Baby Veronica, no longer a baby but a 4 year-old little girl, was recently placed back with her adoptive parents in South Carolina. The placement happened over the objections of her birth father, with whom she's been living in Oklahoma for that last two years.
After a court battle that has raged since Veronica was an infant, the Oklahoma court vacated an order that had kept Veronica with her father even after a South Carolina court decided in favor of her adoptive parents.
But the end of the legal case didn't bring closure for a lot of people watching the case. A facebook page called "Stand Your Ground for Veronica Brown" continues to be updated with posts about the anguish the birth father and his family are feeling.
For people in either camp of this particular case, it has never just been about the families involved. The case captured national attention because of what it might say about Native American families, the rights of birth parents and those of adoptive families. The case even worked its way up to the Supreme Court and back down again, without the legal system ever being able to come to consensus about where the little girl should live.
I've been keeping up with the case and lately have been reflecting on it because at first it seems like an exceptional case. There are parts of the story that seem like they must be rare; the battle spanned two states involved a fight over the Indian Child Welfare Act and was put on hold while the father deployed to Iraq.
But the Baby Veronica case is not that exceptional.
Every child custody dispute has the potential to get unbelievably messy. I'm working on a story now involving a family trying to move toward adoption. This story is less legally complicated than the Baby Veronica case but no less emotionally wrenching for those involved. In both these cases and probably many others, turning the issues over to legal system does nothing to simplify the issues. It may be obvious, but it still seems almost disappointing that inviting the court system does nothing to lessen the drama inherent in questions about children and family, it only formalizes it.