Late Wednesday of last week the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a controversial order to the state’s family court calling for an expedited transfer of custody to the South Carolina-based adoptive couple without a hearing of best interest for Veronica. It is standard procedure that adoption proceedings require a hearing to determine the best interest of the child in advance of any transfer proceedings, an essential step the South Carolina Supreme Court failed to take, thus denying Veronica the right to have her best interests considered.
Leaders of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) said they were compelled to begin a process to represent the rights of Veronica in the situation, based on the Court’s order.
“When it comes to adoption proceedings, every court in this country has a legal obligation to put the best interests of a child first–every time, no matter the race of the child. This did not happen here. The South Carolina Court’s order represents a perilous prospect for not only Veronica, but any child involved in a custody proceeding in this country,” said Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of NCAI. “In a rush to judgment, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered Veronica to be removed from her biological father without any consideration for her best interests. The decision contributes to the long and sordid history of Native American children being removed from their families without any consideration of their best interests. The National Congress of American Indians refuses to stand by as the rights of this child are violated.”
By Michael Overall
The tribal court granted joint custody last week, just hours before the state Supreme Court of South Carolina issued its own ruling that Veronica should be returned to her adoptive parents in the suburbs of Charleston.
But the tribal court order was kept sealed until Monday, when the tribe formally asked the South Carolina court to reconsider its decision.
The father, Dusten Brown, left Monday for mandatory National Guard training, making it necessary to grant joint custody to his wife and parents, the tribe said.
In filing a petition for rehearing in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, also known as the “Baby Veronica” case, the Cherokee Nation asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider its July 17 order, which moved to terminate the parental rights of Dusten Brown and transfer Veronica to South Carolina without a hearing on her best interests, the tribe said.