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

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday made permanent a divide between a potential adoptive family and a little girl whose biological family had disintegrated when she was only months old because of drugs and crime.

The court refused to hear the case of Lexi Page, who was taken from Rusty and Summer Page and sent to live with distant relatives because of her 1/64th Indian ancestry.

They were doing what the Choctaw tribe from Oklahoma had instructed.

Tribal officials had told the court in a brief that they claimed, under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, the right to dictate whether a child such as Lexi, now 7, who never had been affiliated with, lived with, or taken part in tribal life, can be required to live with non-Indians designated by the tribe.

The justices issued the decision without comment.

But the issue undoubtedly will be back.

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WND reported the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix, which earlier launched a lawsuit against the ICWA regarding another case, is determined to continue to fight against what it describes as discrimination against children who have a fractional Indian ancestry.

When the court refused to hear the case, the Pages issued a statement through their representatives.

“To say we are heartbroken is an understatement. It is difficult to describe the turmoil, heartbreak and devastation that our family and Lexi has endured over the past 10 months but the light that has kept us going has been the incredible prayers and support from our family, friends and supporters.”

The family continued: “While this is certainly a crushing blow, it will not stop us from fighting for Lexi’s rights and the rights of other children unnecessarily hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act. We will continue to advocate on Lexi’s behalf. We are her parents and will never give up on her. Our home will always be her home and we know that one day we will be able to hold her in our arms again. One day she will know how many people fought for her. Lexi, we love you forever and ever.”

The family members thanked their supporters “as you have followed this case and shared it with your communities and the nation.”

The Pages had won the argument twice at the court of appeals in California, but the caswe was returned to the lower court each time. It was the Children’s Court of Los Angeles County that ruled in favor of ICWA over the child.

While the family to whom the tribe sent Lexi is not Indian – step-second cousins not related to Lexi by blood – Summer Page has a heritage with the Southern Band Tuscarora Indians.

Lexi was taken at 17 months from her birth mother, who has a long history of substance-abuse problems. Her birth father has an extensive criminal history and gave up on efforts to reunite with Lexi. It is through him that the tribe claimed the girl, even though “the record does not contain any evidence he ever lived on a reservation or had any social, politics or cultural ties.”

The Pages argued to the Supreme Court a “good cause” exception in the ICWA permitted Lexi to remain with them.

WND reported last fall how the American Bar Association in an article in the October 2016 issue of the ABA Journal recounted how Lexi ended up with the Pages. 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’s case against the ICWA points out that all other federal laws require that decisions about placement for such children be based on what’s best for the child – except the ICWA, which allows what’s best for the tribe.

“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.

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

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Additionally, the case asked 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 asked 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.

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.

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:

Advocates for the Pages warned the Supreme Court things will get worse.

“The questions presented are exceptionally important to a growing number of multi-ethnic children and their families. The countless children and families affected by this federal statute deserve certainty … If the law had been settled, Lexi’s adoption would have been finalized (either with petitioners or the R.s) more than four years ago.

“Instead, a terrified six-year-old was unceremoniously ripped from her home and cut off entirely from the only family and community she has ever known.”

 

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