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Native American foster care and the struggle to find indigenous carers in LA




Lisa Smith at her home
Lisa Smith at her home
Isabel Avila
Lisa Smith at her home
Lisa Smith at her home in Diamond Bar
Isabel Avila
Lisa Smith at her home
Robert Rodriguez (left) and David White from LA County's Department of Children and Family Services American Indian Unit.
Isabel Avila


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Back in March, a six-year-old girl named Lexi was removed from her foster home in Santa Clarita, California. A video of the young girl being handed over to social workers made national headlines. Lexi had lived with her carers,  Summer and Rusty Page for four years. 

At issue? Lexi's Native American heritage and the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act; a long law designed to keep indigenous families together. Yet part of the problem is the number of certified Native American foster carers in Los Angeles. There's just one.

Lisa Smith is a member of the Cherokee tribe and cares for two young boys of Cherokee heritage at her home in Diamond Bar, California. They represent a small proportion of the 169 Native American children  in L.A.'s foster care system. Yet for Smith making the decision to step forward as a foster parent was a difficult one:

"It took me some time before I trusted DCFS [the Department of Children and Family Services]. I had to see that they truly were coming with the right intentions for our children because it was failing and there's still a lot to overcome."

Daniel Heimpel from the Chronicle of Social Change has written about efforts to recruit more Native American foster carers in Los Angeles. He spoke with Take Two's A Martinez about his story, along with David White, assistant regional administrator overseeing the Department of Children and Family Services' American Indian Units, and Robert Rodriguez, supervising children's social worker overseeing one of the two American Indian Units in Covina. 

More information on how to become a foster carer can be found here or by calling 888-811-1121

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.

 

This post has been updated.