TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Finding a foster parents willing to adopt four young brothers to keep them together seemed like an impossible task.
About three years ago, their aunt, Carlotta Jenkins, accepted custody of the boys who are 6, 8, 9 and 12 years old. When their mother’s parental rights were severed, Jenkins decided to adopt them.
“I am at the final stage of the adoption,” Jenkins said. “My children have been brought from a very dark place. They love where they are.”
Raising four kids is expensive, but Jenkins claims the monthly subsidy the Department of Children and Families pays foster parents stopped coming in February. Jenkins said therapy and other services have also been stalled.
Jenkins decided to fight back in court, filing a civil lawsuit against the state and its contractors, The Devereux Foundation, Children’s Network of Hillsborough County and its parent company.
The monthly subsidy resumed in August, but Jenkins claims she is still owed $18,000.
“It’s very hard when you have four children who are delayed and you’re not getting the services for them,” Jenkins said. “I’m the mother. So, the other parent right now is the state and it’s like an absent parent at the moment.”
Children’s Network of Hillsborough County attorney Mark Connolly said the agency does not owe Jenkins money.
“To the best of my knowledge, to date she has received all of the funds she is entitled to receive from CNHC,” Connolly said.
Connolly acknowledged there was a gap in payments, but he said that was caused by a lapse in her state foster parent license.
Jenkins denies her license ever lapsed, and said if it did, no one told her about it.
“I’m up to date,” Jenkins said. “Why would they let me keep the children if I wasn’t licensed?”
DCF spokesperson Miguel Nevarez said Jenkins has been licensed for more than three years.
“I can confirm that Carlotta Jenkins is licensed as a level I foster parent as of Aug. 21, 2020 which means she has been licensed since then,” Nevarez said in an email.
Jenkins said as long as this dispute remains unresolved, the kids are stuck in the middle.
“So, to not give them the resources or not give me as a parent the resources,” Jenkins said. “It’s unacceptable.”
The defendants in the lawsuit have filed motions to dismiss the case. A hearing is scheduled for next month.