Fight On, Dusten Brown, for Baby Veronica

dusten and baby veronicaAlmost seventeen years ago, I placed my daughter with an adoptive family in an “open” adoption. Back in the late ’90s, an open adoption – at least in my case – meant I would receive pictures up until the baby became a toddler and then a girl who blew out her fifth candle. The only information I would be offered was the adoptive parents’ first names and how much they wanted to start a family. They would know everything about me: that I was a minor, that the birth father came from a large extended family, but had not been present through my pregnancy and that I had a bright future except for the stain of a teenage pregnancy.

It’s true that I selected Tom and Linda, that I signed the papers, that it was “for the best” and all that. I never wrote a letter, sent a picture or made contact of any sort. That is, what I thought, birth mothers do: go off quietly and not make a fuss. And I didn’t and haven’t.

My daughter’s birth father did not go silently: yes, he signed away his parental rights, but he did so with trepidation — he was in no condition to parent alone as a minor and the pressure from his family to go along with what I wanted was swift and intense. He signed and then made noise: he sent presents for each birthday and became an unlikely Santa dropping off gifts to the adoption lawyer’s office. His persistence eventually granted him last names and then contact with Tom and Linda and eventually, the unthinkable to me, in-person access for him as well as his father.

Years later, when I would find out, I would be devastated.

Without strings attached, I asked him to forward along my email – just a paltry mishmash of letters – in case anyone, whoever that might be, would like to contact me. The adoptive family of our daughter cut him out of their lives. Just like that.

I can only speculate as to why, but I think I have a good idea.

The two of us speak, but no longer about our daughter – it is a topic he refuses to even mention. The pain runs far too deep for him; he lost her twice.

This is what I think about when I see the tearful pleas and prideful custody battle over “Baby Veronica.” No one disputes that both Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, and her biological father, Dusten Brown, have provided a loving environment for the almost four-year-old girl that has split her life between the two families. What is in question — and has been decided by the Supreme Court – is where and with whom Veronica will celebrate many more birthdays. In a 5-to-4 ruling, the Court sided with the Capobiancos, who are white, against Brown, who is a member of the Cherokee nation. It has been ordered that she be returned to South Carolina from Oklahoma where Brown resides.

Brown, despite the ruling, has yet to comply and recently turned himself in to Oklahoma authorities after failing to appear in South Carolina with Veronica.

Veronica’s birth mother supports the Capobiancos fight for custody against Brown who signed his parental rights away after the baby was born. Brown claims he was unaware the birth mother planned to place Veronica with an adoptive family and has fought to parent the girl since she was four-months old.

Dusten Brown deserves the right to parent his child without the continual intervention of the Capobiancos and Veronica’s birth mother.

Brown is clearly capable, competent and poses no danger. Veronica, by all accounts, will thrive in his care, so why the fight? Why, then, do the Capobianocs persist; even telling the Today Show, “We are not going anywhere.”

Perhaps they should. Quietly and without fuss.

Let this father raise his daughter. He shouldn’t have to lose her twice.

Photo Credit: KTUL

  • Amen! Adoption is intended to provide a substitute family for orphans and children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. Veronica Brown fits none of these categories making adoption unnecerssary and in fact cruel at this point in time.

    The persuit of this child by this unrelated out-of-state couple has become a sick obsession. It seems to be all about winning and not about what is best for a child who has already ecperienced a traumatic loss and separation and hardly needs another simply because a court says they “can.” Courts rule on law. As human beings who claim to love this child they should see beyond the law of South Carolina and beyond what they want. A lovingparent is willing to put his or her needs aside for the welfare of the child – to spare the child harm. The Capobiancos proved where they stand by refusing a court appointed guartdian for Veronica. Where is King Solomon when you need him?

    Veronica’s biological mother, Christie Maldonado, she has from the start acted like a woman set on vengeance for her ex, duping Dusten Brown and about her plan to relinquish Veronica for adoption – with openness just for herself. She has and continues to act like many in bad divorce custody battles who cannot see how they are hurting their children,using her own daughter as a pawn to hurt him with the capobiancos bankrolling the fiasco.

    Mirah Riben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Biullion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

  • I would like to point out that SCOTUS did not actually rule that Veronica be returned to the pre-adoptive couple, simply that parts of two paragraphs of ICWA did not apply to this case. SCOTUS remanded this case back to South Carolina, and at that point the SC Supreme Court decided to terminate Dusten Brown’s parental rights and finalize the adoption, without holding a hearing to determine the best interests of this child.

  • Gaye Tannenbaum

    If all you do is look at this one case, you may have a hard time deciding which side should “win”.

    Start looking at other cases where the expectant mother pulled a disappearing act and placed her newborn for adoption. Look at how the adoption agency and their attorneys helped her “hide the baby” by sending the child to another state – even though she thinks she has an “open” adoption. “Oh, you’ll be just like family. We want to surround our adopted child with all the people who love her.” Just don’t get too close.

  • Dana

    What IS that with adopters and how they react to the original parents? I know of another situation where the little girl’s first father died, and the APs are in touch with his family, and even discussing visits, while they want almost nothing to do with her mom.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I’m all but convinced that infant adoption in particular is rooted in misogyny.

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    I have a very different perspective. I think what has happened to baby Veronica is terrible, being shifted at age 2 from her home to another family, and now possibly being shifted again. The biological father showed no interest when she was born and said he didn’t want to be legally responsible for her. Legal adoptions, with biological parents giving up their rights, should not be fodder for custody disputes. That just leads to tragedy for the child.
    My take on what should have happened was that the biological father, if he truly cared for his child, should have requested and been given visiting rights. The child’s parents had done everything right, and neither they nor the child should have been punished because the biological father changed his mind. But it is completely reasonable for a biological parent to want to be involved with his/her child’s life.
    I have raised 3 children. I know what it’s like to lose a child, in my case through death. And I also know that the bond formed between parent and child is just as strong whether the parent was birth parent or adoptive parent. My youngest, adopted almost 13 years ago, is just as much part of my core as my biological children. Breaking an established parent-child bond (whether biological or adoptive) should only be done under the most extreme conditions.

  • Nadia

    Mothers and fathers have the God given right to raise their own children. It shouldn’t matter if they are married, young, brown skinned, or poor. The adoptive couple knew from the beginning that the father had not consented. He has never consented to the adoption (read court docs.). He has fought for his child from the time that he learned of a possible adoption. If these people have any sense of right and wrong they will step back and find another child, one that does not have a loving family. Find a child that does not have a sister, and father , and grandparents that will mourn her loss.

    Also if a person is not able to adopt through the state due to financial problems and criminal histories they should not be able to adopt privately either.

  • I totally agree with Marti. The biological father was contacted intially and told the birth mother he had no interest in raising the baby or being part of her life. I think the story now circulating about Brown is one that has been fabricated by him as he has tried to back pedal from his initial position.

    That said, what is happening to Veronica is horrible no matter who’s “side” you are on — being moved from one home to another, and then being kept from the original parents she knew (her parents by adoption) by her bio father. I fear that this situation will not end well, as Brown has broken the law by initially evading court marshalls who were sent to make sure he would appear in court (not a mere “failure to appear), and he has said quite openly he will do whatever he deems necessary to keep his family together — the one he initially had no interest in.

    As people try to defend Brown, do not forget he has his daughter in hiding with his parents at a location no one knows and he will not tell the police. If he truly had his daughter’s nest interests in mind, he would make sure she would have access to all the parents she has known in her short life.

  • @Dana, I am somewhat offended at your comment about what is it with “adopters.” I am the mother of my daughter who was adopted from China. Period. How you even get to a place of demeaning all parents by adoption by talking about misogyny is beyond me.

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    In many of the comments, and in a good part of the article itself, there is much more focus on the rights and concerns of birth parents rather than the best interests of the child.
    Parents, whether they be biological or not, are adults — they need to take responsibility for their mistakes and problems.
    I have no idea, at this point, what is best for this already traumatized child. But I have nothing but condemnation for the way the case has been handled — this little girl has been the one to suffer for all the adults’ selfishness, competitiveness, political maneuvering and legal fighting.
    Once this little girl was legally adopted and established with her parents, any legal battles should have been about the laws themselves, about future cases, not about uprooting her and trading her like a toy.

  • It’s not misogyny, it’s fear rooted in the idea that the bio mom is more likely to want and more likely to win custody of her placed child at any point in the child’s lifetime. There’s no data to support that fear, but it is rooted in emotion, not reality.

    Complicating this is the societal expectation that the mother/child bond is stronger than the father/child bond. Bio fathers are easily dismissed as sperm donors and therefore not as threatening. To be clear, I’m not saying this is a good thing.

    Veronica has at least three parents clamoring to love her. Too bad they can’t work together to do that.

  • Kat

    Marti, I would concede to you, if the South Carolina court had not originally declared him a fit and loving parent. Fact is, Christina Maldonado cut off contact and admitted as such in court. The ONLY thing Dusty ever signed was a one page acceptance of service that ALL courts said was not a Legal Termination of Parental Rights.

    Dusty and his family tried to contact her, WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT and she refused. She even put a non Admittance order to the hospital, so that if he called he couldn’t be told she was there.

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