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UPDATE: County takes 6-year-old from Saugus foster family

Posted: March 21, 2016 10:51 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2016 7:25 p.m.
Demonstrators standing vigil outside a Saugus home hold a prayer meeting before the changing of the guard at 9 a.m. Demonstrators were trying to prevent a 6-year-old girl from being taken from the foster home she's lived in for four years and being placed with a Native American family in Utah that she has never met. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Demonstrators standing vigil outside a Saugus home hold a prayer meeting before the changing of the guard at 9 a.m. Demonstrators were trying to prevent a 6-year-old girl from being taken from the foster home she's lived in for four years and being placed with a Native American family in Utah that she has never met. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Demonstrators standing vigil outside a Saugus home hold a prayer meeting before the changing of the guard at 9 a.m. Demonstrators were trying to prevent a 6-year-old girl from being taken from the foster home she's lived in for four years and being placed with a Native American family in Utah that she has never met. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Lexi's foster father, Rusty Page, with the child's uncle, Graham Kelley, outside the Saugus home of the child who's the center of a custody dispute. Page reported this morning that county social workers were expected to take the child sometime today. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Lexi's foster father, Rusty Page, with the child's uncle, Graham Kelley, outside the Saugus home of the child who's the center of a custody dispute. Page reported this morning that county social workers were expected to take the child sometime today. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Lexi's foster father, Rusty Page, with the child's uncle, Graham Kelley, outside the Saugus home of the child who's the center of a custody dispute. Page reported this morning that county social workers were expected to take the child sometime today. Signal photo by Jim Holt. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Foster father Rusty Page carries 6-year-old foster daughter Lexi to county car that will take her, along with county social workers, from the Saugus home where she has lived with the Page family four years. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Foster father Rusty Page carries 6-year-old foster daughter Lexi to county car that will take her, along with county social workers, from the Saugus home where she has lived with the Page family four years. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Foster father Rusty Page carries 6-year-old foster daughter Lexi to county car that will take her, along with county social workers, from the Saugus home where she has lived with the Page family four years. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Foster father Rusty Page tearfully answers questions from the media outside his Saugus home on Monday after his 6-year-old foster daughter was taken from the family by county child welfare workers. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Foster father Rusty Page tearfully answers questions from the media outside his Saugus home on Monday after his 6-year-old foster daughter was taken from the family by county child welfare workers. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Foster father Rusty Page tearfully answers questions from the media outside his Saugus home on Monday after his 6-year-old foster daughter was taken from the family by county child welfare workers. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Supporters pray over Graham Kelley, uncle of foster child Lexi, as he lies crying in the street on Ron Ridge Drive in Saugus following the removal of the child from his sister's home Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal multimedia Supporters pray over Graham Kelley, uncle of foster child Lexi, as he lies crying in the street on Ron Ridge Drive in Saugus following the removal of the child from his sister's home Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal multimedia
Supporters pray over Graham Kelley, uncle of foster child Lexi, as he lies crying in the street on Ron Ridge Drive in Saugus following the removal of the child from his sister's home Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal multimedia
Lena Kelley, left, prays with her sister Millie Rivera, right, and a supporter after Kelley's niece was taken from her foster home on Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Lena Kelley, left, prays with her sister Millie Rivera, right, and a supporter after Kelley's niece was taken from her foster home on Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Lena Kelley, left, prays with her sister Millie Rivera, right, and a supporter after Kelley's niece was taken from her foster home on Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Demonstrators form a circle and pray on the corner of Ron Ridge Drive and Plamplico Drive in Saugus in the hope of preventing a foster daughter from being taken from her foster parents. County child welfare workers picked up the 6-year-old girl shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Demonstrators form a circle and pray on the corner of Ron Ridge Drive and Plamplico Drive in Saugus in the hope of preventing a foster daughter from being taken from her foster parents. County child welfare workers picked up the 6-year-old girl shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Demonstrators form a circle and pray on the corner of Ron Ridge Drive and Plamplico Drive in Saugus in the hope of preventing a foster daughter from being taken from her foster parents. County child welfare workers picked up the 6-year-old girl shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Demonstrators gather to pray in support of a Saugus family whose 6-year-old foster daughter, Lexi, was taken from them Monday by county child welfare workers to be given to a Utah family related to her whom she has never met. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia Demonstrators gather to pray in support of a Saugus family whose 6-year-old foster daughter, Lexi, was taken from them Monday by county child welfare workers to be given to a Utah family related to her whom she has never met. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
Demonstrators gather to pray in support of a Saugus family whose 6-year-old foster daughter, Lexi, was taken from them Monday by county child welfare workers to be given to a Utah family related to her whom she has never met. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Copyright 2016 Signal Multimedia
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Amid crying and chanting, county social workers Monday collected a 6-year-old foster child from the Saugus parents desperately fighting to keep her, acting on a court order that concluded the girl’s native American blood requires her placement with relatives in Utah.

Three Department of Children and Family Services officials waited on the Santa Clarita Valley family’s doorstep for 10 minutes until foster father Rusty Page opened the front door and, holding a crying Lexi in his arms, made his way through a gauntlet of reporters as the child clutched teddy bear.

As the foster father arrived at the county workers’ car door, foster mother Summer Page emerged screaming from the house, the couple’s three children in tears with her.

A couple of supporters shouted at county workers, “How do you live with yourself?” and several repeatedly yelled toward the child, “The Page family loves you.”

The girl scooped up by county officials had been sheltered from a growing two-day protest outside her home on Ron Ridge Drive, kept inside with her foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, out of the glare of television cameras and other media attention.

The Pages had fought efforts under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act to place Lexi with relatives of her father, who is a Native American. The Pages argued that Lexi had lived with them since the age of 2 and knew no other life. They also say she is just 1.5 percent Choctaw Indian.

However, a court found that the Page family “had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that it was a certainty the child would suffer emotional harm by the transfer.”

The Pages have three children and want to adopt Lexi. The family is appealing and will go to the California Supreme Court if necessary, said their attorney, Lori Alvino McGill.

Lexi was 17 months old when she was removed from her birth parents’ custody. Her mother had substance abuse problems, and her father had an extensive criminal history, according to court records.

She 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.

In a statement, the National Indian Child Welfare Association said 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.”

Friends, relatives, church members and neighbors gathered early Sunday morning near the Page family home to protest the anticipated removal of the girl from her foster family by county officials.

Protesters who camped out overnight Sunday on the Saugus street, rallying to keep the 6-year-old girl united with her foster family, were replaced Monday morning with a fresh group as they dug in for an around-the-clock vigil.

The group prayed together every hour for a last-minute resolution to the situation.

Marie Wiles, mother of a home-schooled child, stayed with the protest until 10 p.m. Sunday and re-joined the group Monday morning.

“The neighborhood has come together and is supportive,” Wiles said. “They bring us water, blankets. They let us use their bathrooms.

“This is a great life lesson for my daughter,” she said, referring to 9-year-old Annalise, who stood by her mother at the protest.

By the time social workers arrived about 2:30 p.m. Monday, more than a hundred supporters were standing by, many waving signs of support reading “#keep Lexi home” or “Save Lexi.”

They were joined by television news vans that converged on the neighborhood.

As the county officials drove away with Lexi, crying friends hugged each other, some crumpled onto the middle of the roadway, and many gathered one last time to pray together.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

[email protected]
661-287-5527
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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