|Updated: 4/16/2013 7:26 pm
||Published: 4/08/2013 8:55 pm
16 months ago, a South Carolina court ordered the adoptive parents of a child known to many as “Baby Veronica” to give her to her biological father who lives in Bartlesville.
Since then, this case has been tied up in the courts, but Veronica's fate could once and for all be decided after the United States Supreme Court hears this case next week.
Veronica’s family released new pictures of the now three-year-old enjoying time with her family in Oklahoma. They show her smiling, unaware of the controversy that has surrounded her for much of her life.
At issue is the federal Indian Child Welfare Act which lower courts have concluded wasn't followed when veronica was being adopted by the South Carolina couple.
ICWA says Indian children should be placed with Indian families in the event the child is not living with their birth parents.
“What it very much will have an effect on is future cases of Indian children in Oklahoma and all over the country, because whatever the Supreme Court says is them applicable all over the United States,” Chrissi Nimmo, Assistant Attorney General for Cherokee Nation, told FOX23.
The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys wrote a brief supporting a reversal of the lower court’s decision. The Past President of the group says he's not sure ICWA applies here.
“It will give some guidance for us long term for how we handle adoptions in the future and how the Indian child welfare act is interpreted and to which cases it applies and which cases it doesn't,” Mark M. Demaray said.
If the Supreme Court sides with a lower court's decision that the Indian Child Welfare Act should keep Veronica with her biological father, all parties agree this long winding road will come to an end.
“Once they make a decision specifically in regards to outcome of this case, that should be it,” Demaray said.
“If they affirm the lower court’s decision, it's over,” Nimmo said.
The President of the National Indian Child Welfare Association is watching this case closely and says the outcome could affect all Native people.
“If the court should use this case as a way to limit tribal authority or tribal government, I think the big thing at stake is who gets to decide who's an Indian,” Terry Cross said.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday, April 16th in Washington DC, and a decision is expected in June.