Eckerd Connects ignored 'smoking gun' emails warning of Hillsborough foster care failures

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) -- The Eckerd Connects board that oversees foster care in Hillsborough County will meet Tuesday morning to discuss, among other things, system failures uncovered by 8 On Your Side based on numerous "smoking gun" emails from tipsters working within the system.

It's a conversation the Eckerd Board could have had months ago if Eckerd and DCF had taken seriously a number of anonymous tips received by 8 On Your Side about foster kids kept in cars day after day at a Wawa station on Waters Avenue instead of being in school, therapy or foster homes.

Eckerd's top foster care executive Lorita Shirley said publicly earlier this month she was "blindsided" by an 8 On Your Side investigation that exposed the practice. But since then we've learned that Shirley had plenty of warnings and even discussed them privately with the DCF Regional prior to our report.

Our investigation has uncovered a series of "smoking gun" emails proving that Shirley was alerted to the Wawa foster kids starting in Mid-November. Those emails were sent to 8 On Your Side as anonymous tips but automatically bounced to Shirley and other agency executives because the tipsters listed Shirley's email address as well as other agency leaders as contact information.

We've included those emails below so you can see for yourself what Shirley and others knew, when they knew it, and how they were responding behind the scenes before we went public with our investigation.

THE "SMOKING GUN:" Email shows Lorita Shirley was aware of 8 On Your Side tips about foster care failures

READ MORE: Anonymous tips sent to 8 On Your Side about foster care failures bounced to agency executives as well 


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