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June 22
1972 - Vasquez Rocks added to National Register of Historic Places [list]
Vasquez Rocks


More than two dozen people sat in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Friday morning to hear arguments on both sides of a tug-of-war over a 6-year-old girl.

The girl, who lived for more than three years with a foster family in Saugus, was returned to her Utah relatives in March after a protracted legal battle that centered around the Indian Child Welfare Act. Known as “Lexi,” the girl is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

The foster family is asking the 2nd District Court of Appeals to reverse its decision.

“The last three-plus years have been trying to get the court to determine, finally, which placement she would have permanently,” said the foster family’s attorney, Lori Alvino McGill. The purpose of Friday’s hearing, McGill said, was to “determine if the cause-exception to the (Indian Child Welfare Act), how it applies, and whether the evidence (of good cause) was sufficient.”

Children covered under the act are to be placed “with members of the child’s extended family, other members of the same tribe or other Indian families” whenever possible.

The Pages have argued that they “have been the only consistent source of love, nurturing, parenting and protection she has received her entire life.”

But Lexi’s Utah family has been a significant part of her life, the girl’s attorney said.

“She knows them. She has a bond with them,” her attorney said Friday. “She’s doing well. She’s adjusting.”

Rusty and Summer Page and their attorney, Lori Alvino McGill, emerge from the courtroom Friday.

Rusty and Summer Page and their attorney, Lori Alvino McGill, emerge from the courthouse Friday.

Friday wasn’t the first time the foster parents have appealed the court’s decision to place Lexi with her Utah family. It was the third time the appellate court has seen the case. The California Supreme Court refused to reconsider the removal order in March.

Lexi’s biological parents lost custody of her because of her mother’s “lengthy substance abuse problem” and father’s “extensive criminal history,” according to court records. Lexi came to live with her third set of foster parents, Summer and Rusty Page, in December 2011 when she was just 2 years old.

Three months prior to her placement with the Page family, her biological father’s cousins informed the Department of Children and Family Services of their desire to adopt Lexi.

All parties initially agreed to transfer Lexi in April 2013, about a year and four months after she was first placed with the Page family and about seven months after reunification efforts with Lexi’s biological father failed. Soon after, the Pages notified the court that they wanted to adopt the girl.

Friday’s appellate court panel included Presiding Justice Paul Turner, Associate Justice Sandy R. Kriegler and Associate Justice Lamar W. Baker.

Attorneys present included Christopher Blake, who represented Lexi; Kim Nemoy, senior deputy county attorney on behalf of the Department of Children and Family Services; Joanne D. Willis Newton, representing Lexi’s biological father; McGill, representing Summer and Rusty Page; Melissa Middleton, representing the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; and James C. Rutten, representing the advocacy group Advokids.

McGill spoke first in court. Turner asked her how many times her clients, the Pages, had objected to the their hearing dates and questioned the contributing factors to the delay of Lexi’s move to her Utah family.

“I think we have to be clear that your clients never objected to a single hearing date,” Turner said. “They did this because they thought it was right (to continue appealing the court’s rulings). There’s an intellectual dissonance.”

lexi061016McGill argued that her clients did not want to delay the relocation of Lexi and blamed the courts for taking months to “render the same legal errors.” McGill and her clients assert that the courts failed to consider Lexi’s bond with her foster family, her best interests, and whether there was a significant chance of harm or trauma by removing her from her foster family.

Blake reiterated the 2014 published opinion of the court that found no good cause to deviate from the plan to place Lexi with her Utah relatives. He noted that placing a child with her own relatives rather than with foster or adoptive parents isn’t unique to ICWA cases; it’s the preference in any DCFS, state or federal case.

“I don’t think any of us were so naive to think this transfer would be as smooth as silk,” Blake said, addressing McGill’s assertion of a traumatic transfer process.

McGill argued that Lexi was prevented from presenting her own views to the court, but Nemoy, the DCFS attorney, said that decision was made by a prior judge in the case.

Nemoy explained the rationale behind the DCFS determination that Lexi wouldn’t be unduly traumatized by her unification with family members.

“The move may cause the child distress but not trauma,” Nemoy said. Lexi had an ongoing relationship with the Utah family and was in a “healthy mental state,” she said.

The fact that Lexi’s half-sisters would be with her, that she would be near other tribal members, and that her mental health was sound “tipped the scale in favor of the relatives,” Nemoy said.

Justice Baker asked Nemoy if there were typically delays in placing ICWA children.

Nemoy said 1 to 2 percent of children DCFS care are covered under ICWA and about half of those are immediately placed with relatives. The county currently has only one Native American foster family in the system, she said.

Attorney Newton said Lexi’s biological father supports her transfer to her Utah relatives.

lexi061016dBut Justice Turner questioned Lexi’s father’s interest in the girl, stating: “His conduct is reprehensible, and to say he made some difficult decisions (with Lexi’s placement) – he has made bad choices all along.”

Middleton said on behalf of the Choctaw Nation that “Lexi has the right to learn what it means for her to be Choctaw.” Lexi will be given the opportunity to learn the stories of her heritage and continue passing down the stories of the Choctaw Nation, as her grandmother did with Lexi’s family, Middleton said.

After court, #BringLexiHome campaign supporters held a press conference in front of the courthouse where the Pages and a representative of the Goldwater Institute of Arizona spoke.

“It has been 81 days since she has even heard a word from her mommy, daddy, Caleb or Zoey,” said Rusty Page. “To Lexi … Know that we love you unconditionally. … We miss seeing you, holding you, teaching you, singing with you and playing with you.”

The Goldwater Institute filed a class-action lawsuit in 2015 challenging the constitutionality of what the organization considers the “Indian Child Welfare Act’s unconstitutional and unjust treatment of Indian children,” said Timothy Sandefur, the organization’s vice president for litigation.

Lexi’s story made international news and isn’t the first ICWA case to get tied up in the system.

ICWA was enacted by Congress in 1978 to “address the separation of Indian children from their families at a disproportionately high rate, as a result of state agency policies and practices that placed the children in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes,” according to a statement Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Interior. Subsequently, “state courts and state agencies have sometimes differed in their interpretations of the law and inconsistently implemented the statute,” the statement said.

Lawrence S. Roberts, acting assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, announced final, updated regulations for implementing ICWA Wednesday. The regulations developed and recommended by the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence in November 2014.

Under the new rules, “state courts in foster-care, termination-of-parental-rights, and adoption proceedings will be required to ask whether the child is an ‘Indian child’ under ICWA, and therefore subject to the law’s procedures.” It has long been the practice in California.

Early identification “maximizes the chances of placing the child with extended family and other preferred placements, thus promoting stability for the child and healthy connections with his or her family and tribe,” according to the Interior Department. “The rule also provides clarity on the requirement that ‘active efforts’ be provided to maintain or reunite the child with his or her family.”

A decision in Lexi’s case is expected in the next 60 days.

Nearly 130,000 people have signed an online petition to “Bring Lexi Home.”

“If the ruling is not in our favor, and obviously we hope it will be, we’re prepared to take the next steps, which would be to petition the California Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court,” McGill said.

 

 

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16 Comments

  1. Thank you for continuing to actually tell the truth and present the facts in this case, this article will help to dispel some of the most recent lies from the SL 🐑

    Her family was involved prior to the Pages, they’ve delayed this unnecessarily, she is with her siblings, her family were not strangers to her, all claims by the 🐑 that we all know are not true!!

    “I think we have to be clear that your clients never objected to a single hearing date,” Turner said. “They did this because they thought it was right (to continue appealing the court’s rulings). There’s an intellectual dissonance.”

    I think this quote makes it clear how the judge feels about them unnecessarily holding this child in limbo through useless litigation.

  2. Judi mohundro says:

    Odd that Nemo stated that the child would be in a home with siblings and that tipped the scale in the placement choice. It has been reported that the half-sibling in the home is 1 year old and yet the placement choice was made in 2012? How could it be a tipping point when in fact the half-sibling was not even born at the time of placement choice? Rather telling of a possible “fable telling” in my opinion. Was happy to see Judge Turner give no weight to the bio father supporting the move to Utah. I totally agree the bio was and remains reprehensible!

  3. canne reed says:

    Thank you for a well balanced article. Your article does a very good job in representing the truth of this case.
    The family in court today were temporary paid caregivers providing support to this child and her family. They were always told this child was not available to adopt. When reunification loomed they made the choice to obstruct that effort for over 3 years.
    What a dangerous precedent it would set if legal strangers can simply decide they want a child more. The child is with relatives who can share with her family history and help strengthen bonds, for that we should be grateful.

  4. Elizabeth Danos says:

    Thank you for reporting truth and facts. The majority of the media has been very biased to one side considering the family hasn’t been able to speak out and defend themselves. Great article!

  5. Anna packer says:

    Finally an unbiased article about this sad situation. I will be following SCV from now on!

  6. Diane Reardonq says:

    Thanks for your fair coverage of this story. It is sad that so many news outlets are only telling the sensational part of the story,

  7. Vanessa Williams says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth on this child’s case we really need more media outlets that want to get the truth out.

  8. Sig Rev says:

    Amen, Amber. It’s about time a journalist actually research and print the truth. Nice to see an unbiased account for once.

  9. Julie Schroeder says:

    Thanks for the well-written story.

  10. William Neilson says:

    I appreciate seeing more truth on this case then the usual one side we have been getting. Hopefully this is almost over for the little girl and that she can begin being just that a little girl and not some social media possession toy. Hope t o be able to here more truths from all media.

  11. Thank you for telling the truth it needs to be told..

  12. Thank you for acually taking the time to write and tell the Truth and not just following suit like many news outlets, information on both sides very refreshing..😄

  13. Birt hull says:

    What part of this your a foster family doesn’t anyone get. The note I read the more discusted I am with foster family’s. The ones that try to keep children from their biological families.

  14. Diane says:

    Yes, thank you so much for an unbiased reporting of FACTS. These people made the choice to violate her rights and confidentiality by creating a media circus, holding a gofundme, and selling items with her name on them. They have broken so many laws and fostering rules, it is reprehensible. They’re using her name/story to make money for themselves on a child that was never theirs. They were told from the start a plan was in place and she was NOT available for adoption. Regardless of the father’s past, he is still her father, still has parental rights. Many of the Pages’ supporters have struggled with addictions and ill pasts themselves, and while they can obviously excuse themselves and each other, they refuse to excuse him, or think that, like them, he can change his ways, as well. Some of the supporters are ‘serial supporters’ who follow these cases, even stalking the children and families, giving out sensitive information, and encouraging harassment of them. People like this are NOT in a child’s best interest. For them, it is about winning over all else.

  15. Pat says:

    There’s nothing worse for this child than the emotional roller coaster the Pages insist in placing her on. She needs to know that she is now with loving family and she can get settled in.
    The “not knowing” and the emotional tug-of-war is certainly not in the child’s best interest.

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