DCF foster care panel hears kids still sleeping in cars

Investigations

A state panel that issued a scathing report on Hillsborough foster care after an 8 On Your Side investigation returned to Tampa for a public meeting at DCF headquarters Wednesday.

The chairman complimented Eckerd Connects for fixing some of the failures we pointed out.

“Sounds like they’re moving in the right direction,” said Lee Kaywork.

The peer review team uncovered a number of system failures and recommended reforms in a report issued in June.

Wednesday, Chris Card, the new head of foster care in Hillsborough County for Eckerd Connects, the state’s lead private agency managing the program, detailed his efforts to improve the system under a corrective action plan mandated by DCF.

In January, 8 On Your Side uncovered foster kids living day and night in caseworker cars in a Tampa parking lot and sleeping in offices instead of living in homes, attending school and other therapeutic activities.

Card told the review panel Wednesday there is still a problem with foster kids sleeping in offices. He says it happened 22 times in August involving 13 kids. One foster child spent five nights sleeping in offices.

“Most of those kids are refusing their placement. So we have placements for them. We have counselors sitting with them for hours on end trying to work with them. We’ve got family members we’re doing staffings with them we’re asking the children what they want to do,” said Card. “We can’t force them.”

Card said Eckerd is making headway in recruiting more foster homes but still needs 47 more caseworkers to get back to full staff.

He anticipates a $3.1 million budget deficit this year.

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