Baby Veronica Supreme Court ruling raises the question: What is a parent?
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Baby Veronica, returned to her adoptive parents by the Supreme Court, raises an increasingly important question in an age of diverse kinds of families: What is a parent?
What makes a parent?
The answer to this seemingly simple question is, in practice, torturously complex, if the recent adoption case of 3-year-old Veronica Brown is any guide.
Veronica, a Native American, spent the first 27 months of her life with her (non-Native American) adoptive parents. The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 yesterday that a federal law doesn't compel her to be sent to live with her biological father, who is petitioning for custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act. This leaves her ultimate placement up to a South Carolina court.
The actors in the case include:
- Veronica's adoptive parents (Matt and Melanie Capobianco), who can make a compelling case simply through the time and care they've already given to this young child.
- Her biological father Dusten Brown, who abandoned Veronica before birth but now wants to step up and take custody.
- Her biological mother, who saw a brighter future for Veronica in a loving adoptive home.
- The US court system, which must balance upholding the letter of the law as interpreted by judges and justices with the actual human outcomes of its decisions.
- And the Cherokee Nation, which views the case in the greater context of the cultural assimilation (and destruction) wrought by white settlers on Native American culture in general, and via a historically flawed adoption process in particular.