TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It was a double shot of trouble for Angella Hart that started with her grandchildren being removed from her son’s care after allegations of “substance misuse” surfaced.

The addiction issues involving her son and daughter-in-law were nothing new to Hart, and she volunteered to become the foster parent for their two grandchildren while an Eckerd Connects sub-contractor worked on reuniting the struggling family.

But last August, Hart’s son died from an overdose at the age of 32.

“It was horrible,” Hart said. “I didn’t get a good bye. I didn’t get one final kiss. He was too far gone.”

Hart, a former social worker, said she believes caseworkers should’ve done more to help her son find a treatment program. And she suspects her grandchildren and their mother did not get enough help from Eckerd Connects during the reunification process.

“The kids were reunified in March,” Hart said. “Mom just met the guardian ad litem two weeks ago for the first time.”

Hart also claims caseworkers tried to drive a wedge between her and her daughter-in-law.

“Trying to stir up something and they’re constantly implying that I have a beef with the mom,” Hart said. “I don’t have a problem with the mom. My problem was the parents’ drug use.”

Hart said she has confidence in her daughter-in-law as a parent and she hopes her grandchildren will never need state intervention again.

After about a decade as the provider in Hillsborough County, Eckerd Connects will be replaced July 1 by Fort Myers-based Children’s Outreach of Southwest Florida. Eckerd was also replaced in Pasco and Pinellas counties at the start of the year.

Eckerd Connects spokesperson Ron Bartlett said the agency “cannot comment on the specifics of child welfare cases because they are bound by confidentiality requirements.”

“I can share that, in general, all interactions between child welfare case managers and the families they are working with and programs available to support them are documented by both the case managers and the state,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett also said if a family needs to access a particular service, they are encouraged to contact Eckerd or its case management agency.

Hart said her case is an example of why the new provider needs to make changes in the child welfare system.

“There’s not enough case managers. The turnover is very high,” Hart said. “So maybe reinvesting the money in case managers and specialists to come and spend time in the home.”

Eckerd Connects has been the subject of several 8 On Your Side investigations, including reports that showed children waiting long hours in cars for nightly placements, and in some cases sleeping overnight in offices.

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