The decision to reunite the girl known as “Lexi” with her relatives in Utah stands, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
The 6-year-old foster child, who was determined in 2011 to come under the Indian Child Welfare Act, was removed in March from the Saugus home of her unrelated foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, with whom she had lived since 2012. At the direction of child welfare workers, she was brought to Utah to live with her blood relatives, including her half-sisters.
The Pages appealed the case three times, asserting their relationship with the girl constituted “good cause” to depart from the placement preferences set forth in the law.
“We have twice remanded the matter because the lower court used an incorrect standard in assessing good cause,” the appellate justices said.
The third time the lower court got it right, the justices said. They said the court correctly considered the bond Lexi developed with the Pages, her relationship with her Utah family, and the “capacity of her (Utah) family to maintain and develop her sense of self-identity, including her cultural identity and connection to the Choctaw tribal culture.”
Also taken into consideration was the Pages’ “relative reluctance or resistance to foster (Lexi’s) relationship with her extended family or encourage exploration of and exposure to her Choctaw cultural identity,” the justices said in the ruling.
The justices noted the Pages “have described efforts they made to incorporate Native American culture into their lives.” They said they joined the Autry Museum, attended various Native American events, and painted one wall of their kitchen “Navajo blue.”
Lexi’s family and caregivers issued the following statement on the news of the ruling:
“We respect the unanimous decision by the court of appeal justices. All who have been appointed to seek Lexi’s best interests – her court-appointed attorneys, guardian ad litem, social worker, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the dependency court judges – have unanimously echoed that Lexi should be raised by her family.
“As Lexi’s relatives, who have been seeking to adopt Lexi for over five years, we are grateful that both state and federal law have placement preferences for family. More than simply sharing a familial relation with us, Lexi has been a real part of our family since the moment her grandmother – our aunt – expressed her desire that we bring Lexi into our home. The determination we felt since then, when Lexi had just been placed in her first foster home, has provided vital strength for our family as we have waited for the courts to untangle the details.
“We hope the appellate court’s ruling brings closure and finality to everyone involved, and Lexi is at last allowed to live a peaceful childhood in our home with her sister.”
Lori Alvino McGill, attorney for the Pages, issued the following statement:
“The Pages are obviously extremely disappointed with the court’s decision, but they believe in our judicial system and remain hopeful that they will ultimately prevail. As a mother, it is very difficult for me to fathom what the Pages, and Lexi, are going through right now. We remain focused on Lexi’s rights under the law, which supports her being reunited with her family in California. In the meantime, it is our hope that Lexi’s extended family members will look into their hearts and allow her to speak to the family she knows as her own.”