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California Family Files Appeal to Keep Girl Who is 1/64 Native American

by Elisha Fieldstadt /  / Updated 

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The longtime foster family of a 6-year-old part-Native American girl who was taken from their home because of her heritage filed an appeal Tuesday with the California court in an effort to get her back.

Rusty and Summer Page have been fighting for years to gain custody of Lexi, who they have fostered for four years.

But Lexi is 1/64th Choctaw Native American, and after a long legal back-and-forth Children’s Court of L.A. County ruled Friday that she would be placed with relatives in Utah in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

The law, according to its own language, seeks to keep children of Native American heritage with Native American tribes and their members.

 Rusty Page carries Lexi while Summer Page, in the background, cries as members of family services, left, arrive to take Lexi away from her foster family in Santa Clarita, Calif., on March 21. David Crane / Los Angeles Daily News via AP

According to public court records, the Page family filed a request with the California's Second District Court of Appeals Friday to reverse the decision to have her taken from their home shortly after officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (LA DCFS) picked her up Monday — while dozens of supporters of the family protested in the street and Summer Page screamed "I love you, Lexi" from the driveway.

The Page's lawyer, Lori Alvino McGill, told The Associated Press that the filing asked that the California Supreme Court hear an appeal of the decision and have Lexi returned to the family's home in the meantime.

The Choctaw Nation filed an opposition to the Page's request on Tuesday, according to court records.

"We appreciate the concern for Lexi and want to assure everyone she is in a safe, loving home with her relatives and her biological sisters," the Choctaw Nation said in a statement Tuesday. "We, as a tribe, are required to follow federal law. The foster family filed appeals three times to keep Lexi, delaying the reuniting of Lexi with her relatives."

"The Pages were aware since 2011 that their foster daughter had loving relatives wanting to welcome her into their home and reunite her with her siblings, one of whom she will now live with," the National Indian Child Welfare Association said in a statement Tuesday. "Now she is with family."

The Pages counter that they are Lexi's family.

"This is not a fight against the Native American community, or the Choctaw Community, or Lexi’s extended family, biological or otherwise," the Pages said in a statement Tuesday. "This is about justice for a 6 year old child who, against her wishes, was heartlessly ripped from her dad’s arms by people paid by our tax dollars."

 Rusty Page, foster father to Lexi, 6, is comforted by Graham Kelly after getting the news that family services will come to take Lexi away outside his home in Santa Clarita, Calif.,on March 21. David Crane / Los Angeles Daily News via AP

The family that Lexi is set to be placed with is related to her through her step-grandfather, according to court documents. They are not Native American, the documents said. Her birth parents struggled with substance abuse, and her father had a criminal record, according to the documents, which said she was in two foster homes before being placed with the Pages in 2011.

A online petition called "Keep Lexi Home" addressed to several California and LA DCFS officials had garnered nearly 78,000 signatures by Tuesday night, and a GoFundMepage had raised more than $25,000 for the family.

The family also held a demonstration Tuesday night at the U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles in an effort to get the attention of Sen Barbara Boxer.

"Our family is so incredibly devastated," the Rusty Page said in a video statement Monday night shortly after Lexi was picked up. "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."

The LA DCFS said in a statement Monday night that their priorities are to act in the best interest of children and adhere to decisions by the court.

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