SANTA CLARITA, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Page family in Santa Clarita appealed Tuesday to the state's highest court in their fight to keep a 6-year-old foster child who was removed from their home and sent to live with relatives in Utah.
Crying and clutching a stuffed bear, Lexi, who's 1.5 percent Choctaw, was removed from the Page home by a Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services agent on Monday.
The move was the result of court rulings stemming from the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in the late 1970s aimed to protect the best interests of Native American children.
The family's lawyer, Lori Alvino McGill, filed the request for the California Supreme Court to hear the appeal on Tuesday.
Lexi was removed from the custody of her birth parents at 17 months old. Her mother had substance abuse problems, and her father had a criminal history, court records show.
Rusty and Summer Page, who have three children, took in Lexi four years ago. They want to adopt her, and argue that Lexi has lived with them since the age of 2 and considers them her family.
However, a court found that the Pages have not proven Lexi would suffer emotional harm by the transfer.
Lexi was supposed to be taken away on Sunday, but DCFS postponed the meeting after a large group of supporters crowded the neighborhood to stand against her removal. The crowd stayed overnight, sleeping in bags in driveways in the cold to show their support.
McGill also requested that custody of Lexi be returned to the Pages until the appeal is decided.
Choctaw Nation issued the following statement regarding Lexi's removal on their Facebook page: "The Choctaw Nation has advocated for Lexi to live with her family since 2011. These relatives have been a part of Lexi's life for almost five years. They are not strangers, They have maintained a relationship with her, visiting her in California, making regular SKYPE calls, and Lexi has also been on extended visits to Utah. The family has been waiting for five years for all of them to be together."
Dozens of cases involving foster families have gone to court around the country after the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed.
Lawmakers found that Native American families were broken up at disproportionately high rates, and that cultural ignorance and biases within the child welfare system were largely to blame.
Under the transfer, Lexi will live with a Utah couple who are not Native Americans but are related by marriage to her father.
The girl's sister is living with the couple, and another sister will be living down the street, said Leslie Heimov of the Children's Law Center of California, Lexi's court-appointed legal representatives.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association said in a statement that the Pages were aware for years that the girl was an American Indian but chose to "drag out litigation as long as possible, creating instability for the child."
A petition to keep Lexi with the Page family has been posted online on Change.org.
A vigil will be held at the corner of Ron Ridge and Pamplico drives in Santa Clarita at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Pages are set to attend and make a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report null
Santa Clarita family's custody case of part-Choctaw girl appealed to high court
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