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Justices on the California Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a thumbs down to requests for them to help Lexi, a 6-year-old who’s never known another family than Rusty and Summer Page and their other children, return home.

The justices, without comment, rejected a petition to reconsider a lower court’s decision that the 6-year-old be sent to live with a step-grandparent’s niece a thousand miles away from the California home of the Pages, who have provided foster care for her since she was a little over a year old.

They also rejected a petition to stay the proceedings and review the case themselves.

Still pending in California is an action before the 2nd Appellate District, but a report from Indian Country speculated the decisions in California were seen as “effectively setting the stage for another showdown with the United States Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.”

The last time that fight reached Washington, in 2013, the justices there sent a fight over custody of a young girl to the South Carolina Supreme Court which ordered “Baby Veronica” to have her adoption by non-Indian Matt and Melanie Capobianco finalized.

They, like the Pages, had lost custody for a time because of the ICWA, which mandates that Indian tribes dictate the placement of children in protective services cases even if the child has no connection to a tribe more than a fractional percentage of Indian heritage.

In Lexi’s case, she is 1.5 percent Indian – or 1/64th. That means her forebears multiple generations back included only one Indian, and 63 who were not.

The 2013 case involving Baby Veronica had almost identical issues: She was part-Indian and her father who had lost custody tried to get her back. The courts ultimately ruled in favor of the adoptive family.

Lexi’s case burst into the headlines early last week when social workers took the crying, resisting child away from her Santa Clarita, California, foster family, with whom she has lived since she was little over a year old.

And it has attracted a number of comments. The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare noted on Wednesday that 75 percent of people eligible for tribal membership do not live in “Indian country.”

“Over the last few decades, many families of heritage have left the reservations due to the level of corruption and crime. As families left, tribal leaders – panicked by declining membership – pushed Congress for increased control over children of heritage,” the group reported. “This includes children who are multi-heritage, who’ve never been near Indian Country, and whose only connection is a dissident great-grandparent who purposefully left the system decades ago.

“Worse, some tribal governments refuse to allow kids to live in foster homes off reservation – even if there are no safe homes currently available on the reservation.”

WND had reported only a day earlier when the Goldwater Institute had wanted the California court to intervene.

“Time is of the essence,” said the court filing submitted to the state’s highest court.

The organization already was fighting in federal court in Arizona for a ruling that the ICWA is unconstitutional.

The state government had removed Lexi from her biological parents because of their drug abuse and criminal histories. Her father, who reportedly is eligible for tribal membership, later cut off attempts at reunification, and her mother reportedly lost custody of at least six other children. The girl was placed with the Pages, who have become known to her as “mommy” and “daddy.”

Social evaluators already warned the court that removing her from the Pages “would be potentially traumatic,” causing her to suffer “depression and anxiety.” But they went ahead, and the Choctaw tribe put Lexi a thousand miles away with her step-grandfather’s niece.

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“Even one year is an eternity in a child’s life. Resolution of ICWA’s constitutionality has been postponed for decades. During that time, countless children have been subjected to its separate and unequal legal standards. It is ‘intolerable’ that this ‘dual system’ of race-based classifications is allowed to persist,” the Goldwater Institute challenged.

The brief continued: “This case cries out for extraordinary relief and a full consideration of the merits. Laws that establish a separate and disadvantageous system of rules for people of a particular ancestry – rules that deny them the protections afforded to people of any other race – are ‘illegal, immoral, unconstitutional, inherently wrong, and destructive of democratic society.'”

What do YOU think? Sound off on the case of Lexi, a 6-year-old girl taken from her family

The institute continued: “Lexi is 1/64th Choctaw, and has only the remotest connection to any Indian tribe. Yet pursuant to ICWA, she has been taken away from the loving foster family with whom she has lived for 2/3rds of her life, and sent to live with non-Indian non-relatives in another state – solely as a consequence of her race.”

Lexi’s closest full-blooded Indian relative is a “great-great-great-great grandparent,” the institute explains.

That means she is subjected to the “ICWA Penalty Box,” which applies to “no child who is white, black, Hispanic, Asian” or any other race, the institute said.

She is being denied decisions based on the “best interests of the child,” the basis of child custody laws.

“In [a previous case], the U.S. Supreme Court found that it would ‘raise equal protection concerns’ if ICWA were used to ‘override … child’s best interests’ and take a child from a caring home ‘at the eleventh hour’ simply ‘because an ancestor – even a remote one – was an Indian,'” the brief noted.

“We ended race-based discrimination 50 years ago in the country. But not for Native American children,” said Timothy Sandefur, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “ICWA subjects Native American children to separate and substandard considerations in adoption and foster care cases. It is harder to remove them from abusive situations and it is harder to keep them in safe and loving homes than it is for children of any other race.”

He continued, “While it is important to protect the culture and heritage of Native American tribes, the desires of a tribe should never trump the best interests of a child.”

‘Very hard’

The foster parents talked about the situation on Monday.

“It’s been very hard, very emotional, very confusing,” Summer Page told Fox Business.

Rusty Page said their three other children, who considered Lexi their sibling, have not been doing well.

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Asked whether they were allowed to talk to Lexi, Rusty said, “Not right now, no.”

He said he hopes for that in the future.

“If this is about her best interest, they would let us,” he said.

Tribe’s ‘no comment’

Tribal officials multiple times have declined to respond to WND requests for comment, but on Friday WND reported that the tribe was blasting the foster family for doing “nothing but delay” the case and turning it into a political cause.

“It appears the foster family and their counsel are attempting to turn Lexi’s case into a political call to arms to dismantle ICWA,” the tribe charged in an unsigned statement posted online. “For the Choctaw Nation this case is not about politics. This case is about one of our children, one of our tribal members.”

The tribe said the ICWA “requires Lexi be given the chance to grow up with her family, with her sisters.”

“The California courts, time and again, found that Lexi should live with her family. The Pages have done nothing but delay Lexi’s reunification with her family.”

‘Traumatized’

WND previously reported that one of the social workers assigned to Lexi’s case said the little girl is “traumatized” because of the removal from her home.

WND reported Lauren Axline of Valencia, California, posted a comment on a page promoting a petition to return Lexi to her foster family.

“I was the foster social worker on this case for 3.5 yrs, and I can speak of the deceptive, crooked, and destructive things the ICWA (Indian Child Protection Act) social workers and lawyers have done that are NOT in the best interest of this child or her future,” Axline wrote. “I can also speak of the amazing Page family and how they have loved on Lexi from day one and how much Lexi is truly a part of their family.

“They took a scared 2-year-old who didn’t know a parent from a stranger and helped form this beautiful, silly, confident, loving, stable little 6 yr old by the love and nurture they provided for her in their home the last 4.5 yrs.”

Then Axline expanded on her comments in an interview with the London Daily Mail.

What do YOU think? Sound off on the case of Lexi, a 6-year-old girl taken from her family

The Mail reported Axline described the Native American unit of the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services as “deceptive” and “crooked.” Axline said she believes the agency handling Lexi’s case “hid” key facts and overlooked “damning” visitation reports.

Axline said that as a foster agency, we “report what we find in each child’s case to the county, and the county is supposed to take that information to the courts.”

“But we were reporting the different instances in Lexi’s case that were really concerning us, things that were concerning me as the social worker working the case, but they weren’t passed on. I’m talking visitations with the Utah family during which Lexi was an absolute mess. The DCFS would tell her that she would have to have a visit, and she would go ballistic and she would go crying and crying, and when she would come back from a visit it would take her days and days to get back into her normal routine and behaviors,” she said.

She told the Mail: “Instead of writing, she was ‘hysterically crying,’ as I told them, they would put, ‘Lexi had such a fun time at Disneyland when they went; she was smiling and laughing.’ It was completely deceptive.”

‘Child sacrifice’

On its website, the Goldwater Institute recounts the case of Laurynn Whiteshield and her sister, Michaela.

“Laurynn spent most of her life in a home where she was loved and protected. From the time she was nine months old, she and her twin sister, Michaela, were raised by Jeanine Kersey-Russell, a Methodist minister and third-generation foster parent in Bismarck, North Dakota. When the twins were almost three years old, the county sought to make them available for adoption. But Laurynn and Michaela were not ordinary children.

“They were Indians.

“And because they were Indians, their fates hinged on the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in 1978 to prevent the breakup of Indian families and to protect tribal interests in child welfare cases.

“The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe had shown no interest in the twins while they were in foster care. But once the prospect of adoption was raised, the tribe invoked its powers under ICWA and ordered the children returned to the reservation, where they were placed in the home of their grandfather in May 2013.

“Thirty-seven days later, Laurynn was dead, thrown down an embankment by her grandfather’s wife, who had a long history of abuse, neglect, endangerment, and abandonment involving her own children,” the report says.

It quotes William Allen of the Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children and Families, who is a critic of the law.

“I would go so far as to call the legislation a policy of child sacrifice in the interests of the integrity of the Indian tribes, meaning the end has nothing to do with the children,” Allen said. “It has everything to do with the tribe. To build tribal integrity, tribal coherence, the law was passed in spite of the best interests of the children.”

Significant damage

The damage to a 6-year-old ripped from the only parents she’s known can be significant, according to Cheryl Chumley, a court-appointed special advocate and author of the new “The Devil in D.C.: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington.”

“This is a perfect example of the damage that government can do when it gets involved in matters it doesn’t belong,” she said. “Tearing this little girl away from the only home she’s ever known is a travesty – and it’s a big black mark on government.

“As a CASA, a court-appointed special advocate, I help judges make the difficult decision of where abused and neglected children should ultimately live. And I can tell you, ripping children from a home where they’ve grown, where they’ve thrived and where they’ve lived with family is an upsetting process, at best – a mentally and psychologically damaging occurrence at worst. By all accounts, Lexi was thriving in her present home, but now, because of government policy, she may have to go live with strangers, in an entirely new state.

“God help us if this is what government can do, without barely blinking an eye.”

‘Devastated’ family

“Our family is so incredibly devastated,” Rusty Page said in a Facebook statement. “But nobody could possibly be more devastated than our 6-year-old daughter who found herself restrained in a car and driven away to go and live in a foreign place hundreds of miles from her family, friends, teachers, home and life.”

A measure of the public’s interest can be assessed at a GoFundMe page, where more than $43,000 has been raised for the family’s effort in just three days, and Change.org, where 116,000 people have signed a petition. At the outset, for a time, the signatures were coming in at a rate of one per second.

The case has overtones of the “Baby Veronica” case from several years ago.

The infant was placed with foster parents who wanted to adopt her, but an Oklahoma tribe demanded that she be removed and given a single parent. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the tribal action, and a lower court allowed the foster family to keep custody.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco adopted “Baby Veronica” from an Oklahoma woman and had custody for 27 months in South Carolina before courts ordered custody transferred to Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown.

The case centered on claims of the Cherokee tribe.

Follow the progress of the case on the GoFundMe and change.org sites.

Concerned individuals may contact the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma or call 1-800-522-6170.

 

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