By Janey DeMeo, Special to ASSIST News Service
SANTA CLARITA, CA (ANS – March 25, 2016) — Imagine seeing your six-year-old child ripped away from you sobbing, “Don’t let them take me. I’m scared!” And you could do nothing to save her!
This is precisely what Rusty and Summer Page experienced on Monday (March 21, 2016), when six-year-old Lexi was removed from their loving home in Santa Clarita, California — all because of misuse, even abuse, of the Indian Child Welfare Act, (ICWA) — a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families.
You see, Lexi is 1/64th Choctaw. It doesn’t matter that the Pages and their three biological children are the only family she has known for years, and that she was thriving in their home. Nor does it matter that the ICWA was originally created for the benefit of the child. Nope. None of that seems to count. Not in this case.
According to an article in People magazine, Rusty spoke through streams of tears saying, “She was screaming and she said, ‘Don’t let them take me. I told her, ‘We’re your mommy and daddy and we will fight for you and not give up.’ Then they just drove away.”
On Monday, with the Page children and their mother weeping in horror as they watched, Rusty Page held his daughter Lexi as she clung to him sobbing and crying, “I’m scared! Don’t let them take me away.” Rusty told ABC 7, “At the end of the day, if I can’t understand why they would take her, I can’t explain it to my kids. We’ll fight until I die.”
And who can understand? Who can explain it?
Moving Lexi from her home is, in my opinion as a mother and grandmother, the worse decision that could be made for her. It could traumatize her for life. Most people get this. Thus it was amidst outrage and protests from supporters that the Los Angeles County Department of Children, Family Services officials and Lexi’s court-appointed attorney took this precious, scared little girl from the only people who had been parents to her since she was a toddler.
The Pages love Lexi — so much so that when she became attached, they decided to pursue adoption because they believed it was in her best interests. But that’s where it got sticky. With 1/64 Choctaw DNA, the ICWA makes it harder for Lexi to be adopted to non-Indian parents. Harder — but not impossible. And in this case, the Pages had every right to adopt Lexi. The judge could have granted it– even under ICWA. After all, the ICWA was created by Congress to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902).
Choctaw Nation also claims to want what is the “best for this Choctaw child.” But a look at the tragic scene as heartbroken Lexi is ripped away from her family — those who have nurtured and loved her most of her wee life—contradicts that statement. Looks more like child abuse than watching out for the child’s best interest.
The top ICWA attorney in the USA, Mark Fiddler, claims that the ICWA was horribly abused in this case. It would seem that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Children’s Law Center (CLC) played very large roles in creating this heartbreaking situation.
Johnston Moore is an advocate for cases involving ICWA abuse. He is also a foster father with seven adopted children, two of which also have some Native-American DNA (four times more than Lexi). I asked Johnston some questions regarding Lexi’s case.
JD — Johnston, you and your beautiful family have seen several cases similar to Lexi’s. Have you seen success in getting them back to their loving foster-adopt families?
JM — Well, of course the biggest success we’ve seen is in the Baby Veronica case where, as a result of the United States Supreme Court ruling, Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents. Of course, that was not a foster case, but a voluntary adoption. Many foster/adopt parents have successfully adopted children subject to ICWA, sometimes after very difficult legal proceedings. There is definitely hope, not just because we’ve seen it happen in other cases, but because we serve a God who cares deeply for vulnerable children.
JD – That’s right. I remember the case of Baby Veronica. It is encouraging to think that our prayers and our voices on her behalf were heard. Let’s hope the same for the Pages, only faster—for Lexi’s sake.
JM — The outpouring of support ensures the Pages that they are not alone in this. The growing outrage ensures that ICWA as applied is going to be under much closer scrutiny for some time to come. Washington has to take note. I think another success is that the Los Angeles County child welfare system is being exposed to a degree to be a terribly dysfunctional machine in which children’s best interests all too often take a back seat to politics or personal agendas. Hopefully that will lead to reform. Of course, the biggest success of all will be when Lexi is reunited with her family in California, and that is the main focus of my prayers through all of this.
JD — Aside of signing the petition on Change.org, what else can we do to help get Lexi back home?
JM — People can continue to put pressure on those that made this happen. DCFS and CLC cannot simply hide behind the court ruling and act as if they are innocent bystanders. They played very large roles in this saga and in my belief, worked together to orchestrate the ruling they wanted. People can also write or call their elected officials and demand that they take a fresh look at ICWA and the way it is being applied today. This must be fixed before it harms any other children. And, please visit www.Goldwaterinstitute.org and learn more about ICWA and how it is being misused to the detriment of innocent children, many of whom were never intended to be subject to the Act in the first place.
JD — Any more guidance or relevant tidbits of wisdom you can share with us that might help us grab hold of hope for Lexi and the Pages?
JM — Pray. We were told there was no way we could adopt our two sons when we had a similar ICWA battle in Los Angeles County back in 2001-2002. At one point, it looked like all hope was lost. Still, we believed we were supposed to continue to speak up for our sons, who seemingly had no voice (Proverbs 31:8). We did, people prayed, and miraculously, we won. Our sons are 21 and 20 now, and in spite of the doom that some ICWA proponents would argue most certainly should have come upon them, they have turned out quite well in our home. One even traveled to Minnesota with me last May to testify in front of the BIA in opposition to its new ICWA guidelines. It was a proud moment for me when he said that Congress did not have a right to dictate to him what his best interests were when it passed ICWA in 1978.
To help Lexi, please go to https://www.change.org/p/keep-lexi-home, and sign the petition. And use social media to get others to sign. Here’s a tweet you can use: URGENT. Little girl heartbroken — ripped away from home. You can also go to Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/saveourlexi, or Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaveOurLexi, and to help the family with a donation, please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/SaveOurLexi. Also, visit Home Forever for more information and resources: http://www.home-4-ever.org/.
Remember that in Proverbs 31:8 & 9 (NLT), we read: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Your voice counts. And please pray!
Photo captions: 1) Rusty Page carries Lexi as Summer Page cries in background as family services, left, arrives to take Lexi away from her foster family. (Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles News Group) 2) The Page family with Lexi (left) whose face cannot be shown for legal reasons (Courtesy Rusty Page). 3) Maddie, Zoey, and Caleb Page enjoy ice cream with Lexi (Courtesy Rusty Page). 4) Louis and Janey DeMeo (Photo: Dan Wooding).
About the writer: Janey DeMeo is founding-president of Orphans First — a Christ-centered non-profit ministry helping underprivileged children around the world. She is an author, freelance writer and Bible teacher — and has worked with husband, Louis, as a church-planter in France. Her website is: www.orphansfirst.org.
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