The Truth Behind the Case of the Native American Girl Removed From Foster Care

Posted by Ando, 05 Apr 16

It was a very sad day on March 21 when a 6-year-old Santa Clarita girl, Lexi, was removed from her foster home where she had been living for five years because she was 1.5% Native American. This was because of some 1970s ‘Indian Child Welfare Act’ which states that she must live with her Native American family. Her foster parents Summer and Russell Page were devastated.

Apparently, the Pages were aware that the child wasn't up for adoption from the onset. But on the day scheduled for transfer, the social workers were met by protesters at the Page house and couldn't retrieve the child since they wanted the transfer to be as peaceful as possible. The Department of Children and Family Services had to reschedule the retrieval and Lexi was placed under the care of her relatives, including her biological sister, in Utah as the Act required. And much the couple she was being taken to are not Native American, they are relatives of Lexi’s biological father and are within placement preferences under ICWA.

Lexi has been at the center of a custody battle between the Page family, her biological father and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Apparently, this is not the first custody battle the Pages have had. The previous child was returned to its extended family too.

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According to court documents, Lexi has been in contact with her extended family. They have been visiting her and Skyped with her regularly. Lexi had also visited them in Utah so the authorities weren't really placing her in an unfamiliar home. They are family.

A source close to the family said:

“These are not strangers that she’s never seen before or had any kind of relationship with. Her sister also lives with [the Utah couple] and she has another sister who lives down the street from them. She has a very close relationship with the Utah relatives, and the Pages have been a big part of facilitating that over the years, so it’s baffling that they would create this kind of drama and friction between the two families at the last minute when they have thus far had a very amicable relationship that was in Lexi’s best interest. They knew good and well that the transfer was coming―this was not a surprise visit from DCFS, so all this drama was completely for show."

The Pages' attorney, Lori Alvino McGill told the media that she will be filing an appeal with the California Supreme Court forthwith to have Lexi back with the Page family.

Since the case began in 2010 when Lexi was placed under the care of the Pages, they have been attempting to retain her despite being told severally by the state that she would have to be reunited with her father who had lost custody of his daughter after being jailed for selling stolen auto parts.

'The girl’s father was released from jail in December 2011, after which the girl remained with the Pages while he worked to complete a “reunification plan,” which included unmonitored day visits over weekends. But after a losing battle with the Pages, he reluctantly ceased reunification in 2013 and asked that she be placed with relatives according to placement preferences under ICWA. In 2014, however, the Pages went to court to establish “de facto parent” status―giving them the same rights and standing as biological parents―which was unanimously rejected by a California appeals court.

“The foster family was well aware years ago this girl is an Indian child, whose case is subject to the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act and who has relatives who were willing to raise her if reunification with her father was unsuccessful,” the National Indian Child Welfare Association said in a statement. “The purpose of foster care is to provide temporary care for children while families get services and support to reunite with their children, not to fast-track the creation of new families when there is extended family available who want to care for the child. The temporary nature of these relationships is also the reason we view those who serve as foster parents as selfless and nurturing individuals. Reunification and placement with extended family whenever possible is best practice for all children, not just Native American.”'

Looking at the drama the Pages pulled, they may have cost themselves the chance of ever getting her back. They violated the court order by alerting the media, refusing to peacefully surrender the child and releasing her name to the press - a violation of confidentiality that is stated under state statute.

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