As Dusten Brown posted bail in a Sequoyah County, Oklahoma courtroom yesterday afternoon on a federal warrant for his arrest for "custodial interference" in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, Indian Country Today Media Network has learned that yet another Indian child from Oklahoma has been illegally placed for adoption in South Carolina.
Baby Deseray, an infant girl who was born on May 13 of this year, has been confirmed as eligible for the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act, because her mother is a member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Currently, the infant is living illegally with another pre-adoptive couple in South Carolina with no custody order in place and no signed Interstate Custody for the Placement of Children (ICPC) application on file with the State of Oklahoma.
In his petition, the baby's biological father, Jeremy Simmons, who is non-Indian, has been supported by the infant's biological Indian grandmother in seeking to return his daughter back to Oklahoma to his custody.
The South Carolina attorney who handled the adoption is Raymond W. Godwin, who was also the original adoption attorney for Matt and Melanie Capobianco in their adoption of Veronica Brown in 2009. Godwin's office did not respond by deadline on this story. Adoption attorneys across the country said that the new adoption illustrates an emerging pattern in the adoption of Indian children in the United States.
"The ICPC is a binding compact in all 50 states that creates an agreed upon way of handling the interstate transfer of children of adoption and foster care," explains Tulsa attorney Mike Nomura, who has handled all ICPC applications for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services since 1998. "Though I cannot speak about the specifics of this case, I can say that [at the time of the transfer of the child out of Oklahoma], no one was aware that she was subject to ICWA."
Nomura said he has handled thousands of ICPC applications over the years and that it is the obligation of his office to ensure compliance with all state and federal laws regarding interstate adoptions. Under Section 10, subsection 40.6 of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act, Nomura says that all attempts to find a placement for Indian children must be exhausted and in compliance before removal from a jurisdiction.
Indian Country Today Media Network contacted Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin's office to comment to the new adoption case and the implications for Oklahoma's Indian children. She did not respond.
According to Charles Tripp, attorney general for the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the tribal attorneys were caught off guard in late May when they received notice from the ICPC office in Tulsa that another Oklahoma child had been unlawfully removed to South Carolina.
"She was already gone and out of the state before we even received notice," said Tripp. "The adoptive couple paid their money and took off with the kid without the required approval of either the State of Oklahoma or the Absentee Shawnee."
Tripp said that the child is currently residing with another adoptive couple without any kind of court order for custody. As attorney general of the child's tribe, he told ICTMN that he will be retaining counsel in South Carolina and going to court there to put a stop to what he calls the "human trafficking of our tribal children in South Carolina."
Significant to this case, the placement of Baby Deseray took place at the end of May, a full month before the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Adoptive Couple.
"This new situation with Baby Deseray says two things," said Tripp. "First, people are mistakenly reading the decision in Adoptive Couple to say that if you want to adopt a child, go to South Carolina—there you have safe haven. And second, I want to make it clear that I am in complete disagreement with the Supreme Court's ruling last June. Especially with Roberts and Thomas, because they should have recused themselves as adoptive parents, which I and many others believe hindered their ability to read and interpret the law in a manner that is unbiased and impartial."
Tripp also said that the current trend in adopting Native American children in the U.S. carries with it the patina of colonial "missionary mentality."
"It's 'Oh, look what I did to help the poor Indians,'" said Tripp. "It's like they're going to the Third World without actually having to go overseas to get their kids. But ICWA is law for a reason, and we are not in need of their 'help.'"
Shannon Jones, the South Carolina family lawyer who represented Dusten Brown, told ICTMN that she was not surprised that Godwin has pushed through yet another adoption out of Oklahoma.
"It's very disturbing to hear that Mr. Godwin and his adoption team are at it again," said Jones. "It is these players in the industry who created and profited from these sad situations. Maybe now that another case has surfaced, maybe these [adoptions of Indian children] will stop."