Rusty and Summer Page

Rusty and Summer Page

This is the fourth in a series of WND reports on Lexi, the Page family and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Read part I, “Family fights to regain girl with Indian blood” part II, “New hope for family fighting to keep ‘Indian’ girl” and part III, Little ‘Indian’ Girl ripped from family brings grown men to tears.”

WASHINGTON – Lexi is an exceptional child by all accounts.

“Bright. Curious. Compassionate. Empathetic,” as described by a family friend.

“She melted hearts,” gently mused the man who has raised her, adding, “She could literally make anyone’s frown turn upside down.”

That didn’t happen by accident. It happened after Lexi became a member of the Page family.

She was completely transformed from what Rusty Page had called “virtually a shell of a person,” a foster child nobody wanted, into a young lady who friends and family described as a charming and unforgettable character, one adored by an entire neighborhood and now championed by people all over the world.

The difference? A close family friend suggested the parents are just as exceptional as the child.

“Rusty and Summer are younger than me and my husband. They are about, I would say, 10 to 12 years younger than we are. But we’ve just always been really impressed by their maturity, in many ways,” Janet Smith told WND.

“They just have a maturity about parenting. So, we could really look to Summer and Rusty, even though they are younger than us. We learned a lot about parenting by watching them.”

So, what’s the problem?

The state of California removed Lexi from the Page family home in the Los Angeles area and sent her to live with virtual strangers in Utah, all because she is 1/64th Native American. And because of a law, the only one of its kind in the U.S. legal system, that does not put the interest of a child above others, the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA.

Even though Lexi has a mere 1.5 percent Choctaw blood, the tribe has claimed her as one of their own and insisted she live with a relative, even though that person, a step-second cousin, is not even a Native American or a blood relative. Ironically, Summer Page is part Native American.

Lexi arrived at the Page’s door four years ago, a 25-month-old traumatized victim of two previous foster homes, with a mother battling addiction to methamphetamine and a father who had done time in prison for grand theft and had a history of domestic abuse. He has terminated efforts to reunite with the child.

The Pages turned that traumatized, broken child into a sweet, secure, happy and loving six-year-old. Her foster parents of four years desperately want her back and to adopt her. That’s what Lexi wants, too.

Everyone involved in the case, including the Choctaw tribe, Lexi’s birth parents and county agents, agree Lexi has formed an exceptionally strong bond with Rusty and Summer Page and their children. The girl considers the couple to be her parents and the Pages to be her family.

DONATE to the Go Fund Me account to help the Pages pay for their ever-rising legal fees: $50,372 has been raised by 850 people in one month.

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Janet Smith and her husband have known Rusty and Summer since 2008.

Smith has seen Lexi grow up with the Page family since the beginning.

“Lexi and the Page siblings attend the same church and school that my children do,” she told WND, and, “we are close and we really miss having her in our community.”

The families live in the same town, Santa Clarita, just a few miles apart.

“Our two kids are about the same age as their oldest kids, so we would get together at barbecues, Bible study, play at the park, do things like that. Our kids would play together and we would help each other with babysitting. We’ve just been a part of each other’s lives since we met.”

Smith called herself, “Somebody who has personally spent time with and been charmed by Lexi.”

The mother of two spoke with genuine affection, warmth, animation and a sort of politely restrained excitement as she described the Pages, sometimes pausing to search for just the right word. It seemed to matter to her a great deal to make sure people understood just who these people were, in her eyes: good, decent and kind.

Rusty and Summer Page

Rusty and Summer Page

In a phone interview with WND, Smith emphasized the exceptional parenting abilities of the Pages, which, time and again, she attributed to a maturity beyond their years.

Smith said she was impressed and affected by the sacrifices Rusty and Summer initially made more than five years ago, when the couple was still in their twenties, to become foster parents.

“I don’t look at the fostering the child part as the hard part, it would be complying with all of the DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services ) appointments, home visits, therapy visits and reunification efforts with parents that don’t necessarily respect you or the system.”

She added, “They had to be available and flexible for these things, often working with difficult people, and I see that as a personal sacrifice, but they have never let that get them down.”

Rusty Page prepares to turn over Lexi to the government on March 21

Rusty Page prepares to turn over Lexi to the government on March 21

Smith suggested a reason for the maturity.

“They have also impressed me with their patience. I only have two children, they are raising four and they always seem so collected and focused and patient!”

When asked to describe the family’s interaction with Lexi and explain the strong bond between them, Smith credited the couple’s parenting style.

“They treated her like she was one of their own children.”

With evident admiration, she cited examples.

“They never asked for any kind of respite care. Let’s say you’re fostering a difficult case or you’ve decided to foster the child and keep the child a little separate from your family, maybe take family vacations, or visit grandpa and grandma in another state…you do those things and you leave the foster child behind in respite care. They never did that,” she said quietly but emphatically.

“They took her everywhere that they went. She was included in every vacation, every outing. They took her to family weddings, out-of-state. She got to visit grandpa and grandma and the aunts and uncles. That’s why you’ve seen such an outpouring of love from so many people in Summer and Rusty’s extended family, because she’s met them all, and has been included in everything.”

The Pages didn’t just include Lexi on trips. They made her part of their daily lives.

“They also included her in activities like swimming lessons. All the Page kids, except the youngest, got private swimming lessons. Lexi was able to get those lessons as well. I remember swimming with Summer and the kids and other people in my neighborhood, and the swim coaches were just so impressed with Lexi because, even at age three, she was probably the best swimmer of the bunch, out of all of our kids. She swam like a little fish.”

Smith was even more impressed with the Page’s generosity and sense of fairness.

“Someone made that happen for her by giving her swimming lessons. I don’t have a lot of other friends who are foster parents, so I can’t compare. What I can say is that they never withheld anything from her that they would give their own children.”

Summer Page and her children look on in horror as Lexi is taken away

Summer Page and her children look on in horror as Lexi is taken away

Part of good parenting, or course, includes discipline. The Page’s firm but gentle style seemed to play a key role in Lexi’s transformation. And Smith described the transformation as remarkable.

“Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. I saw the difference in how she behaved from when they first had her. Just some of the little behaviors, little things she would do, that Summer would need to correct her, those things really diminished. And in the last couple of years, when we would get together and do all sorts of things as a group, she didn’t need any special correction, other than what any of our kids needed.”

Smith saw more of the effects than the process of the Page’s discipline, but she knew it was tailored to each individual child.

“I didn’t witness much discipline of the kids in my presence, but I know they discipline all the kids based on what was done wrong and the age and ability of the offending child,” but she did witness, “things like time outs, writing and reading as re-direction, or loss of privileges.”

She also described a unique form of positive reinforcement employed by the Page parents, one that helped foster bonding and unity.

“Summer told me about something they do to encourage good behavior and getting along as a team and family. They have the ‘jar of jewels’ and when they see the kids doing something nice or thoughtful to one of their siblings, they applaud them and have them put a jewel in the jar. She says this has worked well for them because the kids see the importance of working toward a goal. When they get a certain amount of jewels the kids get to trade them in for a fun family activity.”

She also credited the Pages’ innovative and thoughtful style.

“They are creative with the activities they engage in with the children and they are consistent. Like Rusty being so faithful as to take the kids to Home Depot every month for the building project – for years!

“Last November Lexi’s birthday fell on a school day and Summer decked out the family van with signs that said “Birthday Girl On Board” and she brought Lexi a crown and picked her up and took her out for lunch. She did the same thing with her brother the following week for his birthday — without a crown of course — I think it was something Star Wars related. But that is creative and fun and not something that occurs to me to do.”

Smith described a natural affinity between her family and the Pages because they have a good bit in common. But there was also a gentle, warm adoration in her voice. She seemed to find it easy to portray Summer as a special mom. Smith admired the way she particularly treated each child as unique.

“When it got closer to Christmas time, we’d talk about, ‘Oh what are you getting the kids? What’s on the Christmas list, what are you looking for?” We always kind of compare notes and see what the kids were interested in. And I love how she really knows her children. She really knows what each child is interested in and what would tickle each child,” said Smith.

“Lexi stood out from her other children because she had a strong interest in animals. A stronger interest than her brother and sisters, and she always enjoyed playing with animal toys and live animals. And Summer’s gift to Lexi this past Christmas was a little Playmobil stable with horses and riders and saddles and equestrian gear. It was just a real special thing for Lexi because she likes horses so much.”

An inconsolable Rusty Page after Lexi was taken away

Brother-in-law Graham Kelley tried to console Page after Lexi was taken away

That recollection brought home a poignant memory.

“Just a couple days before she was taken, I was in the Page home and asked her to show it to me because I hadn’t been there to see it, even though I’m often at their home. “I said, ‘Hey Lexi did you get a horsey thing for Christmas? Can you show that to me?’ And so she pulled it out and she showed me. I just thought it was real sweet how Summer just paid such close attention to what each child was interested in.”

One could hear in Smith’s voice a combination of pleasure to speak about Lexi but also a tinge of unspoken anxiety over the child’s fate. WND asked Smith to try to explain why she had found Lexi so charming?

She began with her first impressions of Lexi, when they Pages first started fostering her.

“Sunday mornings, we were in the same fellowship group, so we would go early and bring our kids to Sunday school, and we’d eat and talk. We got to see Lexi interacting with our kids and the Page’s children and other children that would be in that group. And she was shy.”

But it was hard not to notice Lexi.

“I always had a soft spot for her, which I think is kind of normal when you meet a child you feel needs extra love, and you would feel that for a foster child. I guess I just always had a little extra empathy for her. But she was so outgoing once she started to feel comfortable in their home.”

Something about her was different. In a good way.

“She was the kind of little girl, when I would walk in the room, and maybe I would say something to someone else first or maybe to another adult, but she would be sure to say. ‘Hi Mrs. Smith, how are you today?’ And she would engage me. She was just willing to engage an adult. Not all children are like that.”

Could Smith identify a point at which Lexi stopped seeming like a foster child and more like a member of the Page family?

“I don’t know that there was a defining moment. I do remember being so pleasantly surprised, when, possibly the first Easter Sunday that she was with their family, she and her older sister had on matching dresses. Her brother had something on that coordinated with that, and I commented on how sweet they looked. Rusty’s parents had sent the clothes and had bought a dress for Lexi, and I thought that was so incredibly kind of them to include her like that, to buy her a matching dress. I don’t know why that struck me. I just thought that was incredibly sweet that she was included in that.”

Friends gather to sing and pray for Summer and Rusty Page

Friends gather to sing and pray for Summer and Rusty Page

That was just a few months after Lexi had moved in. Not much later, a major event would bring Lexi and the Pages even closer, when Summer became pregnant.

Smith said Lexi “really owned that just as much as her sisters did. She felt pride and excitement her mom was going to be having a baby and she was going to be a big sister.”

Perhaps making the pregnancy all that much more important to Lexi was a particular fascination she had with baby dolls, according to Smith.

“It’s funny,” she explained, “because I I haven’t thought too much about Lexi’s nurturing nature with the baby dolls. I hadn’t thought about that for a long time because they hadn’t played with the dolls in such a long time, but when she was so little, her fascination with those baby dolls was definitely something that was noteworthy, especially given her background.”

Would it be putting words in her mouth to say family meant practically everything to Lexi?

“No, you’re not. I could say that absolutely. She identified with her family. The Pages were her family. Being a part of that family and being there when that family grew to include another baby. I mean, what an amazing thing for her to kind of be established in the family and then welcome in a baby.”

The Page family kids, with a blurred image of Lexi

The Page family kids, with a blurred image of Lexi

Smith continued, “Here she was, now established in the family and able to be the one to welcome a new baby into that family, that must’ve really cemented her attachment and that feeling of pride that ‘this is my family.'”

And that would’ve been as long as three years ago that she would’ve felt that way, right?

“Right.”

Smith said she had found it difficult to read some of the reports in the media, which is one reason she agreed to speak.

“I have a hard time reading anything that disparages the Page family, so I kind of take it personally, because I know them and it’s hard to read things like that. I have a tough time reading a lot of negative things. What I liked about your coverage was I just felt it was more personal. It felt like when you quoted Rusty or mentioned that she wasn’t treated like a redheaded stepchild and that she was included, I felt like, yes, that’s exactly what I wanted people to hear. I wanted people to know that. You’d see so many comments where people would say, ‘Well they’re foster parents, it’s a temporary situation, what did they expect?'”

“It was almost as though the detractors felt the Pages had formed an inappropriate bond with Lexi,” she reflected. “You were really able to draw out that Lexi had formed a very deep bond with them because they treated her so well. Really, if you stop and think about fostering, how could you treat a child any different? Because the child would feel so left out in a home situation if you are constantly setting them aside as a different child, if this foster child were not to get the same rights and privileges and love that your own kids get.”

But even as she maintained that any child in that position deserves love and respect, Smith made a final observation on why Lexi wasn’t just any child.

“She’s sensitive. She’s just…I find her to be sensitive. Not freakishly so, but you know just more so. It’s like some kids don’t really stop to consider what’s going on around them, what impact they are having on the adults around you, what is the mood of the room when you enter the room. You know she just she’s just aware of those things.”

And she may be back in that room before too long.

The Page family has reason to hope Lexi could return to them as early as this summer.

As WND reported last week, the California Court of Appeals has granted the Page’s motion for an expedited hearing. That court has twice ruled in favor of the family. If it now rules that Lexi’s case has “good cause” to be considered an exception to ICWA, Lexi will come home to the Page household for good.

Stay tuned.

Watch people all over the world speak for Lexi:

DONATE to the Go Fund Me account to help the Pages pay for their ever-rising legal fees: $50,372 has been raised by 850 people in one month.

SIGN the petition: 122,551 supporters have signed, leaving just 27,449 needed to reach the goal of 150,000

VISIT the Facebook page

The following are the basics and some of the astounding highlights of the Lexi case:

  • Lexi is 6. She had lived with the foster family of Rusty and Summer Page since the age of 25 months, after living with two previous foster families.
  • Lexi was 17 months old when she was removed from the custody of her birth mother, who had a long history of drug abuse and had lost custody of at least six other children.
  • The Choctaw tribe wanted to reunite Lexi with her biological father, even though he had an extensive criminal record and had lost custody of one other child.
  • Lexi was taken from the Page family, seized by the state on March 21, screaming and clutching her teddy bear, and relocated to live in Utah.
  • Lexi was taken under the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, because she is 1/64th Choctaw. That’s 1.5 percent.
  • ICWA gives tribes authority over placement of children who qualify for tribal membership; in the case of the Choctaw, that is children who have any trace of Choctaw blood.
  • But the woman she’s been placed with is neither a blood relative nor an Indian. However, Lexi’s foster mother, Summer Page, is part Indian: the Tuscarora Tribe.
  • Lexi is now in the care of a woman named Ginger, whose uncle is Lexi’s step-grandfather. That makes Ginger a step-second cousin.
  • On March 30, the California Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case. But an appeal to return Lexi to the Pages is still before the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. The Page’s attorney plans to take the case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
  • The Pages have not been able to speak with Lexi since she was moved, even though they were assured they would.
  • Lauren Axline of Valencia, California, who was the foster social worker on Lexi’s case for three-and-a-half years, said: “I can speak of the deceptive, crooked, and destructive things the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) social workers and lawyers have done that are not in the best interest of this child or her future.”
  • She added: “I can also speak of the amazing Page family and how they have loved Lexi from day one and how much Lexi is truly a part of their family. They took a scared two-year-old who didn’t know a parent from a stranger and helped form this beautiful, silly, confident, loving, stable little six-year-old by the love and nurture they provided for her in their home the last four-and-a-half years.”
  • Axline described the Native American unit of the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services as “deceptive” and “crooked.”
  • The slight tribal heritage of the biological father is the reason Lexi was seized, although she will not be returned to him.
  • Lexi and her biological father have never lived on a reservation or been subject to tribal law before.
  • Axline told the London Daily Mail that on trips to visit her father, Lexi seemed traumatized and scared to death of him: She would hide and cry hysterically.
  • The father has a criminal record, including drug use and grand theft auto and, most alarmingly, domestic battery.
  • Axline said she believed the foster agency handling Lexi’s case hid key facts, overlooked damning visitation reports and refused to put the child’s best interests first.
  • Axline said the Native American unit of the DCFS has behaved terribly and she wants to expose their “lies” and “cover-ups.” But she said the DCFS continued to ignore her reports.
  • She said, “Instead of writing Lexi was ‘hysterically crying’ during visits with the family she now lives with in Utah, 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.”
  • Axline said it got so bad that her agency began reporting directly to the court so they could at least see both sides.
  • “It doesn’t make any sense, Summer Page is native non-blood but the family in Utah is non-native, non-blood,” she said.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma issued a statement on the case:

The Choctaw Nation’s values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. From the beginning of this case, the Choctaw Nation advocated for Lexi’s placement with her family.

Lexi’s family was identified early on, and they have created a loving relationship with her. The Pages were always aware that the goal was to place Lexi with her family, and her permanent placement has been delayed due to the Pages’ opposition to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

We understand the public’s concerns for Lexi’s well being as this is our main focus, but it is important to respect the privacy of this little girl. We believe that following the Choctaw Nation’s values is in Lexi’s best interest.

The Choctaw Nation will continue to uphold these values and advocate for Lexi’s long-term best interest.

Here’s how you can help the Page family:

DONATE to the Go Fund Me account to help the Pages pay for their ever-rising legal fees: $50,372 has been raised by 850 people in one month.

SIGN the petition: 122,551 supporters have signed, leaving just 27,449 needed to reach the goal of 150,000

VISIT the Facebook page

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