What's next in Veronica's transition?

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A day after the South Carolina Supreme Court handed down its revised ruling on the adoption of Veronica, the girl's biological father is speaking out, saying he was outraged with the decision.

"This child has been back with her family for 19 months and to tear her away from us, the family she loves and the only family she knows or remembers, would be devastating to her. This is an Oklahoma child and her placement should not be considered by a court in South Carolina," Dusten Brown said in a statement. "We will never give up the fight to raise our daughter."

The spokeswoman for Veronica's biological mother, Christy Maldonado, fired back Thursday night, saying the Cherokee Nation's stance now is the opposite of its stance during the earlier court fight.

"It is cruelly ironic that Chrissi Nimmo and the Cherokee Nation are out there decrying the South Carolina Supreme Court for not ordering a new best-interests inquiry, when 18 months ago Ms. Nimmo and Brown's attorneys told that same court, that Veronica's critical bonding with Matt and Melanie, and her indisputable happiness and life in their home for 27 months were totally irrelevant -- the court simply could not consider it all - because ICWA demanded an immediate transfer of the child to Brown regardless of her best interests, and with no transition period, because Brown has a Cherokee card," she said.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the case be remanded back to family court to be finalized. Brown and The Cherokee Nation will have five days to file for a rehearing in state court, or the adoption will be finalized.

While it appears Brown and the Cherokee Nation are gearing up for another family court fight, representatives for Matt and Melanie Capobianco said Wednesday the couple was looking forward to having Veronica return and had worked on a transition program that could last several weeks.

The result could be that Veronica grows up with two families -- an adoptive family on James Island and a biological family tied to her Indian roots in Oklahoma. It's a familial relationship Anna Rice knows a lot about.

Rice has two families; her adoptive parents and sister make up one and her biological parents and siblings make up the other. She said the combination has had a positive impact on her life.

"I was lucky to be put in that situation," she said.

Rice was adopted when she was just three weeks old. She didn't remember any of it, she said.

Her experience reflected a question many have asked about Veronica. Her biological father Dusten Brown picked her up from Matt and Melanie Capobianco's James Island home on New Year's Eve 2011. She went home with him to Oklahoma, where she's been ever since.

Will the 3-year-old at the center of a custody battle that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court remember it all?

"Potentially," said counselor Cathy Joyner, with the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center.

Joyner never treated Veronica, but she had dealt with child transitions and adoptions. She said it was good the Capobiancos were willing to go to Oklahoma to ease Veronica's transition.

She said it would be best for their daughter to stay in touch with her biological parents, including father Dusten Brown, throughout her life.

"If the adults can share in whatever decision are made for the child, that's really healthy for the child," she said.

Veronica's biological mother, Christy Maldonado, has supported the Capobiancos throughout the adoption process and kept in touch with them.

She said every child handles episodes differently; it would be tough to know how Veronica would react.

Instead of predicting, she said the Capobiancos should encourage Veronica to ask questions like, "What would you like to know? What can mommy tell you? What can daddy tell you?"

"We can't make assumptions that we know as an adult what a child might need to know," Joyner said.

From experience, Rice said all Veronica may need to know is they love and care.

Joyner also said change can cause a lag in development and it would be important for the Capobiancos to stay close with their pediatrician.

The Capobiancos hoped to go to Oklahoma in the next few weeks.

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