JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Child Protection Services has many policies in place with the primary goal of protecting children. However, Jennifer Adkison, who's temporarily caring for her sister's child, thinks some of those policies are an overreach.
"I was in the room when she was born," said Adkison. "I was with my sister when she was born and I loved her from the moment I saw her."
With her sister having problems, Adkison took her niece home from the hospital and has been taking care of her ever since at her Jackson County home. Now, to continue looking after the baby, she's having to complete foster parent certification.
"I don't want to be a foster parent," Adkison said. "If you want to do that, it's awesome and I think we need people to do that. But I don't think we should be forced to become a foster parent to be able to take care of a family member that we have."
At DHS headquarters in Harrison County, social work supervisor Jenny Reed said even family stepping in to help a child have to be held to the same standards as foster families.
"The agency's policy is that no children in this state are to be placed with an unlicensed family," said Reed.
That policy means Adkison, a registered nurse and grandmother, has to open her home for inspections, provide numerous documents, and attend classes over several months. Harrison County Child Protection Services Regional Director Ricardo Bolton says he hears many people with family connections to children they're taking care of ask questions about why the classes are necessary.
"The have to go through the training because we want to ensure that they can protect the children and that we can meet all the standards that state outlines for all the foster parents," Bolton said.
Bolton added that a majority of children in state custody are placed with relatives. While Adkison says after getting behind in the certification process, she was faced with possibly having her six-month-old niece taken away.
"She's used to me holding her and loving her and pretty much having her all day. They were going to put her in with a family that works and they were going to have to put her in daycare," Adkison said. "Once I finished licensing, they were going to bring her back to my home."
Fortunately for Adkison, she was able to keep her niece. DHS officials said they're willing to work with families to overcome obstacles in an effort to make sure children have the best care possible. While Adkison continues through the licensing process, she remains focused on providing a good home for a baby that's only known her as a mother.
"Really, she's my baby right now and that's how I feel about her," Adkison said.
Child Protection Services officials told WLOX that the only way for caretakers to avoid foster child certification is for a youth court judge to award permanent custody. That's a process that many times requires the voluntary forfeiture of the paternal parent.