I watched the whole thing with my hand clamped over my mouth, the computer screen blurring in and out of focus through my tears. I was watching a video hundreds of thousands of others have watched since it first aired on Monday. The video of 6-year-old Lexi being taken from her foster family’s home in Santa Clarita, California. The video is a heartbreaking reminder for me that the trauma endured by foster children can become so much worse when we don’t take care in how we allow such transitions to occur.
The video showed Lexi being moved from California back to live with her extended family in Utah. She’d lived with her foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, since she was a toddler. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Pages have been Lexi’s foster parents for four years. According to a 2014 report published in Indian Country Today, Lexi’s biological mother disappeared shortly after her birth in 2009. When she was just 1 year old, her biological father was arrested for grand theft auto. Because Lexi is considered a Choctaw child under the Indian Child Welfare Act (her dad is a member of the Choctaw Nation), the tribe agreed to place Lexi in a non-Indian foster home as a means, according to published in-court documents obtained by CNN, “to facilitate efforts to reunify the girl with her father.”
The Pages’ pain over losing Lexi is raw and heart-wrenching. It’s a pain for which I am empathetic, because it’s a pain I’ve also experienced. Just two weeks ago, I said a final goodbye to my own foster son, a 4-year-old boy I cared for over the past year. A boy I love as if he were my own son.
As I watched the video, I cried not for the Pages’ loss. I cried not for the grief their three other biological children are experiencing. I cried not for Rusty’s sober refrain, “As a matter of simple human decency we implore the county not to prematurely take Lexi from her home,” as cameras gathered around him. I cried for the fact that this moment — quite possibly the scariest moment of Lexi’s young life — was being filmed. Her name and her image and her pain — all of it, filmed.