Social worker becomes like ‘family’

Rhoda McCovery (center) with her ‘family’ Charlie (l) and Nathan Miller (r).

Special To The Mississippi Link

JACKSON – Social worker Rhoda McCovery of Gulfport spent so much time with one Harrison County woman and her adopted children that McCovery became, well, like part of the family.

The boys, ages 11 and 13, asked their adoptive mother if they could adopt McCovery as part of their family. Harrison County Court Judge Margaret Alfonso presided over a gathering last Thursday to celebrate the family’s unofficial adoption of McCovery.

Judge Alfonso said their mutual affection “should be preserved, changeless and unaltered….A family relationship is one full of love and mutual respect. A family relationship results from time spent together in happiness as well as sadness, in work and in play, and the family ties that are created are sacred and last forever.”

It is not an actual adoption under the law, but rather “recognition of the affection that the children have for her, and she has for them,” Judge Alfonso said of McCovery.

McCovery is a family protection specialist for the state Department of Human Services. Almost two years ago, she began working with two pre-teen brothers and their great-aunt, who had adopted them as babies. The aging great aunt was struggling with two high-spirited little boys, her own health, and housing issues.

“She was trying to keep up,” McCovery said.

Among the issues that had to be addressed were improving the housing environment and getting mental health counseling for one of the children.

Judge Alfonso commended McCovery for going above and beyond her duties to help the family. For instance, she made home visits as early as 6 a.m.

Margie Shelton, state director of the adoption unit for the Department of Human Services, said, “We can all get cases and we can all make sure that a child is seen twice a month, and that we are keeping them safe. It’s when we are really invested in a family that we know that we are making a difference with children. She has made a difference with these kids.”

McCovery recently attended the children’s elementary school awards program. She was overjoyed when both of them earned “most improved” student awards in two subjects.

McCovery said, “I love this. Anything I can do for them, I am more than willing and able to do it in order to keep them together as a family.”

McCovery has worked for the Department of Human Services for the past two years. She previously worked as a social worker in the Head Start program in Jackson.

Social work is not her first career. She previously worked as a certified nurse assistant doing home health care, and as a correctional officer. She began working on her degree in social work while she was a correctional officer at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.

Her goal is to someday be able to open a group home for abused girls.

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