DCF names new agency to ‘rebuild’ Tampa Bay area’s troubled foster care system

8 On Your Side

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – A Jacksonville-based organization has been named as the new lead child welfare agency in Pasco and Pinellas Counties and will take over on Jan. 1.

The Florida Department of Children and Families announced Family Support Services of North Florida (FSS) will begin transition activities before the end of this month for Circuit 6, which involves care for about 3,600 children. 

Eckerd Connects, the agency the had contract since 2008, and the Florida Department of Children and Families decided not to renew their current contract in those two counties that expires at the end of the year. Eckerd officials have also said they plan on allowing the Hillsborough County contract with DCF to expire at the end of next June.

DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris said “FSS has proven to be successful in caring for children” in Duval and Nassau counties in the Jacksonville region.

“This is our opportunity to rebuild the system of care in these counties that truly addresses the needs of children and families it serves by engaging the community to leverage all available resources,” Harris said. “We looked for a qualified lead agency who knew how to activate the community and reach partners, and we know that FSS will work diligently to carry this out in Circuit 6.” 

The dollar value of the contract was not disclosed, but 8 on Your Side has requested that information.

Eight on Your Side has reported a number of issues tied to Eckerd Connects management of Tampa Bay area child welfare cases, including children sleeping in offices and waiting in cars for placements.

Eckerd Connects is now under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office with part of the focus on the conditions and alleged lack of supervision when children slept in offices.

Eckerd officials have said they do not believe any laws were violated and they plan to defend themselves against any allegations.

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