It's Time for These Foster Parents to Let Their Little Girl Go

Child and parent hands

A foster family fighting to hold on to 6-year-old Lexi, whom they've loved as their own for four years, made a very emotional plea to the public to help in their fight to keep her. And while it's heartbreaking to watch a family ripped apart, as a fellow foster parent, I wish they would have handled things differently -- for Lexi's sake.

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On March 21, Lexi was essentially forcibly removed from the care of her foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, whom she's lived with in Santa Clarita, California, for more than four years, along with the Page's three other children. A court ruled her 1/64th Native American heritage prohibited the foster family from adopting the little girl. Kids with even the slightest bit of Native American heritage in the foster care system fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act, which essentially bars anyone other than a family member from permanently adopting that child.

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So the courts, as they so often have to do in these child welfare cases, were forced to make an awful decision -- remove Lexi from her foster home and place her with relatives in Utah who are willing and eligible to adopt her. Making matters even more frustrating for the Page family, the Utah family members aren't Native American either and are only related to the girl through a step-grandfather.

The situation completely sucks and I'm sick over what must be an unimaginable loss for the Page family, but in my own experience, being a foster parent means sucking up your own grief so you can be strong for your foster kids. There isn't a foster kid in the system who hasn't suffered immeasurable trauma from being removed from his or her family. Little Lexi was suffering a scary and terrible loss, too. And she was being taken to a stranger's house forever. Just try to imagine the anxiety that little 6-year-old was feeling.

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So instead of having her foster parents calmly preparing her the best they could for the transition, Lexi was pulled away by officials in front of news cameras and to the sounds of her foster mother screaming among a street filled with protestors. The Pages wanted to block officers from taking Lexi and launched a media campaign to "save Lexi," which included a live stream of her being taken from the Page home. It was a terrible situation that the Pages made immeasurably worse by trying to play this child for the media. 

#keeplexihome Is Live Now!

Posted by Troy Dunn on Monday, March 21, 2016

I get it. Foster parents are asked to do an impossible job, to love a child as their own but be prepared to let that child go. It's something as a foster parent you worry about every day. But it's your responsibility, not just to the entire Child Protective System, but to that kid.

Didn't Lexi deserve a better good-bye? That little girl was undoubtedly dealing with their own sadness and heartbreak, so was it necessary for her to have to contend with the Pages' too? And kids feel guilty. They feel responsible for the pain and sadness the adults in their life experience. And worst of all, because the Pages are foster parents whom Lexi loves and trusts, there could have been no one better to reassure her that everything will be fine, and that she has their permission to be happy with her new family. And doesn't Lexi deserve a permanent family and to be adopted instead of living in perpetual foster care?

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And what about Lexi's privacy?

On all of those counts, the Page family failed Lexi. Here's their official statement condemning the courts and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

EXCLUSIVE: Rusty & Summer Page Official Statement After Lexi W...

Official Statement From Lexi's Parents (exclusive)#SaveLexi

Posted by Troy Dunn on Monday, March 21, 2016

There's nothing about this situation that's fair for her. And instead of creating a circus environment centered around the Page family's loss, it would have been much better for Lexi to have the focus on her and her well-being, rather than the Pages' anger at the system. A tall order, to be sure, but ultimately letting these kids go with care is the most important way any foster family can serve the children they care for and grow to love as their own. Foster parents love kids and provide them with a calm, safe place while everyone else fights about their future. Like I said, an impossible job, but one that's so very important to get right.

In the meantime, my thoughts are with the Page family in what has to be a terribly painful time of loss, and I hope they will keep their home open to other children who need to be loved as fiercely as their darling Lexi does.

 

Image via KonstantinChristian/Shutterstock

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