Veronica's birth mother devastated by Cherokee Nation actions - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Veronica's birth mother devastated by Cherokee Nation actions

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Maldonado at the Capobianco's home visiting with Veronica prior to the child's transfer. Maldonado at the Capobianco's home visiting with Veronica prior to the child's transfer.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco with their adoptive daugther Veronica prior to her removal from their home. Matt and Melanie Capobianco with their adoptive daugther Veronica prior to her removal from their home.
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. -

In the latest round of legal wrangling surrounding the Baby Veronica case, the Cherokee Nation issued a press release Monday announcing their petition for a rehearing of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision ordering Veronica's adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco to be immediately finalized.

Read more about Veronica's case here.

In the filing, the Cherokee Nation claims that a tribal court has awarded "temporary" legal custody of the 3-year-old, who is predominantly Hispanic and has never lived on or near a reservation, to members of her biological father's family. The child's biological father, Dusten Brown, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and had previously argued the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 superseded the rights of Veronica's birth mother. 

At the heart of the 18-month-long custody battle is a little girl whose birth mother, Christy Maldonado, wants the custody battle to end. Maldonado, who handpicked the Capobiancos to raise her daughter after the biological father renounced his parental rights, maintains a close relationship with the child's adoptive family and has been fighting alongside them to bring her home.  "Yesterday's developments are profoundly upsetting to me and my family," said Maldonado, a single mother of two, in a statement. "I feel like Veronica is being used by the Cherokee Nation and national Native American groups as a pawn to try to protect tribal interests, not hers. The courts have said that she was wrongfully removed from Matt and Melanie's home where she thrived, and she should be returned to them as soon as possible." 

On July 17, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered that Veronica's adoption to Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, a suburb of Charleston, be finalized and that she be returned without further delay to her home in South Carolina. The state's highest court released the decision following a rare expedited remand from the United States Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Toal, writing for the state Supreme Court, stated that the U.S. Supreme Court "plainly contemplated an expeditious resolution of this case, and we believe the facts of this case require it." 

"The Cherokee Nation cannot unilaterally reverse any state court decision it does not like by retroactively manufacturing Indian 'custodians" through secret ex parte proceedings in tribal court that involve none of the interested parties that are adverse to the tribe's interests," stated Alvino McGill, Maldonado's attorney. "This argument is, frankly, a shameful display of hubris on the part of the Cherokee Nation-this sweeping claim of authority to retroactively change the facts of ongoing custody disputes pending in state courts puts the entire Indian Child Welfare Act statute on shakier ground." 

Alvino McGill believes that the tribe's actions will not be well taken by the South Carolina courts, or the United States Supreme Court for that matter.  "It is unfortunate that the Capobiancos invited Brown and his tribe to the table to discuss what is best for Veronica going forward, and this is what was delivered in return," says Alvino McGill. "Meanwhile, the Capobiancos have been denied all contact with Veronica for the past 18 months and renewed requests for simple visitation have been flatly rejected. In fact, Brown's attorneys are now arguing that Veronica's birth mother Christy's request for visitation somehow prevents the South Carolina courts from finalizing the open adoption that should have been finalized long ago-even though she has filed a brief stating her unequivocal continued support for finalizing Veronica's adoption." 

Maldonado was at home with Veronica's older brother and sister when she heard the news of these developments.  "I care deeply for Veronica and know that her best interests are served by ending this travesty and returning her to her rightful home," says Maldonado. "I can only imagine how much it hurt Veronica to be taken from the parents who raised her since birth and for most of her young life. It keeps me awake at night thinking about how many times she must have called out for her Mommy - Melanie - and all I can do now is pray that they'll be reunited soon.

Finally, we have a court order correcting this terrible mistake that happened, and right now everyone's attention should be on Veronica and how to keep all her family involved in her life as she goes back home to South Carolina."  Veronica's court-appointed guardian, who has advocated for Veronica's best interests throughout this protracted ordeal, stated in court filings that she "exhaustively considered the child's best interests," and that they are served by finalizing the adoption by the Capobiancos. 

Lawyers on both sides of this emotional case have stated that they expect the South Carolina Supreme Court to rule quickly on the request for a rehearing. If the request is denied, the case will proceed to Charleston County family court where the adoption will be finalized, allowing Veronica to return home.

The Capobiancos have emphasized that no matter what, they "intend to make sure the transition home is gradual and sensitive to Veronica's needs." They are working with child development experts, including one who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, to develop an appropriate plan for protecting Veronica's best interest as she's reunited with her James Island family.

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