GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Dave Hammond tells WesternSlopeNow that Mesa County Human Services took custody of his granddaughter the day she was born because they claimed the child’s mother had drugs in her system.

Hammond thought his granddaughter would be given directly to immediate family members, but instead, Mesa County placed her in the foster care system.

Mesa County told Hammond he must go through their system and meet their requirements to gain custody of his granddaughter, a process he thought would be straightforward.

Joe Kellerby, Mesa County’s Division Director for Child Welfare and Adult Protection, can’t talk about Hammond’s specific case but tells WesternSlopeNow children are placed in human services if social service investigators believe they are in dangerous or unsafe situations. He said courts decide if a child, temporarily in human services custody, will return to their family or remain in foster care.

Kellerby says his staff is statutorily bound to look at kin or kin-like relationships for children removed from their parents and said if a family member wants immediate custody, they must pass a series of background checks. If a child isn’t placed right away, Kellerby says human services can slow down and conduct an in-depth analysis of the home.

Kellerby tells WesternSlopeNow the value of placing a child with extended family can’t be understated and helps reduce the trauma they may go through, but Dave Hammond says Mesa County is making it almost impossible for him to gain custody.

Kellerby clarified that Mesa County does not receive funding based on how many children are in the custody of human services and said Mesa County would not deny a family member custody because they did not have daycare options.

We will continue to follow this story and update you if we get new information.