COLUMBIA, S.C. —
An American Indian child at the center of a custody suit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court should be returned to the Charleston-area couple seeking to adopt her, South Carolina’s highest court ruled on Wednesday.
In a 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that Matt and Melanie Capobianco are the only party properly seeking to adopt the 3-year-old girl named Veronica in South Carolina and ordered a Family Court to finalize the couple’s adoption.
“We are thrilled that after 18 long months, our daughter finally will be coming home,” the couple said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to seeing Veronica’s smiling face in the coming days and will do everything in our power to make her homecoming as smooth as possible. We also want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this ordeal. Our prayers have been answered.”
South Carolina courts originally said the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act — a federal law intended to keep Indian children from being taken from their homes and typically placed with non-Indian adoptive or foster parents — favored her living with her biological father, Dusten Brown.
A member of the Cherokee Nation, Brown had never met his daughter and, after the girl’s non-Indian mother rebuffed his marriage proposal, played no role during the pregnancy and paid no child support after the girl was born. But when Brown found out Veronica was going to be adopted, he objected and said the law favored the girl living with him and growing up learning tribal traditions.
Brown took custody in 2011 and has been living with his daughter in Oklahoma since then.
But the Capobiancos — who were present at the girl’s birth and raised Veronica for the first 27 months of her life — appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, the nation’s high court ruled that South Carolina courts should decide who gets to adopt the girl, a determination the state court made Wednesday.