The battle over six-year-old Lexi Page, the girl removed from her foster family in March because of the Indian Child Welfare Act, continued on Friday with a hearing in a Los Angeles courtroom and emotional pleas from Lexi’s foster father outside the courthouse.
Lexi was removed from her foster family of four years because ICWA requires children of Native American descent live with other Native American families. She was moved to Utah to live with a non-blood relative who is not Native American. Lexi is 1.5 percent Choctaw Indian and the tribe directed she live with who they preferred.
Lexi’s foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, were in court on Friday asking for her to be returned to them.
In an emotional statement after the hearing, Rusty Page took to the microphone outside the courtroom and broke down several times.
“It’s so incredibly difficult to think about the number of days that Lexi has been without her family. It’s been 81 days to be exact—81 days of both torment and hope. For 81 days, Lexi has missed being tucked into bed by Mommy and me… She has missed my butterfly kisses after bedtime prayers, and silly best wishes for the days to come,” Page said.
“Worse than that,” Page said, it’s been 81 days since they have not spoken to Lexi, though they have “repeatedly asked to speak to Lexi and have been denied.”
Thanking all those who “committed to being Lexi’s voice,” Page said, “our family is eternally grateful.”
“It isn’t hard to see Lexi, like every child, deserves stability and love, regardless of her race, and that the majority of people out there truly believe the best interests of a child should come before any thing else,” Page said.
“We are hopeful that the justices who heard the case today will look at the facts and decide to bring Lexi home, once and for all, to her family, home to where she wants to be. Because at the end of the day, a law should never trump the rights of our daughter,” said Page.
Goldwater Institute’s Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur, who was in the courtroom, told The Daily Caller in a phone interview, “We expect the decision pretty quickly.” He said five lawyers argued in the case, two on Lexi’s side and three on the other side, including the Choctaw Tribe, the attorney for Los Angeles County, and the court-appointed attorney for Lexi.
The justices asked the LA county attorney how many Indian foster families were in the county, and the answer was only one. According to Sandefur, Lexi’s court-appointed attorney argued “that Lexi’s best interests should not be a factor.” He also refused to disclose where Lexi wants to live.
In addition, the justices asked repeatedly if there was ever a case ruling that “contradicts what the court-appointed lawyer advocated for,” Sandefur said. There has never been such a case.
“It’s a complicated dilemma,” Sandefur said, “the child’s lawyer is not advocating for the child’s best interests.” Lexi’s lawyer also refused to address the trauma of removing Lexi from her foster family after four years.
According to Sandefur, Lexi’s lawyer referred to that as a “bump in the road.”
“There’s so many problems with this law,” said Sandefur. “So few people know about this law and if they did they’d be horrified by it.”
Numerous tragic situations have been highlighted by the Goldwater Institute detailing foster children who because of the law are sent to live in abusive homes. Some children have even been killed.
This week, the U.S. Interior Department issued new regulations for courts that have to decide foster care and adoption cases for children with Native American blood.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell boasted about new changes made under the ICWA that would close some loopholes in the law. During her visit to the Spokane Indian Tribe, Jewell said a disproportionate number of tribal youth are placed in the non-tribal foster care system “without any credible effort being made by the states to place those children in a family structure and a community structure that honors their heritage and their culture,” according to Jefferson Public Radio.
The new regulations may not apply the “best interests of the child” standard that applies to every other American child in foster care and adoption placement decisions. “Courts should always consider the best interests of an individual child as the highest priority in all child welfare cases, regardless of the child’s race or ethnicity,” said Sandefur. “ICWA requires the opposite. It singles out Native American children for substandard treatment by denying courts the power to protect their particular best interests.”
Many are rallying behind Lexi. Numerous people have weighed in on the Bring Lexi Home Facebook page, prayer vigils have been held for her return, and an online petition has gathered over 120,000 signatures.