OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A South Carolina couple said Thursday they’ve yet to meet or talk to their 3-year-old adopted daughter as well as her biological father, despite their pleas and an ultimatum from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco traveled to Oklahoma from South Carolina on Tuesday hoping to see 3-year-old Veronica. The girl has been at the center of an adoption dispute involving the couple and her biological father, Dusten Brown, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
“As legal discussions between our attorneys continue regarding physical custody of our daughter, we have not yet seen her nor have we been informed of her whereabouts,” the couple said in a statement released early Thursday. “Although we have not personally heard from Dusten, we plan to continue pursuing the option of facilitation aside from ongoing legal actions.”
Brown’s lawyer, Robert Nigh, told The Associated Press that lawyers from both sides have started talks to come to a “mutually agreeable” resolution.
However, no meeting has taken place involving Brown, the Capobiancos or Veronica. The little girl — who enjoys practicing her reading skills and playing outside, according to the court-appointed lawyer looking out for her best interests — remains in the care of her paternal grandparents and Dusten Brown’s wife.
The ongoing dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and the federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.
At the heart of Veronica’s case is the Indian Child Welfare Act, established in 1978 in response to high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native families.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in June that provisions of the act, which would favor Brown, didn’t apply in the case, and a South Carolina court awarded the couple custody on July 31.
South Carolina authorities have charged Brown with custodial interference after he failed to show up to a court-ordered meeting there last weekend.
Following the Capobiancos’ news conference in Tulsa on Wednesday, Fallin said the couple has a right to meet with Veronica and a right to seek a compromise with Brown. The governor said if Brown is unwilling to cooperate, she can send him to South Carolina to face the charge.
Fallin had earlier said she would wait until an Oklahoma court hearing next month to make a decision on the extradition request.
“The way we see this, it is a painful dispute over custody and not through our own choice the governor’s office was placed in the middle of it, because Gov. Fallin has to make a decision on whether to sign this extradition order,” said Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz. “Gov. Fallin is trying to play a constructive role.”
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