The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Monday passed a resolution changing placement preferences for Indian children involved in adoption and custody issues.
In late September last year, Dusten Brown, Cherokee citizen and biological father of Veronica Brown, gave up his almost three-year custody battle with a non-Indian South Carolina couple, the Capobiancos. The legal issue went from South Carolina courts to the U.S. Supreme Court to several Oklahoma county courts as well as the Cherokee Nation tribal court.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court finally removed a stay allowing Veronica to remain in the custody of her father, which is when Brown decided he would no longer pursue further appeals or litigation in the case.
Cherokee Nation officials have held that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) should have protected Brown and his daughter, and that the child should have been able to remain in an Indian home with a biological parent, instead of being placed with a non-Indian family.
The tribal resolution, which passed unanimously, states: “In any adoptive placement of a Cherokee child under state law, a preference shall be given, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, to a placement with a biological parent or parents; a member of the child’s extended family; other members of the Cherokee Nation; or other Indian families.”
Speaker of the Council Tina Glory-Jordan, an attorney, praised the council’s work on the legislation.
“Because of recent cases, there is a need to include a fit parent or biological parent when it comes to placement of Cherokee children,” said Glory-Jordan.
“We’ve come to a day where so many courts don’t want to recognize ICWA. This law will make it easier, the next time our social workers go to court.”
The next regular meeting of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council will be held at 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10, at the W.W. Keeler Complex, south of Tahlequah.