Earlier this week I shared the story of a California family that risked losing their six-year-old foster daughter Lexi simply because the girl is 1/64 Choctaw. There’s a heartbreaking update to the story: late Monday, authorities ripped Lexi from the only family she’s ever known and loved in order to place her with Choctaw relatives she barely knows in Utah.
Foster parents Rusty and Summer Page and their other children, along with a group of protesters praying for the family, could only watch in horror and sorrow as agents took the girl away from the family with whom she has lived for almost five years.
The Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 statute designed to protect the welfare of Native American children, is responsible for the court decision which ordered the state to take Lexi from her foster family. After Lexi’s biological parents gave up custody of her about a year ago, family members in Utah petitioned to move her back there, while the Page family tried unsuccessfully to adopt her.
“She’s the happiest child you’ll ever meet today,” said Rusty. “Tomorrow … No. She won student of the month last month at school for how caring she is for people, and people don’t return that favor to her.”
“The county of L.A. always talks about how important it is to maintain consistency and permanence for children, and yet they violate that today. And it’s gut-wrenching,” said Rusty.
Hundreds of the Page’s fellow church members and neighbors looked on in horror as authorities took little Lexi away.
Leslie Starr Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of California, told the Los Angeles Times that Lexi has had regular visits with the Utah family with whom she will live, and that one of her sisters lives there as well.
“There are two families that love her,” Heimov told the Times. “The court has made a decision. We need to follow the law, and we need to enforce the court orders.”
That statement surely provides no comfort for Rusty and Summer Page and their other children. The Page family issued a statement after the state took their foster daughter away:
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.
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.
Let me speak directly to the people who took our daughter and who have her now. 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. Look her in the eyes and just ask her what she wants. She will tell you she wants to go home. I’m begging every American within the sound of my voice to help us bring Lexi back home.
Rusty Page had stronger words for the Times:
“We never use the word foster sister, foster daughter; it’s sister and daughter,” Page, 33, said. “She’s part of our family with everything but her last name.”
Page said that when he and his wife became the girl’s foster parents, she “came to us scared and confused.” Now, he said, she is the “happiest, sweetest, kindest girl you ever met,” who loves to play with the couple’s children and to color and swim.
Page accused the Choctaw Nation of “dictating where this child goes.”
The Choctaw Nation, far from their seemingly harmless statement earlier in the week, stated that they advocated for Lexi’s placement with the Utah family.
The child’s relatives in Utah have “created a loving relationship with her,” the tribe said. “The Page’s were always aware that the goal was to place [the girl] with her family, and her permanent placement has been delayed due to the Pages’ opposition to the Indian Child Welfare Act.”
Continue to pray for the Page family. If you would like to get involved, sign the petition at change.org and give to the GoFundMe account that helps the family in their fight if you can. Send messages of support to the Pages on Twitter and Facebook (and share this article on Facebook). They’ll need all the support and prayers they can get.