Dusten Brown fought for his country in Iraq while serving with the National Guard. He’s since returned to his Oklahoma home, but is currently locked in a very different type of battle: one for the custody of his three-year-old daughter, Veronica.
Veronica currently lives with Brown and his wife—who is not her biological mother—but was initially adopted in 2009 by Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a South Carolina couple to whom Brown turned over his custody rights through a text message and a signed agreement. Brown did so because he was just about to be deployed to Iraq, but now claims he was confused and thought he was giving custody to Veronica’s biological mother.
"That's my daughter,” Brown told CBS. “I'm not wanting to abandon her. I want to be right there along the whole time, watch her grow up, make her decisions and everything. Never once did I want to just give her away."
Brown, who is Cherokee, is attempting to regain custody of Veronica through the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 federal law that protects children of Native Americans from being separated from their families and tribes. The case even reached the Supreme Court, but with a 5-4 decision, was sent back to South Carolina’s Supreme Court.
Justice Samuel Alito, delivering the opinion of the Court, wrote, “Contrary to the State Supreme Court’s ruling, we hold that [the law]—which bars involuntary termination of a parent’s rights in the absence of a heightened showing that serious harm to the Indian child is likely to result from the parent’s “continued custody” of the child—does not apply when, as here, the relevant parent never had custody of the child. We further hold that…[the law]…is inapplicable when, as here, the parent abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child.”
But that isn’t stopping Brown from fighting for his daughter, who he claims doesn’t even recognize the Capobiancos.
"She's seen pictures of them, you know, on TV holdin' her,” Brown told CBS. “She's just always like, 'Well, that's me. But who are they?' You know, I mean, it's sad that she doesn't know who they are. But to take her from us right now would devastate her, would ruin her world."