SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Controversy is brewing as social workers in California removed a six-year-old girl from the home of her foster parents on Monday to place her with extended family due to the child’s Native American heritage.
The Department of Children and Family Services removed the girl, named Lexi, from the home of Rusty and Summer Page a day after originally planned as protesters gathered outside of the home on Sunday to speak against her seizure, praying and singing hymns.
Lexi has lived with the Page’s for four years, during which time the couple has attempted to adopt her, but were not permitted to do so. They have since been entrenched in a court battle to keep the girl in the home, as they state that Lexi considers the couple and their three children as her family.
The issue is that Lexi is 1.5 percent Choctaw Indian, which means that her case must apply under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that was passed in 1978 to “protect the best interests of Native American children.”
“The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child,” the Nation said in a statement. “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.”
Because of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a Los Angeles judge ruled that Lexi be placed with extended family in Utah, a decision that the Page’s fought. They lost their appeal on Friday, resulting in the removal of the child, who reportedly wept loudly as she was submitted to social workers.
“We have great compassion and sympathy for the Pages,” Children’s Law Center of California Director Leslie Starr Heimov, which represents foster children in court, told the Los Angeles Times. “We know that their hearts are breaking, but, unfortunately, that’s the nature of foster care. We ask the adults to love a child as if it’s their own and then to let that child go, and that’s an extremely difficult thing to do.”
“Her family in Utah have been waiting for receive her for over three years,” she also said in a statement. “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.”
The Page’s state that the Utah family is only related through marriage and not blood, and is not American Indian. They also note that the girl has siblings in Los Angeles County, and that she therefore need not be taken to Utah. A Facebook page created for the case has over 17,000 likes to date and a petition to California officials has over 58,000 signatures.
“Our family is so incredibly devastated. Our hearts are broken and we are trying to make sense of everything that has happened with our three other children who witnessed their sister Lexi forcefully ripped away from our family by strangers,” the family said in a statement. “But nobody could possibly be more devastated than our 6-year-old daughter who found herself restrained in a car and driven away to go and live in a foreign place hundreds of miles from her family, friends, teachers, home and life.”
The Page’s continue to call for Lexi’s return.
“Please search deep into your heart and soul and do what’s best for Lexi. Do the right thing and bring Lexi back home. Do not keep her one more minute. Do not force her to spend one more night away from us and her siblings,” the family pleaded. “Look her in the eyes and just ask her what she wants. She will tell you she wants to go home.”