A southern California girl could be legally removed from the only family she has ever known and turned over to her biological relatives due to a federal law preserving Native American culture.
Summer and Rusty Page want to adopt 6-year-old Lexi, who they have fostered for four years, but the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services intends to remove the girl and place her with family in Utah, reported KABC-TV.
“She’s a very happy girl and she’s a part of our family and we love her dearly,” said Summer Page, who has three other children.
Dozens of protesters went to the family’s neighborhood Sunday, when authorities had planned to come for the girl, but her removal was postponed.
Lexi’s case falls under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in the 1970s aimed at protecting the interests of Native American children and promoting stability in tribal families, because authorities say she is 1.5 percent Choctaw.
“It just tore us apart because to think that our child could leave for such a stupid thing,” said Rusty Page.
The Pages said they supported an earlier plan that would have returned Lexi to her biological father, but court documents show he distanced himself from the girl in 2012.
So the Santa Clara couple began a legal battle to keep Lexi, who had previously lived in two foster homes as a baby, rather than turn her over to extended relatives out of state.
The couple lost their most recent appeal Friday, and a court-appointed attorney for Lexi said justice could finally be done by returning her to Native American relatives.
“Her family in Utah have been waiting to receive her for over three years, during that time they have traveled to California monthly and she has visited their home as well,” the attorney 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 attorney added.
The Choctaw Nation also released a statement praising the court order to return Lexi to blood relatives.
“The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child,” the statement read. “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.”
The Pages say they will continue their fight to keep Lexi in their family.
“As hard as it is, and as scary as it is to go up against the people we going up against, we’re putting everything on the line,” Summer Page said. “A mom is not going to sit back, a dad is not going to sit back. We’re going to fight until the very end.”
They have not told Lexi or their other children that she may be leaving, because they were placed under a court order not to do so.
Watch this video report posted online by KNBC-TV: