JACKSONVILLE, Fl -- Helen Jones is ready to celebrate the holidays but her focus is the reunification with two of her grandchildren.
"I love my grandkids," said Jones, "I have 21 grandkids and I love each and everyone of them."
The walls of her west Jacksonville apartment are decorated with family pictures, clearly a sign of her love for family.
"I've always been there for my grandchildren," she said.
So why is she now in the position of fighting to adopt two of them?
Jones' daughter, Yolanda Reed, the mother of the two boys, has struggled with substance abuse. She has failed to comply completely with a case plan.
"I was late engaging on my case plan," said Reed.
She has also had to deal with homelessness at one point. Reed said she has made mistakes but she loves her children.
"She made mistakes, true enough, but the children and the rest of the family should not be torn apart because of the bad choices she made," said Jones.
Earlier this year, the boys were removed from Reed, the authorities cited they were in danger, and the children were placed in foster care.
"I've been asking for these children the whole time," said Jones.
Jones could visit the toddlers, but only if Reed was present. Sometimes she wasn't.
In September, the court terminated Reed's parental rights.
The reasons stated: Failure to appear in a court hearing, which she disputes, and abandonment.
In November, the children, ages 1 and 4, were adopted out of foster care.
And that's where Jones claims the system failed her.
"They put in the court order that no other relative was interested in these children, which is not true," said Jones," not true."
The state's protocol with children in foster care is to try and reunify them with relatives or non-relative friends first.
The process often takes about a year. Jones said before she could fill out the adoption petition form her grandchildren were adopted out of the system.
"It hasn't even been a year and you've already fully adopted them out without even considering the family? That's what hurts," said Jones.
There is a strong vetting process with family members, sometimes restrictions that make impact their ability to adopt.
But Jones, who has already adopted four of her grandchildren, said she has been vetted by the state before and met the criteria.
She claims none of that happened in this case.
"We've always wanted those children," she said.
Did the system fail Helen Jones? The case is now being reviewed to be sure that all of the proper steps were taken.
In the meantime, she awaits the outcome.
Last year 612 children were taken into protective custody in Duval County:
- 45.9 percent were reunited with relatives
- 12.9 percent were reunited with non-relatives friends of the family
- 41.1 percent were placed in foster care
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