before Lexi’s birth.307 Her father had an extensive criminal history.308 He had no cultural ties to
the Choctaw tribe and was not aware that he was an enrolled member of the tribe until after
Lexi’s placement in foster care.309 Nevertheless, Lexi was subject to ICWA. For four years, she
thrived in the Pages’ care, came to call them “mommy” and “daddy,” and to regard their other
children as her siblings. California courts deemed the Pages her “de facto parents.”310 The
“active efforts” to reunify Lexi with her father collapsed in 2012 when the father, having been
released from prison, decided he was no longer interested in reunification.311 At that point, the
tribe deemed Lexi’s step-second cousins to be “extended family” thanks to their relationship to
Lexi’s deceased grandmother.312 The step-second cousins, however, had no Native ancestry, and
were not tribal members. Nor was there any evidence that they were culturally Choctaw or that
placing Lexi with them would ensure that she was exposed to Choctaw tradition.313
The Pages, wishing to adopt Lexi, urged the court to find “good cause” to deviate from
ICWA’s placement preferences. Nobody disputed that the Pages were outstanding parents.
Rather, the “good cause” hearing focused on the psychological trauma Lexi would experience if
she were removed from their care. Although witnesses testified that she had a strong bond with
the Pages and would suffer great distress at being separated from them, the trial court
nevertheless ordered her removal because the testimony “did not reach to the level of certainty
307 In re Alexandria P., 228 Cal.App.4th at 1329–30.
308 Id. at 1328.
309 Petition for Certiorari, R.P. & S.P. v. Los Angeles Dep’t of Child Welfare, et al. (No. 16-500) at 4-514 (on file
with Goldwater Institute).
313 To be precise, the court of appeal concluded that because Lexi’s late grandmother had “shar[ed] stories” with her
step-niece, and because that step-niece had grown up “in a community with many ties to Native American culture,”
there was “sufficient [evidence] to support a reasonable inference” that Lexi would have “access to her cultural
identity” in the custody of that step-niece. In re Alexandria P., 204 Cal. Rptr. 3d 617, 639 (Ct. App. 2016).