Rusty and Summer Page

Rusty and Summer Page

A California court on June 10 will hear arguments on behalf of a foster family seeking to regain custody of a 6-year-old girl who was forcibly removed in March because she is 1.5 percent Native American.

Since then, a court has barred Rusty and Summer Page from any contact with Lexi, who had been with the family since she was about two years old. The Pages have sought to adopt the girl, but the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma has stood in the way.  A judge, under the authority of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, complied with the tribe’s wishes to send Lexi to live with a step-grandparent’s niece in Utah.

Supporters of the Pages on Wednesday confirmed that the hearing is part of an expedited schedule approved by the court.

The case puts into focus the problems surrounding the ICWA, which, critics contend, is the one law in America that forces courts to make decisions regarding children based not on the welfare of the child but someone else’s interests.

In this case, it’s the interest of the Choctaw tribe, which allowed the Pages to provide foster care but suddenly objected when the family wanted to make the relationship permanent.

All because one of Lexi’s great-great-great-great-grandparents was Indian.

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The Goldwater Institute in Arizona, which already was fighting in court to have the ICWA declared unconstitutional before Lexi’s case arose, said such problems are created when a law “puts Indian children’s interests second, disregarding their best interests, and making it harder to provide them with permanent loving homes.”

“The law allows tribal authorities to intervene in child custody cases, assigns children to families against the will of their birth parents, makes it more difficult to take children from abusive families, and – as the California courts have admitted – discourages compassionate foster families and adoptive parents from taking in needy children. All of this is done solely on the basis of their race. It is disgraceful that a half-century after Brown versus Board of Education, it remains legal to subject one race of children to a separate and unequal legal system – one that makes it harder to protect them from abuse, harder for them to find permanent homes, and harder for them to realize the benefits of their U.S. citizenship,” the organization said.

WND has reported multiple turns in the case, including when it was revealed one of the judges in the case facilitated a tribal “blessing” in the courtroom, when a social worker who worked on the case pleaded for the court to consider what is best for Lexi, when the state supreme court gave a “thumbs down” to the foster family and when social workers warned the little girl would be traumatized by being ripped from the only family she has known.

Supporters for the family said in a report Wednesday that the juvenile court will not allow Lexi to have contact with the Pages “unless the Pages agree to be silent, and until they exert ‘influence’ over third parties to stop all media and social media coverage of the case.”

But a Court of Appeal ruling has suspended a “gag order” that the juvenile court judge had imposed on those involved in the case, they said.

SIGN the petition seeking to restore Lexi to the Pages.

Already, nearly 125,000 people and signed an online petition in support of the Pages’ request that Lexi be returned to them.

It was Lauren Axline, a social worker at a foster family agency, who said the agency was “deceptive” regarding the girl, who was living with Rusty and Summer Page at the time. Axline said officials declined to report trauma the little girl experience while with the custodians picked by the tribe.

The coming appeals court ruling could determine that there is good cause to depart from the ICWA demands in Lexi’s case, which could allow her to return to the Pages.

Supporters of the family point out that the family to whom Lexi was sent is not Native American – or even a blood relative, although Summer Page, her foster mother, is part Native American.

Lexi ended up in foster care due to her parents drug problems. Her father had spent time in prison and had a history of domestic abuse. He earlier terminated efforts to reunite. Lexi’s mother reportedly lost custody of several other children.

The Page family kids, with a blurred image of Lexi

The Page family kids, with a blurred image of Lexi

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The last time the ICWA was considered in the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2013, the justices sent a case 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.

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

The 2013 Baby Veronica case 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 when social workers took the crying, resisting child away from her Santa Clarita, California, foster family.

“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.”

Tribal officials multiple times have declined to respond to WND requests for comment, but WND recently reported that the tribe was blasting the foster family online 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.”

On its website, the Goldwater Institute recounted 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.

William Allen of the Coalition for the Protection of Indian Children and Families, who is a critic of the law, said, “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.”

WND has been covering the conflict since it developed. Here an extensive list of reports on the case:

Parents haven’t forgotten their little ‘Indian’ girl

Little ‘Indian’ girl ripped from family brings grown men to tears

New hope for family fighting to keep ‘Indian’ girl

Judge in Lexi’s case allowed tribal ‘blessing’ in courtroom

Former social worker begs ‘adults’: Do right by Lexi

California justices turn thumbs down on helping Lexi

Urgent pleas to California Supremes to help Lexi now

Lexi’s foster parents: ‘It’s been very hard’

Social worker: Snatched girl with Indian blood will be ‘traumatized’

Tribe used ‘unconstitutional’ law to snatch 6-year-old

Fury erupts as government rips girl, 6, from parents

 

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