainers for 10 Families” Drive began on National Adoption Day, November 20, 2010 ~ and ends on December 31, 2010.~ The Fund website can be found through FirstGiving.com at ~ http://www.firstgiving.com/caicw/Event/AdoptionRetainerFund

Follow CAICW on TWITTER: http://twitter.com/CAICW

EMAIL: administrator@caicw.org

CAICW – Christian Evangelism and Ministry – Gal. 2:10, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”

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Read Letters from Families: https://www.caicw.org/familystories.html

Jul 242009
 

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Court: Mother’s custody wishes trump those of tribe
Supreme Court rules agency can place child with non-American Indian family

By Cy Ryan (contact) Las Vegas Sun

Thursday, July 23, 2009 1:07 p.m.
Beyond the Sun

* Nevada Supreme Court

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that a licensed adoption agency in Las Vegas can place an American Indian child with a family, despite the objections of the Cherokee Nation Tribe.

The court, in a unanimous decision, rejected the argument of the Cherokee Nation that the adoption procedures had to go through a tribal court instead of a state district court.

Deziray G., a 23-year-old registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation, gave birth to a son at Valley Hospital in Las Vegas on Jan. 10 2007. Two weeks later she relinquished her parental rights to a licensed adoption and child placement agency, A Child’s Dream of Nevada.

Deziray wanted her child placed with a non-American Indian family identified only as “Christine and John.”

District Judge Gerald Hardcastle signed the order relinquishing the rights of the mother.

The adoption agency also started action to terminate the parental rights of the apparent father, whose paternity was not established.

The Cherokee Nation, based in Oklahoma, filed suit in Reno asking to intervene in the case. During the two-year battle, the child has been with the family favored by the child’s mother.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision Wednesday, ruled the wishes of the mother should be considered over a federal law that favors keeping Indian families together.

Federal law sets forth the cases where a tribal court has exclusive jurisdiction over child custody matters. The Supreme Court said the federal law is to protect American Indian children, families and tribes “from unnecessary and unwarranted separation.”

But the Supreme Court said Congress also intended to honor the desire of the parents of the child in adoption decisions.

In this case, Deziray, although a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, said she did not live on the Cherokee Nation reservation. And in her statement to the district court, she opposed any attempt to transfer jurisdiction in the case to the tribal court.

The Cherokee Nation argued that the child’s maternal grandmother was willing to be a foster parent.

The Supreme Court said there was good cause for the district court to deviate from the adoption framework in the federal law.

Although the case started in the district court in Las Vegas, it ended up in the court in Reno where District Judge Deborah Schumacher made the decision to back the wishes of the mother in the adoption dispute.
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