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

The case of Lexi Page, the little girl with 1/64th Indian ancestry who was taken from potentially adoptive parents and sent to live with some relatives-by-marriage because that was what a tribe with whom she’d never lived demanded, has had its profile raised with an article from the American Bar Association about the fight.

WND has reported since the outset of the case, including when the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix, which earlier launched a lawsuit against the Indian Child Welfare Act, around which Lexi’s case revolves, filed a brief with the California Supreme Court encouraging the justices to review and overturn the lower court decision regarding the girl, now about 7.

In August, the hopeful adoptive family, Rusty and Summer Page, said they were taking the case to California’s highest court.

Their supporters have vowed they will pursue to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

On a Facebook page about the case, a commenter pointed out how the ABA Journal highlighted the case this month.

The article itself, which was in the October 2016 issue of the ABA Journal and later was posted online, profiles how Lexi ended up with the Pages – after courts removed her from her biological parents and two subsequent foster families.

She had learned to consider the Pages and their biological children as her family, but because of the ICWA, which mandates that courts not use the best interest of the child in making decisions,  and her 1/64th Indian heritage, an Oklahoma tribe ordered her to live with some relatives by marriage in Utah.

It quotes Rusty, “This little girl who’s one sixty-fourth Choctaw is being controlled by her one sixty-fourth. If she were a percentage of African-American and the African-American community came and … dictated where she could go, there would be an uproar.”

The Goldwater Institute already had raised a challenge to the constitutionality of the ICWA before Lexi’s case appeared.

It points out that all other federal laws require that decisions about placement for such children be based on what’s the best for the child.

But not so with ICWA. It demands that the tribes decide what’s best for the tribe, and that’s what happens.

“What’s happened is that these Indian children are given unequal and substandard treatment, and their interests are not considered primarily in considering the best interests of the child,” Adi Dynar, an institute researcher, told the ABA.

Court decisions have gone both for, and against, the Page family, but the most recent said Lexi should stay with the Utah family that is not related to her by blood.

Mark Fiddler, a Minnesota lawyer who has worked such cases, told the ABA, “Our first agenda is stopping the harm to the child.”

The petition to California’s high court asks whether the ICWA applies if children “have never been domiciled on Indian lands and lack any significant connection to a tribe.”

It also questions whether the law violates the Fifth and 14th Amendments “as several California appellate courts have held.”

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Additionally, it asks whether ICWA “requires the removal of a child from her fit de facto parents where that placement complied with ICWA’s foster placement provisions … and the child has not otherwise been removed from that placement and is not in need of a new placement.”

And, it asks what is “good cause” for exceptions to the federal mandate.

It was last March that social workers forcibly removed Lexi from the Pages’ Los Angeles-area home where she had lived since she was about 2 years old. The Pages want to adopt her.

But the ICWA gives the tribe authority over Lexi, even though she is only 1/64th Choctaw. The tribe actually ordered her to live with a non-blood relative who is not even Native American.

Those involved in the case, from the tribe to county agents, agree Lexi has formed an exceptionally strong bond with her foster parents. The girl considers Rusty and Summer to be her parents and the Pages to be her family.

Lexi’s biological mother is struggling with drug addiction and gave up the child when she was 17 months old. Lexi’s father has a criminal record of grand theft and domestic abuse and has terminated efforts to reunite with the child.

A spokeswoman for the Pages told WND their legal team has reached out with a filing in the state Supreme Court, asking for an end to a decades-long disagreement in the state court system over the ICWA.

On its website, the Goldwater Institute recounted the similar 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. 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.”

A video about the case:

A second video:

WND reported earlier when a powerful precedent for Lexi’s case was established.

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Arizona lawyers revealed a 2-year-old girl known as “A.D.” had been awarded to adoptive parents against the wishes of the Gila River Indian Community. The Goldwater Institute said the Arizona Court of Appeals found the tribe acted too late in the process to prevent the adoption.

A.D. was taken from a drug-addicted mother shortly after birth and placed with a non-Indian foster family.

“This decision comes as a great relief,” said Adi Dynar, the Goldwater Institute attorney who argued the case. “But it just highlights the problems with the Indian Child Welfare Act. This law creates a separate and unequal legal system for children of Native American ancestry.”

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 only a small fractional percentage of Indian heritage.

The 2013 Baby Veronica case had almost identical circumstances: 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.

 

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