As the foster parents of a 6-year-old child who was taken from their home this week under the Indian Child Welfare Act — a federal law aimed at protecting Indian children and heritage — appeal their case to California's highest court, some new details about the legal battle are emerging.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the little girl, named Lexi, is reportedly just one-and-a-half percent Choctaw Native American. She was removed from her longtime foster home on Monday due to a 1978 federal law mandating that “Indian children” be raised by Native Americans.
Lexi’s foster parents, Summer and Rusty Page of Santa Clarita, California, who are white, have been fighting to keep Lexi in their home, but the Indian Child Welfare Act led authorities to seize the child, with plans to place her with relatives in Utah.
Listen to Rusty Page discuss the situation with The Church Boys below:
Those relatives, according to Leslie Heimov, a court-appointed legal representative with the Children's Law Center of California, aren't strangers and have been in touch with the child over the past three years both in person and via Skype, the Associated Press reported.
"She has a loving relationship with them," Heimov told the Los Angeles Daily News. "They are not strangers in any way, shape or form. ... The law defines family based on marriage, affinity or blood."
The couple with whom Lexi will live are not Native Americans and are related to her father — who is part Choctaw — by marriage.
Heimov also told the outlet that Lexi's biological sister is already living with the couple and that another sister will be living down the road, explaining that the law calls for siblings to be placed together if possible, "even if they were not initially together."
The National Indian Child Welfare Association, an Indian child welfare group, released a statement on Tuesday supporting Lexi's move to Utah to be with her extended relatives, saying that, though the organization has "deep sympathy for what the Page family" its leaders are disturbed by the "media spectacle" surrounding the case.
The text went on to say that the Page family has reportedly known since 2011 about the relatives in Utah who have wanted to take Lexi in.
"Court transcripts indicate the Pages were aware since 2011 that their foster daughter had loving relatives wanting to welcome her into their home and reunite her with her siblings, one of whom she will now live with," the statement read. "As with most foster placements, where reunification with family is the stated objective, the Page family understood her placement was to be temporary."
It continued, "Despite this and numerous court rulings dating back to 2013, they chose to reject the consensus of the court, the county child welfare agency, the child's parent, her court-appointed attorney, and her tribe, who all agreed it was in her best interest to be with family."
The statement seemingly indicates that Lexi is currently with those relatives.
According to the Daily News, Lexi was 17 months old when she was removed from her birth mother’s home. Her mother, who reportedly had substance abuse problems, and her father, who purportedly had a criminal history, could not care for her. The Native American tribe agreed to allow her to be with a non-Indian family while efforts were made to reunite Lexi with her father, which never happened.
These details and claims are emerging as the Page family has filed an appeal with the California Supreme Court, with family attorney Lori Alvino McGill requesting that Lexi be returned to the Pages until the appeal is decided, according to the Associated Press.
A lower court previously found that the family failed to prove that the child would suffer emotional harm due to the transfer.
As TheBlaze previously reported, Lexi’s seizure was based on the Indian Child Welfare Act — a provision that was signed into law to “establish standards for the placement of Indian children in foster or adoptive homes, to prevent the breakup of Indian families, and for other purposes.”
The Pages have said that they are the only parents Lexi has ever known, as she has been living with them for more than four years. They have also been reportedly trying to adopt her for the past two-and-a-half years.
Video from outside the Page home on Monday showed a chaotic scene during which the emotional family handed the little girl over to authorities, as reporters and protesters assembled en masse.
A 6-year-old girl at the center of a custody dispute was removed from her foster family in an emotional and chaotic scene in Santa Clarita Monday.The family had sought to bring attention to their effort to "Save Lexi" as they battled to keep her, despite a court order that the little girl be sent to join relatives in Utah.Lexi is part Choctaw, and she was sent to live with relatives under a 1978 federal law intended to protect Native American families and children. She has been with her foster family since she was about 2.Click here to read KTLA’s story here: http://on.ktla.com/CcYAnPosted by KTLA 5 News on Monday, March 21, 2016
“Our family is so incredibly devastated,” the Page family said in a statement released after Lexi was removed from the home. “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 continued, “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.”
“Lexi doesn’t know another home,” Rusty Page told KTTV-TV on Sunday before the little girl was removed from the home. “She finally knows what mom and dad means and they want to take that away from her, and we can’t stand idly by while that happens.”
As for the Choctaw Nation, the tribe released a statement saying that it “desires the best for this Choctaw child.
The statement continues, “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.”
A petition urging authorities to allow the child to remain with her foster parents has attracted more than 88,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning, with a “Save Lexi” Facebook page attracting nearly 25,000 members.
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