Legal guardian claims DHS dropped the ball in 3-year-old girl's case

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In November 2012, after two-and-a-half years of fighting a battle against the Department of Human Services, Lamar County Chancery Judge Ronald Doleac gave Michael Garrett and his wife Julie permanent custody of 3-year-old Kelly Rose. Though Michael still can't understand why DHS would want to fight to keep a child in an unsafe home with her parents.

"We're talking about a two time convicted sex offender that under oath said he's never heard a child in his life. We're talking about a mother where a child's already died in her home, another child was taken out because of neglect, serious neglect and sexual abuse, and again she admits no wrong doing in her past," said Michael. "These are the people that DHS decided to defend, these are the people that they decided to fight for."

Despite the mother's mental health issues and the father being a registered sex offender, DHS still found the parents suitable to care for Kelly Rose and their other four children.

"There's need to be a change in the system," said Michael. "If five DHS workers can come to court and claim that this situation is safe, then how many more children out there are suffering right now? How many children are going to die because of this type of judgment?

In 2010, Michael and his wife received guardianship of Kelly Rose when she was only 18 months. A couple of months later, Kelly Rose's biological parents decided they wanted her back and it's been ever since that Michael has had to fight to keep Kelly Rose and her four siblings from being back in that home.

"You would have thought that I had this man's background and he had mine by the way DHS treated us," said Michael. "They wouldn't listen to anything we had to say, they disregarded any of the concerns that we had, they went to multiple hearings over the last two years and claimed that there were no issues with this couple."

Since the governor over seizes the DHS, Michael decided to call them for help at a time when he didn't know what else to do.

"The main response I got from the governor's office was, I had one of his representatives tell me to call Barack Obama, that was his solution to my problem, call Barack Obama," said Michael "If that's the level of accountability that our legislators are going to dish out then it is no wonder that this system has as many issues as it has."

Although Michael believes that DHS covered up and lied about the children and their abuse and neglect, he is happy that he can at least provide a better home for Kelly Rose.

"She is so happy and I thank God that we were able to fight this battle," said Michael. "It hasn't been cheap, it's cost us basically all that we have, we're in the process of selling our house, but we did what we had to do."

Spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services Julia Bryan was contacted, but she acted unfamiliar about the case and declined to comment.

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