Image from GoFundMe page for family

Image from GoFundMe page for family

The Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma is blasting the foster family credited in court with restoring an abused little girl to health and happiness for doing “nothing but delay” the case and turn it into a political cause.

The dispute centers on a 1970s federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, which gives tribes control over placement of children in protective services, even if the child has only a tenuous link to the tribe.

“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.”

The tribe has chosen Lexi’s step-grandfather’s niece to have custody of the 6-year-old, whose story burst into the headlines earlier this week when agents from child protective services took the crying, resisting child away from the foster family, Rusty and Summer Page, with whom she has lived since she was little over a year old.

The state government took the girl from her biological parents because of their drug abuse and criminal histories. Her father 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 and initially would use “mommy” and “daddy” for friends and strangers alike, court records show.

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Lexi was described in the court records as having signs of a “reactive attachment, the disinhibitive type.”

But social evaluators later told the courts that removing her from the Pages “would be potentially traumatic,” causing her to suffer “depression and anxiety.” She “formed a strong primary bond and attachment with the entire [Page] family, viewing the parents has her own parents and the P. children as her siblings.”

While the tribe and chief Gary Batton repeatedly have declined to respond to WND questions about the case, the tribe has defended its actions through statements.

Its latest statement said Lexi “is now home with her extended family.”

The tribe said its intent all along, even while allowing the Pages to provide foster care, was “for Lexi to have a permanent home with her family.”

Families rally to keep Lexi Page at her California home with her family (Photo: Twitter)

Families rally to keep Lexi Page at her California home (Photo: Twitter)

“The tribe and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services have been vilified and the facts of this case have been warped in an attempt to gain public sympathy for the foster family. This case is not about the foster family – but about a child’s long-term best interest – Lexi’s best interest.”

The tribe asked people to look at both sides of the case and “respect this young child’s right to privacy.”

WND previously reported that one of the social workers assigned to the case of Lexi, who’s under control of the tribe because she is 1/64th Native American, warned in a recent interview that the little girl is “traumatized” because of the removal from the home where she’s lived since before she was 2 years old.

WND originally had reported Lauren Axline of Valencia, California, had spoken out about the case, posting 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.”

Now Axline has 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.”

Lexi and her biological father reportedly have never lived on a reservation or been subject to tribal law, the report said.

“He even denied that he was Native American when his mother raised the issue with Los Angeles County DCFS, and told them that he was an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation,” the Mail said.

The Mail identified the father as Jay Ellerforbes, who is now is facing meth and drug-paraphernalia charges in Pasadena, California.

The report said he also was arrested by the LAPD gang division in 2006. In 2004, he was sentenced to three years in prison for grand theft auto and running a “chop shop.” In 2001, he was accused of six felonies, ranging from receiving stolen property to forgery. Also that year, he spent 210 days in jail for domestic battery. In the 1990s, he faced charges of meth possession, receiving stolen property and reckless evading, possession of a controlled substance and numerous driving offenses, the report said.

Axline said she believes the agency handling Lexi’s case “hid” key facts and overlooked “damning” visitation reports.

Lexi-Go-Fund-Me2

The agency ultimately refused to put Lexi’s interests first, she claimed.

“Even at the very end, the way they went to the house and took her; it was wrong. Lexi will be traumatized,” she said.

“A transition process was talked about with the DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services), and they still said no. Instead, they snatched her; it’s a disgrace. That is the worst possible way; that child is going to be traumatized by what happened.”

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.

“Once they started overnight visitations, that was even worse. It was taking her weeks to get back to normal,” Axline told the Mail.

“I was monitoring a visitation with him and Lexi. It was early on when he was just released from jail, and he was talking about his time inside. He was sharing with me about how tough it was to be there and said that he had to stick around with his white buddies, my white supremacist friends, he said. He said they had to protect each other from the other gangs in jail.”

Axline described Lexi’s reaction following short visits with her father.

“Lexi would come back and report these odd things; she told us she would hide behind furniture because she was scared because her father was yelling and making her cry. Whether he was shouting at her or at someone else, I don’t know.

“She once came back and said she took a shower with her father in the middle of the day during a four-hour visit. She never said anything bad happened; but these are things are red flags that should be passed on.

“So we were hearing these things from Lexi; she was coming back and reporting it to us. We’d report it to the DCFS, and they were ignoring it. They were crooked; her father got longer visitation. They were refusing to put the information in their report, which was then going to the court.”

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.”

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

Los Angeles agency officials declined comment. At the same time, multiple rallies were being held in support of the Pages.

This week the Pages’ lawyers appealed to the California Supreme Court to restore Lexi to her home.

WND also reported the law under which Lexi was taken already was under a legal challenge that contends it is unconstitutional.

The Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit challenging the law as racist and unconstitutional because it not only allows but requires different treatment under the law, based solely on race.

“Alone among American children, children with Indian ancestry who end up in state protective custody are treated not in accord with their best interests but given separate, substandard treatment solely because of their race,” the organization explains.

“This separate, unequal treatment results from a well-intentioned but a profoundly flawed and unconstitutional federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the ICWA. The Goldwater Institute is challenging certain provisions of the act in order to vindicate the constitutional rights of off-reservation children of Indian ancestry in Arizona, and their foster and prospective adoptive parents. The civil rights class action is based on the fundamental principles of equal treatment under law, respect for individual rights, and federalism embedded in the federal Constitution.”

There’s already been a move to make it a class-action case.

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

The Institute’s action contend the law violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment, the due process guarantee, and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. It also contends the ICWA “exceeds the federal government’s power.”

Lexi's family is devastated as the child is taken from them (Photo: Twitter)

Lexi’s family is devastated as the child is taken from them (Photo: Twitter)

‘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.”

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A report on Monday’s events:

The chief of the tribe, Gary Batton, a prolific online commenter, wrote last October about the importance of his own adopted children.

“Family is very important to me. The cooler weather has given me the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandchildren over the past few weekends. We have shot baskets and gone fishing. Choctaw Country in the fall is beautiful and it is a blessing to be able to make such good memories,” he posted, continuing, “My wife, Angie, and I are adoptive parents. We were elated to welcome our daughter and son to our hearts and our home. If we had not adopted our children, we would not be enjoying our two grandchildren! I thank God every day for them.”

He pointed out, “There are many more children needing a place to call home than there are families to provide that home.”

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

In a separate state-of-the-tribe posting at about the same time, Batton wrote: “This is kind of a sad situation but we are going to focus on it – there are almost 1,000 cases in our Indian Child Welfare initiative. We need to do more to keep our families united so we will be adding staff to our Indian Child Welfare.”

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

Chief: ‘Do good to all people’

At Christmas, he gave thanks for “all the blessings we receive” and said it’s a season “to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus teaches us to do good to all people when we have the opportunity,” he wrote then. “Christmas is a special time of year when we are blessed with many opportunities to reach out to a neighbor in need.”

The damage, however, 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.”

Cheryl Chumley’s latest book takes on the Washington behemoth head-on. Don’t miss her guidebook for turning back the disastrous effects of Big Government: “The Devil in D.C.: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington”

‘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 $38,000 has been raised for the family’s effort in just three days, and Change.org, where more than 107,000 people have signed a petition. On Tuesday for a time, the signatures were coming in at a rate of one per second.

The Change.org petition explained: “The first year of her life she moved from foster placement to foster placement. Lexi has been with a loving, stable family for nearly five years and is thriving and a happy, healthy little girl. To Lexi this family is her everything – her mommy, daddy and brother and sisters.”

The petition charges the tribal decision to move the girl to Utah to “live with a non-blood related family who aren’t even members of the tribe” is “heartless.”

The petition page also linked to a Facebook page.

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

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 involved claims from 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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