Thursday, January 26, 2012
Praise God for all that has been happening over the last month. While we grieve for 2-yr-old Veronica who was taken three weeks ago from the only home she has ever known, she has been blessed with national attention - unlike many other children whom this has happened to. This has brought the issue of ICWA to the forefront.
For those who are concerned about this being a case involving a birth father – let us clarify;
The adoption wasn't finalized because the tribe had intervened, but M&M were 'parenting' Veronica from the moment she was born. They were at the birth. The bio-dad was not. Matt cut the umbilical cord - the bio-dad did not. Melanie stayed in a room at the hospital where she could parent/mother Veronica right away. The bio-dad did not. The bio-dad made no effort during the pregnancy or after birth to contact or support the mother, and made no real effort or request to see the little girl at any point in her life. She had never met him up until the evening she was handed over to him in the attorney’s office. The judge had allowed only ½ hour for Veronica to meet this man before he was free to take her. But it took two hours for the transfer to complete because she kept crying for M&M every time they tried to leave the room.
Matt and Melanie are the only parents she has ever known.
Had South Carolina law been applied to this case, the bio-dad would not have had any standing. By state law, he has essentially abandoned her and would not have had any parental rights. This is a law meant to protect adoptive parents and children from being bounced around like ping pong balls. He had also signed a paper sometime after her birth giving up any claim to her. But after Veronica had been with M&M for four months, he changed his mind and because he has a small percentage of Cherokee heritage, he was able to get the tribal attorney involved.
Matt & Melanie are emotionally devastated.
We are praying for Veronica. The State Supreme Court has accepted their appeal. It might take months though for them to hear the case. Knowing how hard it will be for a 2-yr-old to #1) remain away from the only parents she has ever known for months – and #2) how difficult it will be for her to make the transition back if she has been gone for months and then they win the case – we are praying for God’s mercy on Veronica and her parents. As crazy as this sounds, I am praying for a miracle – that Veronica be allowed to go home today, if not tomorrow.
Lord, in the name of Jesus, please return this baby girl to Melanie’s arms.
- We also have a family going to court this Friday, January 27th, who really needs prayer for their little boy.
Please pray for both these families.
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16
Friday, January 13, 2012
(Psychologist who witnessed Veronica's transfer comments on the detrimental effects - Click Baby Veronica to hear the audio of the interview.)
We are writing to make you aware of an injustice that has occurred to a two-year-old South Carolina child named Veronica Rose and her adoptive parents. Two years ago Veronica’s Latina birth mother chose Matt and Melanie to love, nurture and raise her child. To this day, Veronica’s birth mother remains committed to her decision and Veronica has been a thriving, happy child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. On or around Jan. 4, 2010, the birth father signed papers agreeing to give up his daughter.
However, because Veronica has some Cherokee heritage from her birth father’s side of the family, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to her birth father. Because of a federal law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, a family court judge ruled that she be immediately transferred to her biological father.
The ruling placed the rights of the birth father and tribe above the best interests of this small child. Child-bonding experts agree that removing her from her home and family would be devastating and have long-lasting consequences. Numerous child psychologists stated this would be detrimental to any child. Yet on Dec. 31, Veronica was handed over to her biological father as if a possession without rights.
We believe that children need protection and should not be removed from loving, nurturing environments. We understand the premise of this law is to protect children; however, in Veronica’s case it has been used inappropriately.
Former U.S. senator Jim Abourezk (SD) authored ICWA. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, after reviewing Veronica's story, Abourezk called the interpretation in this case "something totally different than what we intended at the time."
"That's a tragedy," he said. "They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume, the child was attached to them."
According to the 2000 census, approximately 75% of people claiming to have American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry live outside the reservation. Further, interracial marriages are a fact of life. It is must be recognized that most children of heritage live off the reservation and have extended family that are non-tribal. Though supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it. Children who have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs are affected. The Cherokee Nation alone is currently tied up in about 1,100 active Indian Child Welfare cases involving some 1,500 children.
Tragically, under the Indian Child Welfare Act:
1) Some children have been removed from safe, loving homes and placed in danger
2) Equal opportunities for adoption, safety and stability are not always available to children of all heritages
3) The Constitutional right of parents to make life choices for their children, for children of Indian heritage to associate freely, and for children of Indian heritage to enjoy Equal Protection has in some cases been infringed upon.
We want more than anything for Veronica to be allowed to come home. As our elected representatives, we urge you to protect Veronica’s rights in all possible ways as well as make legislative changes that will prevent this from happening to any other child again. While we understand you are unable to interfere in court proceedings, we ask you to speak out on this issue and let your constituents know clearly where you stand. We also ask you to sponsor legislation and encourage fellow Congressmen to support the amending of the Indian Child Welfare Act to:
1. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.Save Veronica Supporters Worldwide
2. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
3. Recognize the "Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
4. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.
• When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians will be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b)“…In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child's tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent…”
• Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.
5. Include well defined protections for Adoptive Parents.
6. Mandate that a "Qualified expert witness" be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well being of the child, first and foremost.
7. Mandate that only parents and/or legal custodians have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, we are asking that parents, as U.S. citizens, be given the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them.
• Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
• Remove the words "eligible for membership in" from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words "an enrolled member of”