“Save Lexi” has been the mantra since sometime Monday afternoon when my internet and social media feeds became inundated with reports of little Lexi being removed from the home of foster parents Rusty and Summer Page. This type of incident is obviously controversial and emotions on both sides of the issue are running high. I, along with many others, was initially filled with disbelief and anger as I heard reports of a distraught little girl being ripped from her family. However, as I have spent time reading and investigating the facts over the past few days I have come to some conclusions that I think we should all consider as we react to this story. In no particular order, allow me to offer the following items as food for thought:
- We don’t know all the facts. The ease of access to abundant information through social media, blogs and online news sites provides an illusion of closeness to the incident. We come to feel as if we know the parties involved and that we truly know all the facts necessary to form an opinion. The truth, however, is that most of us in the general public do not really know enough to form the kind of adamant and emotional opinions that I see all over social media. In this case, the “facts” presented by the foster family and by the representatives of her native American tribe seem to be irreconcilable. They each make an excellent case based on stated facts that seem contradictory. Most of us will never know exactly what the facts are and we should therefore be cautious about formulating a specific opinion, especially one we are willing to fight over.
- The situation is sad. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, it is right to be sad for this little girl and for all of those who are and have been a part of her life. Whether or not she should be kept in the foster home, we should be sad for those who have grown close to her and cared for her and have now lost her. Regardless of whether or not she is returned to blood relatives, we should feel sad for a little girl who has spent much of her childhood separated from those that should have been there to care for her. Everything about this unfortunate situation is sad and we don’t have to turn anyone into a monster to feel sympathy for those who are involved.
- Children don’t always know what is best for themselves. One argument being presented as evidence that this little girl should be left in foster care is that she wants to be there and screamed and cried when she was taken away. While that certainly tugs on the heartstrings, it is far from proof that she should be left in that home. Consequently, I have seen the same response from my own children upon being removed from Chuck E. Cheese or being told to go to bed. Children don’t always know what is best and it is unhelpful to manipulate their emotions for our own purposes.
- Native Americans have a right to be suspicious of government. Unfortunately, history tells a story of American government repeatedly lying to and taking advantage of Native Americans to the benefit of government and the detriment of native individuals. I have absolutely no idea whether this plays into the facts of this case or not, but it is certainly worth mentioning that historically our American government has not done so well in looking after native American children. As we support Lexi and feel sadness for her foster family, we must be careful not to diminish the efforts of Native American tribes and organizations to preserve a heritage and culture that has historically been neglected and even attacked. Even if you believe they may have gotten it wrong in this particular case, do not ignore the fact that this and many other minority groups in our nation are at great risk.
- Government intervention in the family is a necessary evil. I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with either of those words (necessary or evil), but I think they best represent what I want to communicate. On the surface, I balk at the idea that the government has any say in what is best for a child. When I see “the state” place or remove a child, it generally frustrates me. I believe that God has ordained the family to care for children and for the church to assist the family in that endeavor. In ideal circumstances, that system works just fine. However, there are unfortunate situations where there seems to be no viable, healthy alternative to the government being involved in determining the child’s welfare. After all, God also ordained government to administer justice and in an ideal world, we would all trust the government to do what is right and only intervene when necessary. But that is where the evil comes in, I think. We are afraid (justifiably so in some cases) that the government will intervene in situations where it is unnecessary and therefore usurp parental authority. We must defend the rights of families, fight for the welfare of children and encourage and support family friendly policies and officials in our government.
- This is indicative of a larger problem. As I have said repeatedly in this article, I do not pretend to have enough information to know what is best for Lexi. However, I feel sad for her and pray for her and trust that God will somehow use this difficult situation to expose and begin to solve a larger problem. What exactly is that larger problem? It is this: the American family as a social entity is broken. I know that there are good and healthy families out there, but overall it is apparent that the family unit is under attack and is largely broken. According to one report, it seems that something less than half of all children in our country live in a traditional family (two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.) Over 40% of children are born outside of marriage and almost 35% of children live with a single parent. I know that there are many good people that find themselves in these situations, but it is certainly not the ideal for a child. In any case, these numbers should help us see that situations like Lexi’s are going to become the norm if we do not begin to support and defend the family.
However you feel about Lexi’s situation, you likely feel the way you do because you feel strongly that family is important. In fact the family is not only important, it is a vital part of any society. The family unit is God’s primary plan for providing children with the moral, ethical, and theological training necessary to become productive members of society. As we observe these difficult and controversial situations around us, I pray that we avoid the urge to jump in emotionally and uninformed to take sides.
Rather than allowing these tragedies to cause division, hate, and bitterness we should unify to make sure that children in our churches and our communities are safe, loved, and cared for. Promote and support the family every chance you get. Get involved in organizations that support and strengthen the family. Support community programs that provide solid education and counseling for families.
And most importantly, pray! Pray for the family unit to be strengthened in our society. Pray for specific families you know. Pray for the ones that are struggling and pray for the ones that you think are doing okay. Pray for our leaders who are making decisions that affect the family. And in the midst of all the commotion this week, please pray for Lexi. Pray for her foster family and the family she is being placed with now. Pray that she is loved and cared for by someone and pray for all the other little boys and girls who are in similar situations every day. Children are a gift to us from God himself and we need to do all that we can to love and protect them.
Though the theme of the week has been “Save Lexi”, it is my hope that Lexi’s story will bring awareness to the plight of hundreds of thousands of other children that also need to be saved and will awake within us a desire to do something about it.
photo by Eric Ward [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons