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ICWA law at center of adoption controversy


The Indian Child Welfare Act went into effect 34 years ago, and supporters of the family of Veronica, a girl who was in the process of being adopted by a South Carolina couple, say it was improperly applied to this case. FOX23 spoke with the man who wrote the law, and he says if it had been followed to the “t,” this adoption controversy may not have happened.

When they spoke to FOX23 earlier this month, Matt and Melanie Capobianco made it clear that they weren't fans of the legislation the courts say forced their hand when removing Veronica from their home.

“We feel that the ICWA law is being abused, you know, we don't think this is what it was meant for,” Matt said.

That's hard from Jim Abourezk to hear.

“I was the author of that act,” he said.

The former United States Senator from South Dakota has heard about this case.

“I feel very badly about it. I hate these kinds of cases that are not clear cut, and this one's not,” Abourezk said.

He says the main point of the law is making sure tribes sign off on adoptions. It appears that did not happen in Veronica’s case.

“The tribe would have to agree to it, before they would take the child out of the tribe and put it with a white family,” he said of the rationale behind the creation of the law.

Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo knows ICWA inside and out.

“I think there is a lot of misconceptions about ICWA,” she said.

Cherokee Nation is fighting to keep Veronica with her biological father, and Ross Nimmo says often it's not parents who drop the ball.

“Attorneys and adoption agencies that are involved in these cases and should know the law don't, and don't follow it, and that's when these problems occur.”

That is where Veronica's case may have taken an unavoidable turn.

“Who knows if they went to the tribal court, they may have given them permission, but they didn't,” Abourezk

FOX23 could not talk with Cherokee Nation or with the Capobianco's because of a court gag order. The South Carolina Supreme Court has said it will hear this case later this year.

2012 Jan 23