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Fury erupts as government rips girl, 6, from parents

Bob Unruh/WND

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March 22, 2016

Tens of thousands of people on Tuesday flooded a petition calling for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to return custody of a 6-year-old girl with only fractional (1.5 percent) tribal blood to the “only family that she has ever known.”

The surge – at one point names were being added to the petition at the rate of about one per second, with an original goal of 75,000 – comes after the state of California and Los Angeles County child protective services agency workers physically took the little girl from her home with Rusty and Summer Page and their three other children.

The removal of the child, who had been with the foster parents since she was a little over a year old after her biological parents’ rights were removed over drug and criminal issues, comes under the auspices of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The law dating back to the 1970s was intended to preserve opportunities for Native American children to grow up knowing their Native American heritage.

The law grants Indian tribes the right to intervene in the placement of children with even the tiniest fraction of tribal heritage, and the Choctaw Nation did exactly that in Lexi’s situation, even though her foster parents have tried for years to adopt her.

Her removal from her home on Monday left her heading to distant relatives in Utah who had been designated by the tribe.

Cheryl Chumley’s latest book takes on the Washington behemoth head-on. Don’t miss her guidebook for turning back the disastrous effects of Big Government: “The Devil in D.C.: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington”

The petition explained: “The first year of her life she moved from foster placement to foster placement. Lexi has been with a loving, stable family for nearly five years and is thriving and a happy, healthy little girl. To Lexi this family is her everything – her mommy, daddy and brother and sisters.”

The petition charges the tribal decision to move the girl to Utah to “live with a non-blood related family who aren’t even members of the tribe” is “heartless.”

Related column:

Little Lexi’s plight: Horrifying, heartbreaking by Joseph Farah

The petition page also linked to a GoFundMe campaign raising funds for the family’s continuing efforts, as well as a Facebook page.

‘This horrific event made me sick to me stomach’

There, Kam Eadrey wrote: “I’m part Native American too and I was adopted. Watching this horrific event unfold made me sick to my stomach. I am against what this tribe/DCFS is doing, it is clear they are not putting Lexi’s welfare first.”

The attorneys appointed to represent the little girl also came in for some criticism on the site: “Shame on the Children’s Law Center! As the court-appointed attorney, her responsibility is to ask Lexi where she wants to be. We know exactly what Lexi’s answer is. So why didn’t she listen to her? [She] should be disbarred.”

News reports said child protective service workers arrived at the Santa Clarita, California, home as many protesters looked on and took a crying Lexi from her foster father and drove her away.

The family released a statement: “Our family is so incredibly devastated. Our hearts are broken, and we are trying to make sense of everything that has happened with our three other children who witnessed their sister Lexi forcefully ripped away from our family by strangers.

“But, nobody could possibly be more devastated than our 6-year-old daughter who found herself restrained in a car and driven away to go and live in a foreign place hundreds of miles from her family, friends, teachers, home and life.

“Let me speak directly to the people who took our daughter and who have her now. Please, search deep into your heart and soul and do what’s best for Lexi. Do the right thing, and bring Lexi back home. Do not keep her one more minute. Do not force her to spend one more night away from us and her siblings. Look her in the eyes and just ask her what she wants. She will tell you she wants to go home. I’m begging every American within the sound of my voice to help us bring Lexi back home.”

The tribe also released a statement, putting blame on the foster parents: “The Choctaw Nation’s values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. From the beginning of this case, the Choctaw Nation advocated for Lexi’s placement with her family. Lexi’s family was identified early on, and they have created a loving relationship with her. The Pages were always aware that the goal was to place Lexi with her family, and her permanent placement has been delayed due to the Pages’ opposition to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

“We understand the public’s concerns for Lexi’s well being as this is our main focus, but it is important to respect the privacy of this little girl. We believe that following the Choctaw Nation’s values in in Lexi’s best interest. The Choctaw Nation will continue to uphold these values and advocate for Lexi’s long-term best interest.”

The tribe released a new statement Tuesday defending its position: "Many steps have been taken by the Choctaw Nation to ensure the best placement of Lexi. An independent clinical psychologist was brought in to gauge her ability to transition from the foster home to her relatives. The California court appointed a marriage and family therapist to perform a child custody evaluation to assess the mental health and parenting practices of both parties. The experts along with Lexi's long-time individual therapists, her social worker and her attorney, all agree it is in her best interest to be with her relatives.

"Lexi's safety and wellbeing are the Choctaw Nation's paramount concern."

The chief of the tribe, Gary Batton, declined to respond to emails and telephone messages from WND requesting comment.

But a prolific online commenter, Batton wrote last October about the importance of his own adoption of his children.

"Family is very important to me. The cooler weather has given me the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandchildren over the past few weekends. We have shot baskets and gone fishing. Choctaw Country in the fall is beautiful and it is a blessing to be able to make such good memories," he posted, continuing, "My wife, Angie, and I are adoptive parents. We were elated to welcome our daughter and son to our hearts and our home. If we had not adopted our children, we would not be enjoying our two grandchildren! I thank God every day for them."

He pointed out, "There are many more children needing a place to call home than there are families to provide that home."

And he wrote: "The children can be in the foster homes for a few days, a few months or a few years. I have watched foster parents show strength and compassion as they are called with requests to accept a newborn, a toddler, or sometimes an older child. The unconditional love is evident as they change one child's life, then another, and another even though they know the child will most likely be there for just a short time. The foster families work with the children's families so that they can have a better chance of returning home. More than 100 Choctaw children were returned to their homes last year after temporary intervention.

"There have been many compassionate families who began as foster parents and later adopted a child. In cases where the children have entered foster care and it is not possible for them to return to their parents or their own extended family, the child's foster family can have the first choice in adopting."

In a separate state-of-the-tribe posting about the same time, Batton confirmed: "This is kind of a sad situation but we are going to focus on it – there are almost 1,000 cases in our Indian Child Welfare initiative. We need to do more to keep our families united so we will be adding staff to our Indian Child Welfare."

He also boasts of winning a "$111 million" settlement from the federal government in a dispute over timber rights.

Chief: 'Do good to all people'

At Christmas, he gave thanks for "all the blessings we receive" and said it's a season "to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ."

"Jesus teaches us to do good to all people when we have the opportunity," he wrote then. "Christmas is a special time of year when we are blessed with many opportunities to reach out to a neighbor in need."

The damage, however, to a 6-year-old ripped from the only parents she's known can be significant, according to Cheryl Chumley, a court-appointed special advocate and author of the new "The Devil in D.C.: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington"

"This is a perfect example of the damage that government can do when it gets involved in matters it doesn't belong," she said. "Tearing this little girl away from the only home she's ever known is a travesty – and it's a big black mark on government.

"As a CASA, a court-appointed special advocate, I help judges make the difficult decision of where abused and neglected children should ultimately live. And I can tell you, ripping children from a home where they've grown, where they've thrived and where they've lived with family is an upsetting process, at best – a mentally and psychologically damaging occurrence at worst. By all accounts, Lexi was thriving in her present home, but now, because of government policy, she may have to go live with strangers, in an entirely new state.

"God help us if this is what government can do, without barely blinking an eye."

Cheryl Chumley's latest book takes on the Washington behemoth head-on. Don't miss her guidebook for turning back the disastrous effects of Big Government: "The Devil in D.C.: Winning Back the Country from the Beast in Washington"

The case has overtones similar to the "Baby Veronica" case from several years ago.

The infant was placed with foster parents who wanted to adopt her, but an Oklahoma tribe demanded that she be removed and given a single parent. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the tribal action, and a lower court allowed the foster family to keep custody.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco adopted "Baby Veronica" from an Oklahoma woman and had custody for 27 months in South Carolina before courts ordered custody transferred to Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown.

That case involved claims from the Cherokee tribe.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Lexi's biological father is enrolled in the tribe "but was not aware of it."

"Her paternal grandmother informed the court that he was enrolled in the tribe," the report said. The little girl was removed from her parents at 17 months, based on her father's "criminal record" and her mother's "substance abuse problems."

Outside attention

The dispute also was drawing the attention of outside actors.

The Goldwater Institute is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the federal law "on behalf of non-Indian foster and prospective adoptive parents."

"We are challenging the law on equal protection grounds. The Constitution guarantees that all people will be treated the same under the law. But in reality, non-Native American children have greater protection under the law than Native American children do, and that’s unconstitutional," the group explained.

Follow the progress of the case on the GoFundMe and sites.

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