A father who approved the adoption of his biological daughter changed his mind and decided he wanted the baby after all. He sued for custody -- and after two years the adoptive parents were forced to give the girl to her biological father. Doesn't sound fair, considering the father had already given up his parental rights, does it? But wait -- this father was 2 percent Native American. He used the Indian Child Welfare Act to claim the girl he had once given up.
Is that fair? The Supreme Court heard this case today. A law that was passed in 1978 to keep families together has been used to tear one family apart. The court must decide if that's legal -- but is anyone considering what's best for the child?
When Oklahoma single mother of two Christy Maldonado found herself pregnant by her fiance, Dusten Brown, the relationship fell apart. Dusten sent her a text message saying he wanted nothing to do with the baby and would not accept any responsibility for her. So Christy made the best choice she could: She chose an open adoption with a North Carolina couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
Dusten signed the adoption papers and then deployed overseas. Christy's lawyers contacted the Cherokee Nation to make sure they would not contest the adoption. They couldn't find any record of Dusten. So the adoption went forward. But soon afterward, Dusten changed his mind and sued for custody. After two years with the Capobiancos, the baby girl was torn from her adoptive family and handed over to Dusten.
The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to prevent Native American families from being forcibly broken up. Before that, children had been ripped from their homes to be raised by non-Indian families. I remember the church I was raised in had an adoption program that was all about taking Indian kids away from the reservation so they could be raised in "civilization." It was a horrible, misguided practice, and I'm glad it's been done away with.
But that's so clearly what's not happening here. Dusten Brown chose to walk away from parenthood. Meanwhile, the baby girl became attached to her adoptive parents. I hope the Supreme Court acknowledges that this is a misuse of the Indian Child Welfare Act (you can follow the case on the Supreme Court's blog). But I also hope they consider what this baby girl needs most -- the parents who have been raising her all this time.
How do you think the Supreme Court should rule in this case?
Image via normanack/Flickr