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Child Taken From Foster Family Because Of American Indian Heritage
A six-year-old girl will be separated from the foster family she has lived with for more than 4 years due to the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that aims to protect American Indian families.
According to ABC-7 Rusty and Summer Page of Santa Clarita took their foster daughter Lexi in as a foster child in 2012, when she was two years old. CBS L.A. reports that officials from the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services will pick Lexi up today, and that the Pages have agreed to comply with the county's orders.
Rusty told ABC-7 that Lexi considers him and Summer as her parents.
But Lexi's heritage has been a factor in separating her from the Pages: she's 1.5% Choctaw, which puts her case under the jurisdiction of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in the 1970s. On Sunday, Lexi was set to go live with relatives in Utah, but according to the "Save Lexi" Facebook page, the decision to remove her from the Page's custody has been postponed.
KTLA reports that Lexi's birth parents had been out of the picture for years due to incarceration and addiction. According to ABC-7, the Pages supported a plan from years ago that would have sent Lexi back to her birth father, but court documents revealed that he "distanced himself" from her in 2012. The Pages said they wanted to formally adopt Lexi, which kickstarted the current legal battle.
A statement from Lexi's court appointed attorney said, "Her family in Utah have been waiting to receive her for over 3 years, during that time they have traveled to California monthly and she has visited their home as well....The injustice here is not that she is leaving California but rather that her foster parents pursued litigation which prevented her from joining her family sooner."
Another statement from the Choctaw Nation read, "The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child. The tribe's values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. Therefore we will continue to work to maintain these values and work toward the long-term best interest of this child."
But Rusty disputed these claims, telling KTLA, "They're moving her to a family that's not Native American; my wife is Native American. So at the end of the day, the entirety of the law is not about the Indian child's welfare, it's about the Indian tribe's welfare."
A similar situation, the case of "Baby Veronica" made it to the Supreme Court in 2013. In Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, the court ruled that the child be returned to her adoptive parents, saying that the ICWA did not apply.
The ICWA was passed in 1978 due to high numbers of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies during the 1950s and 60s. The act is meant in some way to rectify the centuries of U.S. policy that sought to erase Native American culture via legislation that focused on "assimilation" rather than preservation or tribal self-determination.
Update, 3:51 p.m.: Here's a video of Lexi being taken from her home in Santa Clarita this afternoon. Warning—it is very sad.