The Pages appealed, arguing that the removal was contrary to Lexi’s best interests, but
the California Court of Appeal affirmed.323 It did not refuse outright to apply the best interests
standard, but purported to apply a different kind of best interests standard. “When the best
interests of an Indian child are being considered,” it declared, courts “should take an Indian
child’s best interests into account as one of the constellation of factors.”324 For children of other
races, of course, the child’s best interest is the overriding consideration, and in cases in which
children have spent long periods in foster care, California courts typically regard the child’s need
for stability as the deciding factor.325 Not so for Indian children. “When the best interests of an
Indian child are being considered,” the court declared, “the importance of preserving the child’s .
. . cultural connections often cannot be separated from other factors.”326 This statement makes
no sense. Lexi had no cultural connection to the Choctaw tribe; her only connection to the tribe
was biological. It was on account of her biological ancestry that she was classified as an “Indian
child” under ICWA and, consequently, the court viewed her individual interests as only one of a
“constellation” of factors by which her future would be determined.
1991) (“The importance of early infant attachment cannot be overstated. It is at the heart of healthy child
development and lays the foundation for relating intimately with others, including spouses and children.”).
“Given the potential long-term effects that lack of attachment can have on a child, it is crucial that the
foster care system respond in ways that help the child develop attachments with their primary caregivers whomever
they may be. No matter if the plan for a child in interim care is reunification . . . or a move into an adoptive home . .
. the development of an attachment to foster parents should be encouraged. Children need ongoing relationships to
continue their growth and change.” VERA FAHLBERG, A CHILD’S JOURNEY THROUGH PLACEMENT 23–24 (1991).
323 In re Alexandria P., 1 Cal. App. 5th 331 (2016), cert. denied, 2017 WL 69720 (Jan 09, 2017) (No. 16-500).
324 Id. at 351 (emphasis added).
325 See, e.g., In re Nia A., 246 Cal. App. 4th 1241, 1248 (2016) (“the law indisputably directs that the paramount
consideration is whether the proposed transfer will serve the child’s best interest.”); In re Guardianship of Ann S.,
45 Cal. 4th 1110, 1136 n. 19 (2009) (“the child’s best interest becomes the paramount consideration after an
extended period of foster care.”); In re Stephanie M., 7 Cal. 4th 295, 317 (1994) (“In any custody determination, a
primary consideration in determining the child’s best interest is the goal of assuring stability and continuity. When
custody continues over a significant period, the child’s need for continuity and stability assumes an increasingly
important role. That need will often dictate the conclusion that maintenance of the current arrangement would be in
the best interests of that child.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted).