‘Indian’ girl torn from family inches closer to homecoming

By Garth Kant

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Editor’s note: For most of the press, the sad saga of Lexi Page, stripped from the only family she ever knew because she is 1/64th Choctaw and given by social workers to a woman who not only is not related to Lexi by blood, but also is non-Native American, is long forgotten. But not for WND, which continues to follow the tragic case of racial profiling and discrimination in foster and adoptive care.

This is the sixth 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,” Part III: “Little ‘Indian’ girl ripped from family brings grown men to tears,” Part IV: “Parents haven’t forgotten their little ‘Indian’ girl” and Part V: “Judgment Day for little ‘Indian’ girl ripped from family.

WASHINGTON – Following a dramatic court hearing Friday morning in Los Angeles that will determine the fate of his foster child, Rusty Page strode to the bank of microphones and addressed Lexi, somewhere in Utah, ripped from her home by the state, all because she has a mere 1.5 percent Choctaw blood.

“Lexi, if you hear this, either now or in the future, know that we love you unconditionally. We miss seeing you, holding you …”

Page had to stop. Overwhelmed, he took a long pause to fight back the tears. Biting his lower lip, he finally managed to haltingly continue, “Teaching you, singing with you and playing with you …”

But it was no good. He had to stop again.

After another long pause, he summoned the strength to go on.

“Lexi, what has happened to you is wrong. But be assured that Mommy and Daddy are fighting for you, and will continue to fight for you as long as it takes. People all around the world are fighting for you. Hang in there, sweetheart. We know you are hurting. We know you have moments of confusion. But, hopefully, it won’t be long before you are in my arms and we will be dancing again.”

“I love you. Mommy loves you. Mattie loves you. Caleb loves you. Zoe loves you,” Page uttered softly as he mentioned every member of the family.

He concluded, “All your friends love you. Lexi, God loves you. We pray that justice will prevail and that this court will do the right thing and bring you home.”

The press conference outside the court room following the hearing had begun the same way as it ended, with Page barely able to speak, holding back tears and trying to get the words out, while his wife, Summer, held tightly onto his arm.

He had begun by recalling the time since Lexi had been taken, “An incredibly difficult 81 days of both torment and hope.”

The press conference was a spectacular sight. And a sudden change. The plight of Lexi had dropped off the mainstream media radar ever since the state took the six-year-old child from the family of Rusty and Summer Page on March 21, and sent her to live in Utah with a non-blood relative, who is also a non-Native American, under the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA.

But the media was back in full force after the California Court of Appeals held an expedited hearing on the case Friday morning on whether the little foster child, whose plight has become an international cause celebre, should be reunited with the only mother, father and family she has ever known.

Supporters of Lexi and the Page family gathered outside the court room

The Pages hope to adopt the 6-year-old girl, who has lived with them as a foster child since she was 25 months old.

On Friday, Rusty Page told the media of the family’s agony and concern for Lexi, during the “81 days since she has even heard a word from her mommy and daddy.”

“Rest assured, it’s not because we haven’t tried,” he told both Lexi and the world. “We have repeatedly asked to speak with Lexi and have been cruelly denied.”

“Why? Because we spoke out.”

That was a reference to a gag order slapped on the family by a judge (later lifted) after family members spoke to the press, including a series of in-depth interviews with WND.

And why had they participated in the interviews?

“Because we promised Lexi we would fight with everything we could to bring her home,” said Page.

When the California Court of Appeals granted the family’s motion for an expedited hearing, it gave the Pages fresh hope, because that court has twice ruled in favor of the family. Both times, the appeals court sent the case back down to lower courts, which ruled against the family.

But if the appeals court now rules that Lexi’s case has “good cause” to be considered an exception to ICWA, the girl will return to the Page family, most likely for good. That could happen by mid-summer.

Page told the assembled media how, “For 81 days, Lexi has missed being tucked into bed by Mommy and me, a comfort she has experienced for more the 1,500 nights of her young life.”

But he implored his little girl, and her supporters, to keep the faith.

“Lexi will one day know that in a period of 81 days, the world proclaimed their love for her and their shock at the mistreatment of an innocent child, when it became more important to uphold a law than to look out for the best interest of an innocent girl.”

The father wistfully observed, “In 81 days, nearly 125,000 people have spoken for Lexi from around the world. Countless other people have heard Lexi’s story and prayed for her. To those who have committed to being Lexi’s voice, our family is eternally grateful.”

Constantly chocking back tears, Page continued, “It isn’t hard to see that Lexi, like every child, deserves stability and love, regardless of her race, and that the majority of people out there know that the best interest of a child should come before anything else.”

Page struggled but managed to keep his composure in spelling out the bottom line for his family, regarding this crucial court hearing on this pivotal day:

“We are hopeful that the justices who heard the case today will look at the facts and decide to bring Lexi home, once and for all to her family, home to where she wants to be, because, at the end of the day, the law should never trump the rights of our daughter.”

Washington, D.C., attorney Lori Alvino McGill made the oral argument on behalf of the Page family before the California Court of Appeals.

Earlier in the week, she told WND, “We expect to get a decision within 60 days, but we hope it will come this month, given the fact that Lexi has not been allowed any contact with her family.”

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 foster parents Rusty and Summer Page. The girl considers the couple to be her parents and the Pages to be her family.

Lexi’s biologial 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.

Rusty Page told WND, “When she first came to us, she was virtually a shell of a person. She’d been bounced around among several homes. She’d experienced abuse, both at home and also at foster homes,” he said.

Page said she became a sweet, happy girl who loves her family and is loved by them.

Lexi wants to stay with the Pages but was seized by the state on March 21 from their Los Angeles-area suburban home. The family watched in horror as she clutched to her foster father, who had to deliver her to Los Angeles County agents.

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

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ICWA was originally intended to help preserve Indian culture and to keep children with Native American ancestry in tribal custody, but many, including McGill, believe the case is a textbook example of the exception to the rule that is permitted under the law.

“Congress created the good-cause exception for situations like this,” McGill told WND earlier this week, as she described the case she intended to make before the three-judge panel on the court of appeals.

“The lower court’s ruling is fundamentally inconsistent with the law interpreting ICWA’s good-cause exception, including the prior decisions of the court of appeal in this very case,” maintained the attorney. “The court was supposed to consider Lexi’s best interests and the risk of trauma to her as key factors in the placement decision. It did not do that, and if it had, it could not have ruled the way it did.”

McGill further described how, “ICWA does not require a child to be pulled out of the only loving home she has ever known, and torn from the people she knows as her parents, simply because an extended family member has expressed an interest in adopting.”

An interview with Rusty Page published by WND in April explored the many complex details of the case, and described the family’s gut-wrenching attempts to deal with their loss and the fight to get Lexi back.

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

DONATE to the Go Fund Me account to help the Pages pay for their ever-rising legal fees: $45,975 out of the goal of $50,000 has been raised by 779 people in 27 days.

SIGN the petition: 120,466 supporters have signed, leaving just 29,534 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.

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  • Lauren Axline of Valencia, California, who worked for the Page’s foster family agency 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: $45,975 out of the goal of $50,000 has been raised by 779 people in 27 days.

SIGN the petition: 120,466 supporters have signed, leaving just 29,534 needed to reach the goal of 150,000

VISIT the Facebook page

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